An Inauspicious Beginning

Your first year in a new place, you’re bound to get sick. New environment, new baikin, more exposure in some cases. In my case, I spent my second week in Japan being byōki. Let me explain.

I had arrived in Japan along with my 20 odd cohorts for a year of study abroad. It was hachigatsu and we landed at Haneda Airport a little too late to catch our connecting flight. So, we took a basu into the city to stay at a huge modern hoteru. For me, the problem was the erebētā. It was one of those swift and silent types that immediately makes me feel nauseous. Not an auspicious beginning.

The next day, we flew to Osaka and took another basu to Kyoto, to the youth hostel that would be our first home in Kyoto before we met our host families. I remember passing gasorin sutando that looked like something out of outer space to me. Possibly a space shuttle would fly in to fuel up!

This style was prevalent when I lived in Japan. I always found it so New Age-ish

Though I was coming from Kansas, which also has hot summers, this heat was more oppressive. I lost my appetite what with the heat and the unfamiliar food. And that led to a whopping episode of natsubate. I lost ten pounds in ten days and ended up with a visit to the Kyoto Baptist Hospital where Dr. Alice Cary, the savior of foreign women in Kyoto, admitted me to the heavenly air-conditioned patient ward. The hospital itself looked like something out of the fifties, but it did the trick and I was restored to health.

One view of the hospital

I ended up living just around the corner from the Cary family and appreciated the chance to get to know them. They played no small role in Kyoto history. You can read about Otis Cary here.

  • baikin – バイキン germs
  • byōki – 病気 sickness
  • hachigatsu – 8月 August, literally 8th month
  • basu – バス bus
  • hoteru – ホテル hotel
  • erebētā – エレベーター elevator
  • gasorin sutando – ガソリンスタンド gas station, or gasoline stand
  • natsubate – 夏バテ A special word used to describe suffering in the summer due to the oppressive heat. When you get natsubate you don’t feel like eating and you can quickly succumb to the heat. Natsu means summer and the bate comes from the verb bateru which means to be exhausted.