Sick in Tokyo Redux – A Story about Poop

I don’t write about “life in Tokyo” very much because, well, it’s just “life” for me now. Maybe I should’ve written more about it when I first moved here, but now the strange has become commonplace, the unique has transformed into the banal. Ask away about what I find weird or different in Tokyo now and I’ll be hard-pressed to come up with an answer.

That is, except when it comes to getting sick or needing medical attention. These are experiences that I find wholly different than getting sick in the states, and ones that I’m far too familiar with.

I first wrote about getting sick in Japan not soon after I moved here, as I was getting sick all the damn time. That’s a pretty common occurrence from what others have told me; your body needs to acclimate itself to the new environment and new germs, and that takes a while. Thankfully, I haven’t had a severe cold or flu in a while now, so it looks like my membranes did eventually get used to whatever special viruses Japan has to offer.

And that’s a good thing too, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned while living in Japan it’s that Japanese over-the-counter medicine really sucks.

EVE aka Japanese ibuprofen aka great medicine for slightly hungover flies considering how weak it is.

Seriously, it’s just the worst. The cold medicine couldn’t unclog a fly’s nose. The headache drugs wouldn’t be able to ease the pain of a bruised pinky. Their fever reducer has all the cooling effects of a lukewarm towel on your head. They don’t do shit. I quickly learned to forgo the Japanese drug stores in nearly all instances of illness. Now, I just head straight to the doctor. They give me the good shit, and at a fraction of a fraction of the cost when compared to the broken capitalist nightmare that is the American healthcare system. (Seriously, socialism works sometimes, Google it.)

I also rely on a somewhat steady supply of drugs from the states. It’s legal to ship a personal use amount of drugs like Nyquil or Claratin here, so I have my parents do that whenever they feel like sending me a care package. Come allergy season that stuff is a lifesaver.

And thankfully I’ve found ways to take care of a lot of my health problems with ways that don’t require all that much medicine. I have fibromyalgia, which kind of sucks, but I’ve been able to keep it mostly under control thanks to a combination of doctor recommended supplements, stretching and a shit ton of exercise. I rarely find the need to pop one of those fairly useless Japanese pain pills now, which is for the best, as my stomach hates me enough already.

Japanese bloating medicine couldn’t deflate a party balloon.

That was the bane of my existence last week, actually. Out of nowhere my stomach decided that it didn’t want to digest food properly, leading to frequent bouts of bloating and gas. A trip to the drug store to pick up the Japanese equivalent of Gas-X went about as well as you can expect; it relieved about a burp’s worth of gas before calling it quits. After trying a few other ways to relieve the pressure I figured out that it wasn’t only gas my stomach was building up. I hadn’t had a proper BM for a few days.

With a visit to the hospital, an old-school enema, or a go at laxatives as my only options, I opted for laxatives as I figured that would be the least painful of the bunch. I had my boyfriend direct me to the website of the most popular brand of laxatives in the country and he ran down my various options, which included a gentle overnight version, an all-natural variety and an “extra strength” capsule.

Knowing what Japanese people call “extra strength” I immediately opted for that one, went down to my local drugstore, and bought it. According to the box, it would kick in anytime after six hours, and the recommended dosage was one to three pills. Usually, I ignore the recommended dosage warnings completely here. Japanese Bufferin says “take two,” but I take four. Between my giant size and the weakness of the pills, it usually evens out. But this time, I figured I’d play it safe and opted for the maximum recommended dosage of three pills.

I wonder if the original is just as brutal as the sequel?

Six and a half hours later and multiple trips to the can later, I was very happy that I didn’t exceed the maximum dosage. Because apparently, while every other type of drug in this country is weaksauce to the 10th degree, Japanese laxatives DO NOT FUCK AROUND. I went to the can with such frequency and force that morning that I think I have PTSD. I go to the restroom and now I have flashbacks like it’s ‘Nam.

Next time I feel constipated, I’m going to stick to bran flakes.

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