This is part of a series of posts about the places we visited during Japan’s “Golden Week” in Spring 2007. I profiled the four places we visited: Yakushima, Tanegashima, the Fukiage Beach Sand Festival, and Kagoshima City. I also wrote a post like this one about another misadventure here.
Our vacation started yesterday, and it began smoothly. We took a nice ride on the Tokyo Monorail to Haneda airport, and then had a pleasant flight from there to Kagoshima airport (if you read my post about Sapporo and our flight there, you’ll know why I liked it). From there it was a 1 hour bus ride into town, and then we found our way on foot to Nakazono Ryokan, where we planned to stay for just one night. The place is a bit shabby by Japanese standards (i.e. not at all bad by US standards), as it’s one of the few inexpensive places to stay in Kagoshima City. But the guy who runs the place is very nice. Maria was chatting with him about our plans, and he immediately got on the phone and reserved seats for all 3 of the ferry rides we had planned (to Yakushima island, Tanegashima island, and then back). He also offered to give us a ride to the ferry the next day.
We had a great dinner at a sushi restaurant in the Dolphin Port outdoor mall: the kind where the maguro (tuna) just melts in your mouth. For me that kind of maguro is like a drug – all my muscles relax and it’s all I can do to not slump in a heap on the floor, with my eyes rolling back in my head. After that Kai and Maria enjoyed the mall’s free public outdoor foot bath (yes, you have to wash your feet before you use it). It’s fed by a sulfurous natural hot spring, so it smelled like rotten eggs, but Maria said it felt wonderful.
The rest of the early evening went just as smoothly. It even took less than an hour for me to get Eidan to sleep – a remarkable achievement when staying in a new place (he spent the time squeezing my nose and rubbing his arms against the stubble on my face until he drifted off). I indulged in the ryokan’s hot bath, and then – this being a Japanese style room with a tatami floor – I climbed on top of a pile of soft fluffy futons and feel asleep.
Then I woke up at midnight to what sounded like a small herd of mechanical elephants, grazing near our window. I wanted to get up to take a look out the window, and realized I couldn’t move. A moment later I discovered I could move, but it required inducing a great deal of pain in my back. I have a lower back injury from about 15 years ago, but it hasn’t bothered me much for the past 8 years. Unfortunately, the hot bath and the soft futons (which offered no back support) proved to be a deadly combination. It felt like I’d pulled every muscle in my lower back.
I managed to pull myself up to look out the window, to see a trio of construction vehicles and a half dozen workers, tearing up the main road, about 100 ft. away. Eidan slowly woke up over the next 20 minutes, crying “no, no,” against the strange sounds from outside, until he was fully awake. Then he indulged in some full-throttled screaming. The walls in this place were really thin, so I got up and managed to carry him outside, hoping it would snap him out of it before he woke up everyone. It worked, and I carried him closer to the workmen, so he could see where the strange noises were coming from. In my aggravated state it crossed my mind to yell at them in my pidgin Japanese “kazoku wa nemasen!” (my family’s not sleeping!) but I realized that no conversation started that way was likely to end well, so I thought better of it and headed back to the room.
Miraculously, Eidan managed to get back to sleep despite the noise, and it didn’t seem to bother Maria or Kai, but between that and my back pain, I was up for hours, until they finally stopped tearing up the road, and some aspirin took the edge of the pain.
The real bummer is that we’re spending the next three days on Yakushima island, a mountainous island, home to some of the best hiking on the planet. I just bought some hiking gear before we left so I could do an all day hike to Jomon-sugi, the world’s oldest cedar tree (Maria had kindly volunteered to watch the boys for one of our days here). But right now it’s all I can do to stand up and shuffle around. I can’t bend at all – to put on my socks this morning, I had to lie on my back and bend my knees to my chest so I could reach my feet.
The beaches here look to be quite nice. So shuffling down the beach and flopping on the sand sounds good too. If I had to pick a place to recover from a back injury, this isn’t such a bad choice .