18 August, 2015

Unwanted adventure

Yesterday I had an adventure I'd rather not have had.

Our nearly 13 y.o. has a cross-bite (top teeth on both sides of his bottom teeth when his jaw is closed, preventing heathy chewing and a precursor to problems later in life), so in May we'd been strongly advised to seek orthodontic intervention. Of course we waited to begin till we came back to Japan, thinking it would be easier if we could do the whole thing (or at least the major beginning stuff) with the one practitioner.
A view of Mt Fuji from our train station.

We did what we almost always do in Japan when looking into something new, like a new professional or service, we ask around. Word of mouth is the a big way that expats survive, how we find out about these things. We asked a friend with three boys who'd all had braces who they saw and have gone from there. We were particularly looking for someone not too far away and one with a little bit of English would make things a little bit easier.

Trouble is, we needed to catch a bus, a number 12 bus. The bus stop was next to the train station, not too far away, as we figured out which bus we needed to catch.

But it wasn't easy getting our young man out of the house yesterday. He was in the midst of a good book in his favourite place (home) and doing something unknown like this wasn't his idea of a great way to spend a holiday day.

Eventually, after trudging through the rain (that sounds a lot like a story I've written about when he was two and we walked his brother to kindergarten in the midst of a typhoon, I guess some things don't change much), we made it to the bus stop. But we were a couple of minutes late. Before I had too much time to figure out an alternative plan, a bus with the number 12 pulled up. That was the bus we wanted! So we jumped on.

I relaxed. Sat back and tried to make conversation with my surly son.

A few minutes into our journey I saw a reflection of the front of the bus on a vehicle in front at a red light. It didn't say 12 anymore. I'm not sure what it was (it was a reflection, after all), but it definitely didn't have a 1 in it.

But I didn't say anything. I just became more alert, noting our surroundings (we were headed roughly in the right direction) and trying to interpret the stops as they were announced. Unlike Brisbane buses, they were also helpfully displayed on a screen at the front of the bus, even in Romaji (Japanese using English letters).

Soon we were the only ones left on the bus and sure enough the bus turned into a driveway that lead to what could only be a bus depot.

"Shuten desu," announced the driver slightly shocked driver when he saw us. Last stop.

I told him where we wanted to go and he pointed out the bus stop on the depot premises. He said number #15 should go where we wanted.

Heedless, I jumped on the first bus that stopped and asked if it were going to "Musashi Koganei". No.

Then we'd barely jumped off when another pulled up, this one with #15 clearly on its side. I asked the same question and got a positive answer. Phew!

And sure enough it took us there. Relief!

Then we had a printed Google map to follow to get to the orthodontist. Japan doesn't have road names except for main roads. There is a numbering system, but it is complicated. Google and Navi systems have helped tremendously, but generally we ask for a map or directions when we're going to somewhere new.

We found the place, though it didn't seem to be quite what we'd been led to believe. It said, "Dentist." In fact the carved sign over the receptionists desk said, "Painless dentist"! I thought we were going to an orthodontist. Anyway, they were expecting us (I'd had an email exchange with the orthodontist himself), so all seemed somewhat well.

I thought I'd made an 11am appointment, but it seems that I didn't. I think we were there on a first-come-first-serve basis, as are many medical appointments in Japan. We weren't seen until an hour after we arrived.

The verdict was braces and several years of orthodontic treatment. It was what we expected, but the prices quoted were still shocking.

Another appointment was made for Saturday for preparatory tests and we were on our way back to the bus stop. We stopped by a very convenient convenience store for some lunch and ate it outside while balancing our umbrellas on our laps.

We stopped at the train station to recharge my son's travel card and then traipsed around all the bus stops to see which was the one we wanted. Thankfully we found it and the correct bus turned up very soon afterwards, 30 minutes later we were back in home territory. You've got to give it to Japan, they have excellent public transport.

We got home four hours after leaving. It turned out to be a longer outing with more adventure than I'd hoped for!

Oh, how I sometimes long for Australia. Where I'd have been able to drive those 9km in just a few minutes. It would have been so much easier, and probably with much less adventure attached to it.

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