About that long taxi ride in Japan ………
The Shinkansens are a superb way to travel around Japan. These lightning-fast bullet trains are the epitome of efficiency – punctual down to the millisecond. They’re what we used to travel from Tokyo to the ski fields of Nozawa, in the Nagano prefecture, northwest of Tokyo. And it wasn’t because of the shinkansen incident that we decided against using them as our mode of transport to return to Tokyo.
What was the reason?
A three quarter length plaster cast encasing my left leg from ankle to thigh! That and the pain from the fractured bone at the top of my tibia. I just didn’t want to deal with organising a wheelchair at the Tokyo end and stress about getting out of the station to the hotel. I had come to the end of trying to tough things out. The past few days had been stressful enough. Two days earlier I had a little ‘incident’ on the ski slopes. I fell during a ski lesson with an instructor. On a run, traveling outside of my comfort zone was all it took for me to end up with a nasty tibia plateau fracture.
Want the juicy details? Here’s the backstory
It’s been 12 months since the incident. The same incident that resulted in me and two of my lads cutting short our much anticipated Japan holiday because I had to return to Australia for surgery.
Although it was a year ago so much of it feels like it was only yesterday.
The nature of “accidents” they’re mostly unplanned and usually inconvenient events. I and Mr 18 and Mr 14 had to skip our post-Nozawa plans – including Kyoto and all the activities planned for Tokyo at the end of the holiday. The days immediately following the incident were interesting! Learning how to cope with using crutches in a lodge on three levels (many narrow stairs.) Sleeping on tatami floor mats with my heavy plaster cast (another interesting challenge getting up and down from floor level with that #*^ing heavy cast!)
Nozawa was surrounded by heavy snow, which meant I was trapped inside the lodge! (No surprise: crutches and ice are not compatible.) And a few dramas sorting out the insurance paperwork.
Three days after the accident I received the medical clearance from Dr. Katagiri required by my travel insurers to begin the process of getting me home. If my surgery was critical and needed to be performed in Japan those arrangements would have been made. But with the boys my responsibility and my fracture not being compound, it was considered best I fly home. And at the time, it felt more reassuring to be operated on in a country where I’d understand the language and where friends and family could visit me. The thought of a few weeks in a foreign hospital ward on my own was enough to ensure I’d overcome any challenges to make it to Narita airport and fly home to Brisbane.
This incident reiterates why I believe it’s essential to have travel insurance. Thankfully I did take out insurance and my travel insurance company, after numerous phone calls and emails, agreed at the eleventh hour the boys and I could take a taxi from Nozawa to Tokyo. An upfront payment of 115,000 yen (converted to $1,370 AUD) was required, As I handed over my AMEX I was hopeful I’d be reimbursed by the insurers. (And eventually, I was.)
That was one expensive taxi ride.
Why was it so expensive?
The taxi ride was from Nozawa. It’s a 4 – 5-hour drive to Tokyo and the taxi driver has to return to Nozawa (he can’t pick up a fare from Tokyo I was told.) So the agreed-upon price included paying for his return trip. Basically a full day in the car taking us (myself and Mr 18 and Mr 13) to Tokyo. All organised in a frantic conversation on Wednesday evening (two days after falling over.) The cab was locked into at 7.58 pm by Gabi our contact at Nozawa Holidays (the taxi business closes for business at 8 pm.) The reason for the late booking we had to ensure we:
a) had our home flight secured and
b) the insurers were going to agree (in writing) to refund the taxi ride.
Once we’d booked the taxi, the decision was irreversible. (Gabi was absolutely amazing throughout the entire ordeal – could not have organised getting out of there without his help and support.)
We arrived in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon and booked into our hotel in the Shinjuku district. The boys had a small amount of time to race around to a few Tokyo shops (the night we arrived and the morning) before it was time to board the bus for Narita Airport on Friday. Nervous mum stayed in her hotel room wondering if she would see them again. (Mr 14 ventured off on his own I heard afterward.)
A bonus of being in a wheelchair (not that leaving Japan early under these circumstances felt like any bonus at the time) meant we were whisked through customs and immigration like celebrities.
Huge thanks to Qantas and my insurers for flying me home in business class (direct to Brisbane – our original flight home was with Jetstar via Cairns.) Although I appreciated the space and the service, unfortunately, the plaster cast was restrictive and bulky. I was reluctant to try the champagne (as much as I wanted to) as I didn’t want to risk slipping over (I was on Japanese pain killers – which were no stronger than supermarket paracetamol.)
Nor did I want any extra trips to the bathroom. I discovered I could barely shut the toilet door with my cast at an awkward angle. The lovely steward would stand ‘guard’ outside the door!
And of course, the limb swelled under cabin pressure. Despite the in-house movies, it was a long and restless trip home.
12 months on my reflections
With the passing of a year and much rehab, I’m almost recovered, a thin white scar the only physical reminder of the big surgery 12 months ago. I shared what I learned from the incident in WellBeing #170 Real-life experience.
The fact my accident, although inconvenient and painful was not life-threatening, helped put things in perspective.
In 2017 I attended a couple of funerals – my father – who passed away in April and my cousin’s eldest daughter who at age 36 died way too young from bowel cancer.
I watched a close friend survive breast cancer, an arduous and brave journey. These reality checks were a reminder of the finality of death and that life is short and we mustn’t take every day for granted.
Social media puts up posts reminding us to celebrate life while we’re healthy. Holly Butcher family shared this posthumous post on Facebook after she lost her battle with a rare form of cancer at a ridiculously young 27 years.
No-one knows what their time frame is and we must make the most of what time we have left on this earth.
Writing goals and travel plans
I remain passionate about writing. I’ve seen the successes of those in my writer’s alumni and recognise to achieve writing goals you have to put yourself out there and to keep trying no matter what.
The events of 2017 with a few highs and a couple of lows remind me to live while we can. My desire to travel and explore remains. And the stories will follow (eventually!)
In 2018 I’m investing time and money in following my travel passion. I’m spending a week in Hong Kong – seeing the New Year in and discovering some new areas and experiences with friends who live in that fascinating city.
With the passing of my father and his connections to Scotland, I’ve followed a desire to return to the land of whisky and am touring there in April 2018. My skiing mishap means my knee can’t handle that activity anymore. I’ve chosen a less demanding physical activity: hiking.
Who knows what will follow after that?!
From my incident 12 months ago – here’s to a year of new adventures, friendships, discoveries, and hopefully no more expensive taxi rides!
What are your plans for the new year?