Funny thing about the flu season in Japan. Since the houses are so close together, walls so thin, you can usually hear the first outbreak in the neighborhood days before it reaches your house. Sounds like the Tanaka’s down the street got it. That’s about the time that everyone is instructed to scrub their hands raw anytime they enter the house. You’d better gargle as well. Sounds like the Soga’s got it now. And a day after the first sneeze erupts from the house next door, no surgical mask is going to save you from the inevitable. Yes, you now have the flu. Good news, you’re in Asia where, according to Western impressions, there are plenty of ancient remedies to knock out even the toughest virus within hours.

The next day you take the obligatory trip to the doctor. And wait… wait… wait… It’s finally your turn. You tell him your symptoms. He says, “It sounds like the flu.” Next, you hold out your hand, ready for that mystical herb, healing acupuncture, shiatsu massage or whatever it is they do. Wrong! You instead get prescriptions for various medicines – all of which fail to treat any of the symptoms. Why? According to a Japanese physician, we spoke to, “Japanese medicine may not work but at least it’s safe.” He was serious. After having studied in America for years, he came to the conclusion that Americans over-medicate and Japanese are basically handing out placebos. (Fortunately, Americans never travel far without their meds and we had a suitcase full of Motrin on hand).