My Osaka Flu Shot – If That’s What It Was

Since Shogun Sr. (my beloved father-in-law) is going soon into the care house—what the Japanese call a nursing home—I figured it was time to get my flu shot.

I’m going home to the U.S. next week for a visit, and I didn’t want to be the one who brought the U.S. flu epidemic over to Japan when I returned, especially not when I’ll be visiting Shogun Sr. everyday after I get back. He’s worried about not being able to have cigarettes at the care house, so, like a dutiful daughter-in-law, I agreed to take him out every day for a walk and a smoke—earning me a delighted grin from Shogun Sr. So the flu shot was the least I could do.

Today I went to my neighborhood clinic to inquire about making an appointment for my shot. I’m not sure exactly what happened—since I’m never sure exactly what is happening in this country—but I asked very politely, Fu-ru shot-o yoyaku onegaishimas, “I’d like to make an appointment for a flu shot.” I took out my calendar and stood politely and expectantly while they perused my health-insurance card.

The next thing I knew, the receptionist whipped out a thermometer, took my temperature, and pointed to a seat in the waiting room, barraging me with a stream of Japanese I couldn’t understand at all.

I sat down.  I guess I have to wait to make an appointment, I thought. Maybe their schedule was full and they were looking for openings.

I looked at the woman waiting across from me. She had a blue-tipped manicure, fuzzy black boots, and a black hat slanted jauntily on her head with white letters at the front proclaiming


She was also wearing a white paper mask over her mouth and nose.

Like almost everyone here, she saw no apparent contradiction in choosing your outfit carefully and then donning a medical mask to top it all off.

After a few minutes, the doctor poked his head around the corner and sang out Surata-sama!, the Japanese approximation of Ms. Slater.

I sat down on a tiny chair in his office and he pulled out a syringe.

I assume it was the flu shot but, since I barely speak Japanese, I couldn’t be sure. When he was done, I stood up.

Sitting in the waiting room again, waiting to pay or check out or see what was going to happen next, I texted my husband. He’d offered earlier to call the clinic and make the appointment for a shot for me, but I demurred, telling him I’d try to make the appointment myself and call him if I couldn’t. I’d felt very proud of my independence, my initiative, then.

i think i had a flu shot! I texted.

He texted back:

they may shot u sleep medicine, and sell to China!

And so it goes, another day in a life in a foreign language.

6 thoughts on “My Osaka Flu Shot – If That’s What It Was

    1. Who’s sweeter than my friend Megan?

      So, I just had a crazy-strong potato-chip-eating urge and tore through 1/2 a bag. The shogun sat there drinking tea and watching me. Now I’m thinking either it wasn’t a flu shot and it was some kind of gorge-inducing potion, or craving salt and fat is a strange side-effect of the Japanese version of the flu shot.


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