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Crashing Into Life in Shiga, Japan


BGM: "Energy Flow" by Ryuichi Sakamoto

Even while traveling, life can literally set you into a tail-spin and bash you clean upside the head- all for your own good.

Before that fateful day by the Inukami River in Taga Town, I was running myself ragged on a deadly mixture of sleeping pills, coffee and overwork- stressed and numb from a lack of attention to myself. My husband thought a trip into the cedar-scented emerald mountains of Taga would refresh me back into joyfulness, so we went out for a drive.

We crossed a tiny one-lane bridge at only 10 km/hr (slower than the average bicycle). We stopped, my husband looked both ways carefully several times, then proceeded to cross the intersection.

When we were about half-way through, from out of nowhere came this speeding white whipper-snapper of a car. I had a full 2 seconds to brace for impact and within that splinter of time I only had room in my brain for four words: "This is the end." I had no time to cry out or even be afraid. The sounds of crunching glass & metal, the pain of impact and all went black and silent.

That day ended in the emergency room of a nearby hospital, me chuckling with my husband as we picked flecks of powdered glass off of each other, mutually grooming like a pair of macaques. We were thankful to be alive and still together, let alone laughing. The guy that literally plowed his car up my butt was already home with a sprained hand. Thank God nobody was killed, today!

Two weeks down turned into two months of me not being allowed to walk. My bruises alone required at least a month of bed-rest, the doctors said. Since I was allergic to the painkillers, my team of 8 doctors agreed to tackle the miscellaneous infections and tremendous pain with hot spring heat therapy, medicine skin patches, meditation and physical therapy -an ongoing course. During that time, I repeatedly grappled with the possibility of never walking, seeing, hearing or moving normally again. My dreams of motherhood, even returning to my prior line of work were gone. I was faced with the daunting task of having to create a whole new life and skill set to survive. But my life was already more than half lived. Would it even be worth the effort?

But when fears like that start to creep into my brain, there's a particular moment that I like to return to that clears all the clouds away: A few days after the accident, we took a rent-a-car to the crash site to survey the damage. Thinking I might be in too much emotional shock, my husband suggested I stay home. But I wanted to see the place that nearly took my life.


Though each bump in the road sent me reeling in new waves of pain, the beauty of the place astonished me. The pale, smooth skin-toned rocks and boulders, the gentle sloping mountains of precious green, a riverside trail teeming with life in all her wondrous forms- it was enchanting like a Garden of Paradise. I was allowed to remain a creature on this earth. I felt blessed to have blood still flowing in my veins. Teaching myself how to walk with a cane, I learned to re-savor the miracle of breathing, relish the cool rain droplets brushing against my feet and revere the powerful rolling thunder rumbling in the distance as if it were the beating of my own heart.


My husband's idea of letting nature take care of me eventually worked, though not in the way either of us expected. I will never forget the beauty of the Inukami River and the mountains of Taga. Nor will I ever forget the way they inspired me to live with more appreciation for the moment. They taught me the secret to enjoying my life again on a cellular level. It was a purely physical, sensual reawakening. The spiritual transformation was yet to come.


Posted by GenkiLee 07:29 Archived in Japan Tagged japan shiga taga inukami_riv

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