So on Saturday we went off for adventures in Kinshicho. Now you may think there is little adventure to be had in Kinshicho, and in the main you would be right, but we found a little bit of it that was not only adventuresome but also educational and informative as well. Well slightly adventuresome, at least. OK, I’m padding now.
Ever since the little ‘un was born the Guru, in her dedicated mother sort of way, had been looking for a kind of first aid for little kids type class we could go to together as a family. Now I know what you are thinking, how can a one year-old kid do first aid? But no this was a class for the parents of kids who have a feeling that their kid is going to injure themselves in the not too distant future (i.e. every parent on the planet, I reckon).
But it might surprise you to know that these kinds of classes are pretty few and far between and hence we had to go all the way to Kinshicho to find one – not that Kinshicho is really that far away, but it isn’t just around the corner and took a good hour to get to via various train lines. We were meant to leave around 1130ish but sitting arounf at 930 we found we had little to do except tidy the house and as such the cry of ‘why don’t we go earlier?’ was raised and accepted with, it has to be said, a lucky degree of foresight.
The other reason for going was to visit a brand spanking new Baby Zarus. Now I am sure you can looking at it written there, quickly work out that is meant, in fact, to be Babies ‘R’ Us, but when the Guru told me this was where she was intending to go I must admit that it took me a good 5 minutes to work out what she talking about (try saying it quickly with a Japanese accent and you’ll see what I mean). So we arrived in Kinshicho early and headed off in search of the aforementioned Baby Zarus, which had only be open for about a week. Whilst we were in the UK for crimbo we went to a UK version (or it might have been a Toy Zarus, I can’t quite remember) and it was, to be quite frank, somewhat on the dingy side, a bit tatty, understaffed and well, a bit dishevelled – basically, I suppose, like the UK. But this one was all gleaming and new and shiny and, as with most shops in Japan, heavily staffed. However what we also found out was that it was pretty over-priced and Akachan Honpo (to whom we take off our hats) was just as good and a darned sight cheaper (though I will admit that Baby Zarus has Baby Einstein DVDs, of which I will return to purchase as I haven’t seen them anywhere else in Japan).
Other than that it was all pretty much the same as the baby store was in a shopping mall that, I figure, there is a big mould for in some far away corner of Japan, as these places are ubiquitous not only in their occurrence in the towns of Japan but also in their uniformity and, truth be known, their dullness. (OK, OK, I know, cheap shot at shopping malls, but come on, they’re getting a bit too much now, don’t you think?)
Then it was onto the fire station and their attached ‘Disaster Prevention Centre’, or somesuch grandiose name (hint – to prevent disasters in Japan, move away from seismic fault lines and volcanoes (and yes, I realise that would mean moving out of the country all together)). So we arrived and registered and then had a few minutes to poke around and see what was what. It is quite a good place this and there were lots of kids playing with various touch screen TV gizmos that told them how to put out fires or save their elderly relatives from mochi-death at new year and, as luck would have it, you could choose English language variations as well. Got to worth a crack, thought I, and selected a machine for phoning the fire and/or ambulance service. At the start this was quite straight forward as you selected what sort f thing you wanted to report, I chose an accident in the home, then you picked up a real phone and placed the imaginary call. But here it got a little strange at the voice at the other end of the phone said everything in Japanese and the TV screen translated it into English and, as it was all a recording, it didn’t matter what you said into the phone as the video played through anyway. So if I do ever have to phone in an accident in our home I hope a bloke on a TV screen suddenly appears as otherwise person at the emergency end of the phone isn’t going to understand too much of what I’m saying. Hmm.
So onto the first aid bit. Now having been in various boys organisations as a spotty youth I have a pretty good grasp of first aid, rusty though it may be, and so I was quite looking forward to this to see if it was what I remembered and to see if things were the same in Japan as the UK. But in the end there wasn’t actually that much first aid going on, more it was what to do in one of two situations: 1 what to do if your baby is choking on something and; 2 what to do if s/he has stopped breathing (and to be fair the first one is something that is invariably going to happen, judging by the fact that anything that can be picked up goes into the mouth almost straight away).
Places on these sessions are hard to come by and when we saw the other attendees it was easy to see why. The session had been block booked by the Kinshicho women’s volunteer baby task force group, or something, about 15 of whom took over one end of the practice dojo, there were only two couples with kids in there, of which we were one. Not sure what the task force actually do, could be cleaning up the dodgy, gang infested streets of Kinshicho for all I know, but some of them looked pretty mean to me (and others pretty dopey so maybe not).
The leader of the session was not some strapping fire or paramedic type person but a little old lady in a uniform whose skirt made getting up and down from mats on the floor quite an operation. She was also one of those types who would not stop talking or interrupting, which can make instruction excruciating at times. First the choking. This was practiced with a plastic baby who had swallowed a small foam pellet just the right size to get trapped in a hole in her mouth. The instruction was simple, put the baby face down on your thigh as you are kneeling and then give it one almighty thump on the small of the back with the heel of your hand. The instructor women said hard, but I am sure that the way I was thumping the back (and failing to remove the pellet) I would have broken the baby’s spine, but there you go. She said it was fine and in the end the pellet did come out, but only after enough force had been applied to dislodge the lungs, appendix and spleen, I suspect.
The stopped breathing bit was more complex as you had to check various things as you went along, as you would expect, and ended with trying to give artificial respiration to another small plastic baby. This was actually quite interesting and we all got quite into this – the thing to remember is when you are trying to blow air into the baby’s lungs you should only do it a little bit otherwise you might blow too much air in the lungs might explode – not a nice way to go! Anyway the point about this was the instructor showed everyone how to do it, then went through it again, and again and again. Then we got to have a go with the dolls and she talked us through it, stopping at each action to explain, again, what and why. And then we did it again to her accompaniment. At no time did she let everyone just have a go themselves, all the time she was clapping and counting and stopping and explaining. Even the Guru got frustrated with the instructor so in the end we just did it ourselves and got the hang of it without interference, which we felt was more important as it is unlikely the instructor will be in our apartment to help count out 10 seconds if something does happen to the little ‘un.
And that was about it, so now we fell jolly prepared for if something does happen – well, a little bit more prepared than we did before. They also had one of the big earthquake simulators there, which we really wanted to go on, but it was all part of a tour that we had missed the start of so wouldn’t let us in, more’s the pity. But by the end of the day the plan to go early proved the right decision as just as we got home a massive rain storm hit, flash flooding in the streets stylee, and we just missed it. Nice.