I arrived in Ajigasawa (Horse mackerel stream) feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Two nights fresh air camping at the Fukaura beach had not healed the raw, itchy redness on my arms and neck.
After two days without much human contact, I did not like the idea of being scrutinised by a stranger. And I hate paying exorbitant prices for potions in flashy packaging. But with some reluctance, I went to the chemist to get some new cream.
The grey-haired pharmacist was standing behind the counter. He was calm and gentle, a treat to talk to. Every word he spoke seemed to make me stronger. Among other things he advised: consistent sleep, regular bowel movements, more calcium and not drinking too much – overhydrating puts pressure on the liver.
He wasn`t looking for a quick sell or short-term solution. He seemed to genuinely want to help, recommending Apytt Gel, an expensive cream his son had benefitted from. “It`s not a solution, but it will help control your eczema.”
When he saw me flinch at the price, he gave it to me, insisting I take the 3,000 yen bottle as a gift. It redeemed the reputation of pharmacists in an instant.
He also advised eating foods that are in season, “like not eating melon in winter.”
“So right now turban shell is good,” I foolishly ventured.
“Yes, it is actually. Funny you should mention that, yesterday I went diving and caught a load. Do you like them?”
My stress levels suddenly rocketed. I pictured myself walking out the chemist with a carrier bag full of the slimy bastards.
“Errr, no, well, er no, yes definitely no, absolutely no, I haven`t errr………adjusted to them yet.”
The conversation moved on, and then I caught the express train to Hirosaki. By then I felt so buoyed by his kindness and generosity that the cream did not feel half as important, although he was right, it was as he promised, no miracle cure but a welcome respite.