Lynn | of Travel Eczema and Kanpo Medicine

“Wait. Is this a Japanese Chinese medicine hall? Or is it a Chinese-run Chinese medicine hall?”

“Just come in.”


Lynn and Kinjo-san were eating Blue Seal ice cream in a cafe on the busy street of Kokusai Dori. Kinjo-san had arrived at eight in the morning to pick Lynn up from the guesthouse. By noon, they had finished walking most of the main street and markets behind. Along the way, Lynn picked up a pair of shisa painted in bright red and orange. They tasted dried local seafood, desserts, fruits, and mozuku, a slimy and refreshingly sour seaweed shaped like angel hair pasta. As Lynn contemplated the next stop, she licked the cookie and cream off her tiny wooden spoon and proceeded to scratch the patch of eczema at the back of her left ear. 

Kinjo-san asked to see her eczema. Lynn flipped back her ear to reveal a patch of red itchy skin and brushed it off as a helpless situation that surfaced during her travels in the southwest part of China. Though secretly, she viewed her eczema as proud battle scars of a seasoned traveler.

“I think it was in Guangxi that my eczema appeared, or was it Wuxi? Can’t really recall. But anyway, I don’t just have it at the back of my ear. There are some on my elbows and back too.” 

“I see. Have you seen the doctor?”

“Yes. But it comes and goes, and it doesn’t fully go away.”

“Well. We will get it treated today.”

Lynn was skeptical but was curious for Kinjo-san to lead the way. Despite her tiny frame, Kinjo-san had a way of evoking command. Perhaps it was this trait of Kinjo-san that reminded Lynn of her late grandmother. 

The pair took the car and made their way to the nearby Kainan Street. Kinjo-san parked by the road curb and led Lynn through the busy street. A familiar scent came to Lynn. She panicked. 

“Chinese medicine? We are going for TCM?”

“What’s TCM?”

“We call it TCM back home. It means Traditional Chinese medicine.”

“Yes, TCM. You got your eczema in China, so we treat it at its roots.” 

A sizeable stand-up banner greeted the pair. Three bold kanji characters were printed. Kanpo yaku. Kanpo for short. Han medicine from China, before China, became present-day China.

“Wait. Is this a Japanese Chinese medicine hall? Or is it a Chinese-run Chinese medicine hall?”

“Just come in.”

The wooden hand-painted plaque board and rows of herbs in the display window concealed the contemporary interiors of the medicine hall. As the pair entered and waited in the tea area, they overheard a conversation in the examination room. An anxious Chinese lady who spoke with a northern accent relied on her bilingual Chinese friend to communicate with the practitioner.

“If you are concerned, you should not take my medicine.”

“She is just a little concerned because you prescribed a weaker dosage compared to what she is used to having from other places.” 

“In my opinion, this is enough for her.”

“Okay. My friend would like to know if she can continue her Western medicine.”

“It is best to not mix the two. If your friend insists, she should have a 2-hour interval between the medicines.” 

Lynn pitied the physician. These were common questions even for TCM practitioners, sinsehs, back home in Singapore. 

“Thank you. We will take our leave.” 

As the pair walked out of the examination room and the hall, Kinjo-san led Lynn to see the physician. For one reason or another, be it TCM or kanpo, the practitioner tended to be a man in his fifties or sixties. And indeed, in sat a man in his fifties or sixties. 

Kinjo-san and the practitioner, Nago-sensei, exchanged friendly greetings and spoke in a mix of heavy-accented Japanese and the local dialect. They were longtime friends. Kinjo-san explained Lynn’s condition, and Nago-sensei carefully examined Lynn’s eczema.

When done, he addressed them both in simple Japanese, “I will need time to prepare. Come back in an hour to make payment and collect your medicine.”

Lynn was a little anxious. She asked, “How much will it be?” 

“It’s a standard fee of six hundred yen for a day’s worth of medicine, and you will need thirty days’ worth of medicine for a start.” 

Lynn was bewildered. She would have to find some work to pay for the medicine. Noticing Lynn’s worry, Kinjo-san offered to pay, which Lynn immediately refused.

“How are you going to pay if I don’t help?”

“I’m going to work at the guesthouse. If they would take me.”

“So you are staying longer?”

“Yes, I am. At least until I finished my course of medicine.”

Kinjo-san was happy. She said, “Let’s go eat taco rice. It’s like taco without the shells on rice, and you can add lots of cheese and sauces. Or how about spam and egg sandwich? Tonight, we drink Okinawan alcohol, awamori, and fried pig skin at my place.”  

“Isn’t the diet of the Okinawans supposed to be really clean and healthy? That’s the reason for the longevity of the Okinawans, no?”

Kinjo-san laughed boisterously till onlookers smiled at them with amusement. 

“Commercial bullshit.”

A few onlookers turned and looked at Kinjo-san.

“There are many kinds of Okinawans.”


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Lynn | Yolo Times

“How about Okinawa?

They say it’s Japanese yet very Southeast Asian at the same time. Also, a bit like Fujian and Taiwan too.”

July 2019
On a quaint island off the southern coast of China


Hidden on a narrow alley of red brick buildings, away from the main streets and crowds, was a cafe with three carefully placed seats. A young woman of not more than 30 was quietly sitting in the center seat, planning her next adventure. She looked at a regional map on her iPad as she took another mouthful of her chai latte. Korea? Japan? How about Mongolia? Hmm, or maybe westwards?

She couldn’t decide, and she was happy with that. Her eyes sparkled, wandered, and roamed. She rested her eyes on the owner, Lili, who concentrated on her latte art. A wing appeared, and then another, and then a tiny head with a handsome body and long tail. She smiled. She has created something worthy, something tasteful.

Lynn exclaimed in Chinese, “Piao Liang!”

“You really think it’s beautiful?”

“Yes, very tastefully done! Now tell me, where do you think I should go next!”

“Hmm, let me see, you want to stay in China or somewhere else?”

Lynn chuckled, “I’ve been in China for quite some time now. Speaking of which, I’ve been on this island, in your cafe for the last 3 weeks. I am so ready for somewhere else.”

“Seoul?”

“Been there.”

“Busan?”

“Been there too.”

“Jeju Island!”

“What for? Only honeymooners go there. I know you love Korea but how about somewhere out of Korea? “

“Oh! How about Mongolia then! I remember you wanted to go see the Naadam Festival.”

“Good idea! No, wait, if I am going to Mongolia, I want to do a two-week kind of thing. It’s too expensive right now. No budget.”

Just then, a pair of Japanese tourists entered the cafe and ordered takeaways.

When they left, Lynn exclaimed with joy, “It’s a sign! Japan it is!”

Lili rolled her eyes, and as she went back to practicing her latte art, she suggested, “How about Okinawa? It’s the nearest to where we are and probably the cheapest to get there. Many of my friends have been there for holidays, and they found the place…interesting? They say it’s Japanese yet very Southeast Asian at the same time. Also, a bit like Fujian and Taiwan too.”

Lynn liked interesting places. She searched for Okinawa on her Google map, did a quick read-up on the location, checked for air tickets and accommodations, and smiled.

Next stop: Okinawa.



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(Updated as of March’22) Amy | Horses Run and Fly

“How does that make you feel?”

“I felt powerless.”


8 Months Ago

Dr. Kim’s clinic was painted a calming blue; her furniture and items were in a neutral color palette. And then there was that signature pop of magenta table lamp next to her seat. She smiled at me gently, eyes indiscernible of her thoughts. I fidgeted in my seat like the schoolgirl that I once was. I knew by now it was her way of prompting me to carry on with my speaking. I still felt self-conscious speaking to her, but I was willing to speak to her.

“The last we spoke was when I was 25. I went home during the holidays, and we fought. Nothing new there. I packed a bag and left. My mom wasn’t at my graduation either when I got my Ph.D. So, you can imagine how unexpected it was when I saw her case file in my intray last week.”

Dr. Kim put her pen down and smiled at me. The sort of smile you would expect from a proud mother to her beloved child. She said, “This is the first time, without my initiation, you choose to share about your mother.”

I could feel my face and ears flushing red. I gave a feeble smile and said, “I don’t know what to do.”

“When you think of your mother, what comes to your mind?”

“A horse comes to my mind.”

“A horse?”

“Ya, a free-spirited horse, running ecstatically on the Mongolian plains, running with the wind, hair in her face, without a care in the world.”

“That’s nice. She sounds very carefree.”

“Ya, she was. She was eccentric and very intuitive. Very sharp, too, even when I last saw her. She was 60 then. Perhaps it was her gift or quality she honed from her travels. She could see through trickery and illusions in a heartbeat. I could not keep a lie from her.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“I felt powerless.”

“Powerless?”

“Ya, she was kind, so kind to everyone she met. People loved her. People loved her even more, when they experienced her stories in the metaverse. Her stories were so different, so unexpected. They caught people off guard, and people liked that. I did share previously she was a Genesis 0, well she was famous for her fantasy stories, but to her, those stories were true. They were not make-believes. “

“Tell me more about the stories.”

“I’m not sure where to start. There’s so many of them.”

“How does it feel to see your mother now?”

“I still feel powerless too.”

“But your mother is in a coma now.”

Dr. Kim’s words felt biting.

“Yes, I still feel powerless, in a different way.”

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