When I was a kid, I found it really difficult to swallow the pills. It was not that the pills were particularly large. These were ordinary pills for the kids, prescribed by the doctor when the child had a cold, stomachache, etc.
When I got sick, I would go to see Dr. Hishikawa, who had the office near my parent's house. When Dr. Hishikawa said "I am going to give you some pills", I would wince, as I knew that I was going to have a hard time swallowing one.
From the perspectives of adulthood, it is difficult to explain why it was so difficult for me as a child to swallow the pills. It was partly psychological. I simply could not take the pills down the throat, no matter how hard I tried.
My mother would say, "what if the doctor told you that you are going to die if you don't swallow this pill?"
I could not figure out what I should do in such a circumstance. The plain fact was that I simply could not swallow the pills.
As a result, I always had to take powder medicine. Oh boy, these were bitter. My mother would say again and again, half jokingly and half reproaching, that I was inviting my own misfortune by being unable to take the pills.
Many years later, when I read "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" by Friedrich Nietzsche, I came across the famous narrative of a man who was bitten by a snake in the throat. Then I remembered my childhood miseries, and felt that the whole experience was rather like this episode in the philosophical novel.
I was six or so when I was finally able to swallow a pill down the throat. I remember the sensation quite vividly.
In Zarathustra, the unfortunate man finally rises by biting of the snake head, and stands, with his eyes glittering like the blazing sun. The new man is born.
As I look back, it feels as if I saw the burning flame of life by being able to swallow the pill finally, at the mature age of six.