I spent that night in a Tokyo hotel, in the Shinjuku district, in one of the wilder night spots in Tokyo, with lights, discos, and all varieties of dress, hair and walks.  Even though the electricity throughout northern and central Japan is rationed, like water in a California drought year, Shinjuku was flashing.

Saturday was a day of MENTASTICS in a “life center” in a quiet neighborhood only a few blocks away – a huge modern building with modern art,a sculpture garden, courteous guards, and half the soaring lobby netted for earthquake repairs.

Sunday, we held an afternoon TRAGER demonstration  in Yokohama, the profits donated to an NPO (NGO) working in Fukushima.  A practitioner whose family lives there was at the demonstration, and spoke for about 15 minutes about her visit to Fukushima, during which she tried to give sessions to people living in the gym there.   Everyone would say, “No, I’m all right.  Give it to someone else who needs it.”  She got  discouraged, and wasn’t going to go back.  Finally, after 2 days, she found a way for them to accept.  ( I forget what she finally did to open that door.)

The last seminar  was held for a 3-days in a home in the outskirts of Yokohama.  Here’s the picture I now have of neighborhood domestic life.  The garbage trucks play “Fur Elise” over their loudspeakers while collecting garbage.  The toilets have warm seats and a bidet with several settings. (Thankfully, there’s a button that says “stop” in English.)  Separate slippers for the room with the toilet.  Everyone takes at least one hot bath a day.  The question asked the guest is “Do you take your bath in the morning or at night?”   Denny’s, Krispy Kreme Donuts, Kinko’s, 7-11 (now 7 & i holdings), and Wendys are all in evidence in the cities.  (7-ll carries some really good, fresh Japanese food.)  The Denny’s in Mayama was located in a former mansion on the beach, with a view of Mount Fuji.  Houses, stores and t-shirts all display words I can read (Our seminar host’s house had a sign over the front door: “Mi Casa Su Casa”.) Whether the English makes sense or not is another matter:  I’ll end this blog with an inscrutable advertisement(?) on a t-shirt:

“b one soul  projects

products under license by one soul projects japan all rights reserved

visual reports

sorrying

which I conseder to be 

opinion on the

happiness of the earth

for the sake of our loving planet

Salida de Vorsicht

bone Soul”

For more such things, to laugh til you cry, see the following website store:   http://store.engrish.com/

The TRAGER organizer, Naoyuki, and everyone I visited, had their eye on my needs, seamlessly and unintrusively.  There are so many taught behaviors – like being alert to fill someone’s glass before they ask – that have heightened this  awareness of the needs of the other.  So the Japanese are contenders for the title of best hosts on earth.

I’m glad to be home.  For a while, though, I will be feeling something missing.

Love,

Gail

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Naoyuki had insisted that after the 5 days of class at Magamiyama, I should spend a night at a nearby onsen, in a “ryokan,” a traditional japanese inn.  Besso Onsen is a village full of these inns at the base of the mountain, all supplied with hot water percolating from its volcanic underground.  After a hairy car ride (as in hairpin turns on one-lane roads in driving rain) in a Mercedes driven and navigated by 4 beautiful Japanese Trager practitioners, we were welcomed at an inn; I mean REALLY welcomed.  After we were escorted, covered by contiguous umbrellas, to the entrance , we were offered slippers, kimonos and jackets of fine fabric, and led  to our apartment by a traditionally-dressed matron.  Her utterly humble demeanor, the way her hair was rolled, the way she bowed, treating us as if we were royalty, got to me.  Her movements clearly belonged to these rooms of graceful old architecture, with every piece of furniture, wall covering and amenity reflecting mindfulness.  My overwhelmed mind fixated on her coiffure.  Laughing while crying, I requested a photo of the back of her head. “graceful ryokan hostess      “Itadakimasu.”  I humbly receive (this meal.) This as repeated by all my companions at every meal, and upon other kinds of receiving, too.  Here, e received the luxury of the communal bath, indoors and out under a rainy night sky, and a dinner of wonderful food.

(I’m hooked.  Til it ears off, back home I ill be eating rice balls ith umeboshi paste wrapped in nori, grated daikon, gobo root, miso/seaeed soup and green tea.)  At home, of course, it will not be like here:  tiny plates, artfully arranged, of wild mountain vegetables, egg, assorted pickles, mushrooms, seaweed jellies, japanese eggplant, sesame tofu, and other delicacies I can’t remember.  I just know they kept coming and they were tasty.  And clearly, the dishes and their presentation had something to do with becoming more delighted and delightful ourselves.

 The next morning after another bath, we took a pre-breakfast walk wearing our kimonos and  wooden japanese shoes (clip-clops, the predecessors of flip-flops) provided by the ryokan.  

A film crew shooting a tv drama liked the way we were dressed and put us in their scene.

Breakfast was another  several- course meal.  Back in our street clothes, as we were leaving, a  Japanese gardener was tending the plants at the entrance.  I wonder if you have the same stereotype I do of a Japanese gardner?  Well, this one wasn’t that.  Small and wiry, yes, but she wore green flowered rubber boots over her tights, topped by a loose- knit knee-length schmata, and a flowered tool belt full of gardening tools.  Her hair was piled up on her head, and she darted back and forth between her pickup truck, the plants and the hose, talking the whole time.  Of course I begged for a picture, and she immediately invited all of us to visit her “English garden.” We piled into our packed-up car and followed her truck to a sign that read  ” Seki Apple farm” in English and Japanese.  Her flower garden was in lush spring bloom,  and since it was too early for rose blossoms, she proudly shared photos of her gold-medal-winning rose garden, taken the previous summer.  We walked among  dozens of apple trees mulched with perfect circles of 3-foot-long straw, among which stalks of asparagus were sprouting.  “Pick and eat them,” she said, giving us a basket.  “The birds drop the seeds, and they just grow there.”  When we returned with our basket and mouths full of fresh asparagus,  she had prepared a small plate for each of us (egad, more food!), along with a large cup of espresso.  The magazine that had given the gold medal to her garden was collecting donations to beautify the areas  ruined by the earthquake and tsunami.  We each left some yen in the gardener’s little donation box. As she had complained about her back a few times, we took turns giving her a little TRAGER session on her carpet. She sent us off with fresh asparagus and  bottles of  apple juice from her trees. Our next stop was a nearby temple garden – and tea and a snack (mo takusan!*) at a long, low temple table set on an open veranda to contemplate the bonsai, azaleas and well-placed stones.  Then a drive on the freeway back to to Tokyo.

(*enough with the food, already!)

After 5 days of class and walking  in Yokohama, my camera ran out of charge.  At 3 years old, it’s considered ancient, and even the 10th story of a shopping mall which is nothing but electronics, can’t supply me with a substitute charger.   So for the rest of the trip it’s a borrowed camera or nothing.   Next stop, after a bullet train ride,  Naoyuki and I arrived in the town of  Ueda in a region famous for it’s soba.  The cherry trees were still blossoming here, as it’s a higher altitude.  And this pink dogwood was in blossom, too.

After a lunch of fresh soba at a counter in Ueda, (nice manhole cover),

Naoyuki and I took a local train through buckwheat fields and then a cab  up the winding road to Megamiyama, a mountain center that was inspired by the owner’s vist(s) to Esalen.  A rack of umbrellas said welcome,
     our stuff is your stuff.

After I brought Chris’s greetings to one of the owners, she served us tea, and we planned what was to come:  principally,  fresh local food, sunshine, rain, hot baths and class.  The food was so deliciously and elegantly prepared that one student in our class recorded and photographed every dish we were served.

I was very happy to be in the woods again.  We could look out the windows of the round classroom and see trees in every direction. (Here are a few of the students, with Luca, the skeleton.)   

This was an inspiringly responsive class – again.  I’m getting used to focused attention, easy laughter, willingness to try on whatever is presented.  After dinner every night all the students went back to the tables to practice some more on their own.  (…except maybe Uta san, who would be on his cell phone in every break. Uta san is a realtor and Tai Chi teacher who traveled  the distance  to Megamiyama from Fukishima.   He was busy finding new homes for people who had lost theirs.   Like everyone else I met, he was understated; he just did what he did without speaking about it, and in class he was in class.)

I made a consumer discovery here:  among the teas and snacks brought by the assistants was a powdered coffee creamer made with real milk.  Its label says “Creap.”  I couldn’t resist bringing some back to the U.S.

In class, a Japanese TRAGER practitioner from the prefecture next to Fukushima told me she was in Glastonbury, England after the March quake, and happened to visit the site known as Joseph’s well,  just as a group of local people were performing a ceremony to pray for the water of  Japan and  of the world.   She was amazed that everywhere she went in Europe people told her they were praying for Japan.  “Here in Japan everything is changing,” she told me. ” Characteristically, we plan very long range.  Now, after the Tsunami, and with continuing ‘aftershocks’ [more big earthquakes], people say ‘We have only right now and the next step.'”

Two nights ago I watched an hour newscast focused on Fukushima prefecture.  After much technical coverage on the power plant, I saw a lot of what I hadn’t seen in the news at home:  a man in a barn with a cap that read “Fukushima Dairy Farm” in English, his cows’ hipbones and ribs protruding; a man in a suit in front of a microphone unable to choke down tears; crowded town hall meetings with men and women (not in suits) speaking in angry voices;  several  interviews with local residents, some of whom still live there, others who now are living on a gymnasium floor.  The news team, a young woman and middle-aged man, appeared to be on the verge of tears themselves.

None of this shows in Yokohama.  Today was my day off.  The hotel is next to the bus station, which has a twelve story vertical mall above it.  The adventures in food alone would keep me in this one spot for weeks.  (Did you ever hear of a “fruit parlor”?)  Just a block off this main street, a stream runs through the city.  I stood on a little bridge and watched a dozen big carp waving their tails in the current, leisurely feeding on whatever the stream was bringing them.  Spring flowers are growing in profusion along the stream, and three little boys with nets and bucket were in and out of the water.  It’s “Golden Week”, and the country is on vacation.

Comments from the Trager people here about the earthquake and Tsunami are simple acknowledgments of the changes the tsunami has made in Japan, and brief expressions of compassion. No worries are expressed about nuclear hazards, and I really don’t think they are so concerned. It reminds me a bit of how we in California are when there’s an earthquake, and people call from New York worried about us. Today I heard from a practitioner that she intends to work with pregnant women and children from the quarantined area, people who won’t be able to go home again. No one in class has mentioned a direct connection to people who lost family members or homes. I suspect many know people who’ve lost their jobs. Hints are made about personal changes.

Meanwhile, I’m having the usual traveler adventures: buying what I thought were hardboiled eggs and cracking one open, raw, on my hotel desk; asking a person in a sushi stall for yasai (vegetable) sushi, and she kindly taking me to the grocery area and showing me where the fresh vegetables were; losing my way trying to get out of my hotel.

Class members sometimes applaud at the end of a class day, or when a guest comes into class. I haven’t figured out the stimulus. There’s always a few staying after class to work together. Everyone bows to one another upon greeting, upon leaving, upon being given something. Only today are they becoming a little less formal. The assistants are perfect: attentive, respectful of the students, expressive but never talkative, responsible, and relaxed! Today my translator gave me a container of umiboshi plums that are over 10 years old, prepared by her aunt who had taken out all the seeds and crushed them for her husband when he had cancer. Very special to be offered these, and what a rare taste: moist, salty, sweet, sour, mellow.

Still tired at the end of the day. Two days ago I got this picture of a priest, the Japanese version of a street preacher, silent, standing on a busy sidewalk, doing his practice.

Outside a little temple on a side street in Yokohama.