Japan Diary 2: Sensei

I could get used to this (but Quan won’t let me). My Japanese hosts are giving me the full rock star treatment, ushered from the green room in front of the respectfully adoring crowd. I really appreciate the care they are showing us, and I am trying to live up to their expectations, but even my gate-checked ego is having a bit of a hard time staying between my ears.

Yesterday was in fact exhausting: the second day of a 320-person workshop with full translation. It was more tiring for Kaori for sure, who must think in one language and speak it in another, totally different language – not even the common ground of Latinate terms for anatomical structures. Mark suggested I demo a session, which was a good idea, but it was an opportunity missed as I wound through the afternoon doing my usual précis of the Anatomy Trains lines.

I did demo some techniques, and showed how we teach them, resting my hands on their hands as Diane suggested. One model is apparently the organization’s clown, so he volunteered from the audience wrapped in a raincoat, which he doffed to reveal that he had one sock on and a leather belt strapped around his chest at nipple level. If this was meant to deter or phase me, it didn’t work; as I explained to them, I have opened practices in 16 cities, so I am accustomed – nay, addicted -to the crazy and desperate, who are always the first to innovate when someone new comes to town. He had one side of his lumbars short, and I was able to use a few easy moves to make the belt visibly more level.

In the breaks, there were lines of people with questions – which must be preceded with the obligatory thanks and apologies for importuning me, so each question takes a while – or books (or DVD’s, or even the handouts) to sign. Wonderfully and uniquely, people are handing me the inside back cover, because of course most of their books run from right to left, and therefore they open the book from our ‘back’. I start by trying to render a dedication in Japanese characters as they show me their nametag, but with the lines this soon degenerates into an English character rendering and finally just scribbling my signature while I bow and murmur hopefully.

Apparently, they have, over the last year, formed some study groups that translate different parts of the Anatomy Trains and discuss it – how honored can an author be? This is what I might have hoped for in doing the writing originally, but never really thought would happen. “Anatomy Trains,” says Mark, with a bit of wonder, “is pretty cross-platform, isn’t it?”

I do one thing a little sly and vindictive, but I hope it works. My publisher has promised every year that Anatomy Trains would be out in Japanese since 2004, and with every due date they say, “So sorry, but it will be published next November.” Not even the British or American divisions of the company, nor my editor, can seem to sort out why this is so – maybe a problem with the translation, since my anatomy is not as exacting as Professor Matsushita who did the translating. In any case, I put the working email of the publisher’s representative into my slide show, in hopes that she will get dozens of emails this morning urging publication of the book. This may have been mean, but hell, a little market pressure never hurt. These people could use a version in their own language. Anatomy Trains is in Portuguese, Korean, German, Italian, and now Russian – why not Japanese as well, especially after being promised for so many years now?

Last night was the organizers’ dinner, so we had about 12 people, including the India-rubber Kaori and her smart-as-a-whip husband Travis, an American happily trapped in Japan, the three of us, and Miwako, Shinichiro, Tomo, and others (forgive me) whose names are lost. Makiko deserves a mention, though, as, through an American Pilates trainer Andrew, she was the kingpin who brought my book to the ‘Diseases of Joint Physiotherapy Forum’ group to start this all rolling, as does Kouichio, PT and former TV techie, who has spent the last two days with a bud in his ear, coordinating all the backstage business of sound and logistics calmly and flawlessly.

The restaurant, 45 stories up above the brightly-lit Ginza district, was in a heavy-wooded, low-tabled room of tatami (though thankfully there was a well under the table for my Western legs) into which poured a stream of delights including tofu skin (uh, ok), some male gonad that was as creamy as uni (if only Kana hadn’t told us it was essentially sperm – it is used in America as bait, she says, and she intercepts it from the fishermen sometimes before it gets dumped into the bucket). Whale was on the menu, but we made it clear that was not on, but broiled bream, scallops, various salads and unusual veg, and some small Japanese eggplant dish that was so smoky Mark and I agreed it could pass for Laphroaig.

But going since 4 am, and pretty much ‘on’ all the time in spite of my hosts’ protectiveness, and two kinds of saki and a big meal later, my eyes were beginning to turn in my head as we wound toward 10pm – so here’s what I like: As sensei (respected teacher), I can declare what happens next, so I gently but firmly declared the meal over, and everyone happily and promptly concurred.

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