Megalopolis

Megalopolis – ever increasing on this urbanized planet – has more in common with itself than it has with the surrounding culture.  New York is megalopolis with American culture as a background; London is megalopolis with English backdrop; Tokyo is megalopolis with a Japanese flavor, et cetera.  You can get good Turkish food in any of these, or Italian, or Indonesian.  The subway systems must be negotiated in the same way.  The New Yorker might well find it easier to handle the pace and push of Tokyo than the rube from Hokkaido.

This morning the rain has cleared and from this breakfast buffet on the 40th floor the freshened green of the Imperial Palace grounds lies nearly at my feet  (circumambulated on this morning’s walk).  But beyond this one respite, the jumble of concrete – a horizontal human coral – stretches unremittingly for miles in every direction, towers and skyscrapers pierce the air seemingly at random – Tokyo has districts but no ‘downtown’ as such.  But it sure has extent.. This rube from Maine prefers the more manageable scope of the smaller cities, but there’s no denying the excitement.

The first night here we meet at a restaurant called Ninja, and it’s a trip.  Enter through a tiny door (tiny even for Japanese) to be greeted by a black-clad and masked hostess, who leads you with a lot of yelling through a tiny darkened passage reminiscent of a Disney ride with glimpses of gold treasure before the moat bridge lowers for you, a sudden blast of air or other harmless threat, trap doors.  One of my companions really whacks his head, but I manage it unscathed.

What I can’t manage is the menu – a long black scroll in the dim light – ‘I am old, I am old, I shall wear my trousers rolled’ – but I do dare to eat, having abandoned the menu to let Travis and Kaori order for me.  In Tokyo, I will get my penchant for sushi satisfied – order with impunity, it has to be the best.

In the middle of the meal enter another veiled warrior (but with kind eyes), this time to do magic.  Right on our table, in front of six attentive and surrounding watchers, this guy wows us with sleight of hand.  His hands – ever a sign to me of character – are thin, sensitive, and ever so skilled with the cards.  I am so envious, and frankly enthralled as he fools us every time, turning limes to lemons, making one of our water glasses disappear, and reaching into his shirt for the 7 of diamonds that I signed myself and placed in the deck – hell, how does he do that?

The seven of diamonds is not the only thing I have signed – Anatomy Trains just came out in Japanese, so I surely have been signing books – inside left, inside right, on the cover – at every workshop.  So the second night is also exquisite sushi, but this time with Igaku-Shoin, the publishers of my book in Japanese.  Again with Kaori and Travis, we meet in the quiet tatami and shoji screen intimacy of a very small and expensive hole in the wall.  We cannot order, but rely easily on the whim of the chef.

This is more formal, with dark suits and the two-handed presentation of business cards, ceremonial pouring of sake, and despite Mr Sakamoto’s suggestion to ‘Relax, and just enjoy ourselves’, I am on my guard not to make too many gaffes, and also because of problems with the translation.  All who can read both Japanese and English have said that the translation, while technically correct, is too formal, obviously translated, one said almost ‘robotic’ compared the my informal ‘voice’, and large sections of the book have simply been left out for reasons unaccountable.

Present at the dinner is the translator himself, Professor Matsushita.  In Japan, the translator is on a par with the author in importance.  While he was doing the translation (a process which took five years, in the end), he sent me very formal emails with formidable questions on this or that point of anatomy, which sent me scurrying to the books to catch my self-taught anatomy up with his precision.

With all this, I am prepared to do subtle battle on a field where I am at a double disadvantage, but instead I am immediately and irredeemably charmed by this old world gentle-man, soft of voice and hands, grey suit with graying hair above it – I have dreamed him before, gold rims and all, and know him right away.  Retired from teaching neuroanatomy, he takes on little jobs like this to keep his hand in.  I think he looks on the job of translating the second edition with puffed cheeks – a lot of work for someone his age, and with less interest given that he has already scoped the concept.

But no substantive business talk is allowed at this meeting-with-eating but for one exception: The surprise is that sales have exceeded all expectations.  For reasons none of us can discern, although they printed 3000 copies, expecting that to hold them for a couple of years, they are in a second printing, having sold 5000 copies in three months – about what we sold in the first year of the English first edition.  They have done a second printing and are preparing for a third.  I suppose the workshops we have done are a factor, but this is reaching a few hundred, not thousands.  Nor is it the publisher’s publicity: they are very pleased that this book seems to be taking them into new niches of physios and movement teachers they had not been able to reach before with their emphasis on the medical market.  Hence we rate the really good sushi.

Somehow Anatomy Trains has struck a chord in the Japanese zeitgeist, and we intend to play the music and see what happens.  It is not easy teaching in such a different ambience, but with Kaori and Travis – awake and savvy bridges between the cultures – handling the vanguard, we’ll see what we can do.

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One Response to “Megalopolis”

  1. Michelle Bellerose Says:

    WOW……. this is _fantastic_ news for the book and for the school! A third printing already??? 5,000 books sold in 3 months??? are you kidding??! Let me be the first in comment to CONGRATULATE YOU!

    : )

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