Teaching In Socks

on second thought
November 20, 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just the other day I was considering writing about things are becoming less noteworthy here. The longer I live in Japan, the less foreign everything becomes, and what was once strange and interesting is now mundane and routine. Then the cosmic chiropractor happened.

Before my last class I decided to venture out the army of vending machines to grab a quick coffee. It was late, and other than one woman in a beige fleece, the halls of the shopping center were empty. I selected a Cafe Au Lait, and then proceeded to do my “Socrates of Vending” routine where I stare into each machine and look them over as if I am a Russian philosopher pondering something complex and of great importance.

In between machines, I glanced over towards the entrance of my school and noticed the woman in beige eyeing some of our schools literature posted on the walls. This is a normal occurrence as the shopping mall is connected to the train station; people often stare at our walls, much like I stare at the vending machines, as they kill time between trains. I thought nothing of this and went back to pondering unified theories in the labels of various herbal teas and caffeinated beverages.

As I reflected, he woman in beige circumnavigated the small tables behind me and approached me from the front. She was an older woman, with a friendly smile the way her shoulders slouched revealed an apparent shyness. She looked me in the eye and began speaking softly. I am often approached by older Japanese people who want to practice their English, so her approach did not startle or surprise me at all. She used a few English words, but spoke quickly and in Japanese.

My rudimentary understanding of her words and motions led me to believe she had some pain in her shoulders. I thought perhaps she wanted me to translate this into English for her as she moved on to speaking about pain in her neck and her back.

Then she asked me if I had pain in my back or shoulders ever. I began to suspect she was trying to sell me something. I expected her to pull out a business card for an acupuncture studio or chiropractor’s office.  Out of curiosity, I answered her question, saying, “sure, sometimes my back and neck are sore”.

She pulled out a chair and motioned for me to sit down. Still standing, I asked “massage?”. If this is what she had in mind, our conversation was over.

She hook her head no. I hesitated for a while longer before thinking, what’s the harm, if she tries to touch me I’ll get just get up and walk away. Besides, at the immigration bureau last week I studied the  “Japan’s Most Wanted” poster and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t on it.

So I sat down. She asked me a few simple questions, such as how long I had been in Japan, what country was I from. As she did this, and while I fumbled through answering them, she raised her arms to either side of me, lowered her head and began clenching her fist repeatedly. If this was supposed to make me relax, it did not have the intended effect. She was still a few feet from, but she did this for about a minute or two, then lowered her arms and raised her head. She looked at me and asked me if my neck, back and shoulders felt better, more loose. I lied and said, “yes”, and nervously tried to assure her that I now felt great.

I waited for her to ask me for money, or hint for some compensations but she just nervously smiled, bowed, thanked me as walked away toward the train station.

As she rounded the the corner, I checked for my  wallet. It was still there. I sat for a while and finished my coffee before heading back to the classroom.

I’m still not sure what she wanted, and what the nature of this act was. If she did steal my soul with some vicious Japanese voodoo, I can only hope the Robert Johnson precedent is in place and I have some mean guitar skills coming my way.


2 Comments so far
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I’m breaking my resolution not to comment, but I love the latest photos (but I’ve always been a sucker for fall foliage). Fight Obama!

Comment by Grey fox

This is such a great story– are the Japanese still infatuated with the potentials of magnetic therapy? I wish I had my own to draw some parallel conclusions but my reservoir runs deepest with more pedestrian acts of lunacy… Thanks for sharing!

Comment by blaark

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