Monthly Archives: October 2014

Coffee lovers: She drew the curtain on her life with her favorite coffee.


コーヒー     “Thank you for your kindness to my mother while she was alive. I really appreciate it.” The man bowed down deeply. I was very shocked to hear the news that Mrs. Shinoda suddenly had passed away. He was her son.

     The third Sunday morning is the cleaning day in my neighborhood. It is a kind of volunteer activity and local residents clean around their houses, for example, gathering fallen leaves, and empty cans, bottles, and cigarette butts. After the cleanup, there is a brief meeting, in which the residents get new info, such as a fire drill, the local art festival, the sport meet, and so on. So, we received the sad new about the death of one of our neighbors last Sunday morning.

     Of course, not only me but also others were shocked to hear of Mrs. Shinoda’s sudden death. But the news had a special meaning for me. She and I had a curious coincidence, which goes back over ten years…

     My short essay appeared in the Chunichi, a local news paper some while ago. Actually, I do not remember exactly what I wrote at that time, but it was about coffee. A few days after the article was in the paper, I received an envelope from the newspaper company. When I opened it, I found another envelope. It was a letter from a reader, Mrs. Kawade in Showa-ku. She said that she also loved coffee and was impressed by my story…She and I have been pen pals since then.

     We have tried to meet each other a few times, but our rendezvous is always disrupted by something. One day I received an interesting letter from her. It said, “I believe that Mrs. Shinoda is one of your neighbors. Actually, she and I are friends!” My apartment is on the fifth floor and The Shinodas’ is on the first floor in the same building. I was surprised and went to see Mrs. Shinoda right away. She also loved coffee, and we became friends. Since then, we always said, “Let’s meet Mrs. Kawade together someday!” But we cannot achieve it…

     She was a terminal cancer patient. So, she was not able to go out by herself lately and often asked me to buy some coffee beans. I used to deliver what she asked at her room. But one day her daughter visited me with some money. She told me unexpected things. She said, “How much should I pay you?” First, I could not understand what she meant and replied, “Excuse me, but what do you mean?” She thought that her mother had not paid for the coffee beans. According to her, her mother’s dementia was progressing. So, she and her brother did not give money to their mother. But they found many bags of coffee beans in their mother’s room and asked her how she got them. Then they knew about my existence.

     Actually, I did not notice Mrs. Shinoda’s dementia. Whenever I thought she bought too much coffee beans, I asked why. She always replied, “Oh, many of my friends visited me last week. So, the coffee I bought the other day has gone. And I’m going to have them this week again. I need lots of coffee!” I kept on believing her words. Besides, she always paid me correctly. When I told her daughter about that, she was nodding and said, “Yeah, she used to live that way. Probably, she believes those past experiences are happening now. I’m wondering where she’s hiding her money…” Anyway, I apologized and promised her not to buy anything if her mother asked me. That was a few weeks ago. Since then I had not seen Mrs. Shinoda…

     On the cleaning day, not only Mrs. Shinoda’s son but also her daughter was there. So, I extended my condolences to her. According to her, soon after her visit to my apartment, her mother’s condition got worse and she was hospitalized. Her mother could not eat or drink anything a few days before she passed away. But when she asked her mother, “Do you want to have some coffee, Mother?” Mrs. Shinoda smiled, nodding, and then sipped coffee before she was gone. “My mother died as if she fell asleep. She no longer needs to suffer from any pains. She drew the curtain on her life with her favorite coffee. She was lucky. Thank you for your kindness.” She said that and smiled.

     “You still have lots of coffee at your mother’s apartment. I’ll buy them if you like.” I offered. But Mrs. Shinoda’s daughter said with a big smile, “Thank you, but you don’t need it. All of my family love coffee! They’ll be gone soon!” Mrs. Shinoda’s passing was a blow for me, but her deathbed episode was relieving for me. I’m going to offer incense sticks of coffee aroma to her grave…

The Tai Chi Training Camp in Toyohashi 2014: Congratulations, Satchan!


1926730_599608880160996_25541487563107799_n-a     “Satchan!” I called out my friend’s name when I found her in the hotel’s lobby. She was sitting with her teacher. Where was I? I was in a hotel in Toyohashi to attend a Tai Chi training camp, which was held on October 4 and 5. Satchan was there to take a test for becoming a shihan( Tai Chi master.)

     The Tai Chi training camp is held every October. I’ve joined it since I was a beginner and this was probably the seventh time for me. The participants practice Tai Chi together and learn theory with some actual movements. In addition, there is an examination for becoming a Tai Chi master. Actually, not everyone can take the test. Test-takers have to fulfill all the conditions: having already the pre-master certification and five years further after taking it, a membership of Tokyo head office and a recommendation letter from their teachers. It takes at least ten years to qualify for taking the test after starting to do Tai Chi. DSCF0741-a

     Satchan met all the conditions. That was great! Actually, there were more than 80 people who were going to take the test this time! Wow! Mr. Kawamura was also included. He and I are learning from the same teacher. So, I came to the place not only to practice Tai Chi and meet my friends but also to cheer him at the test this time. DSCF0746

     Actually, I did not know that Satchan was going to take the test there until I found her at the hotel. I had thought she would take it at another opportunity in Tokyo because she had not mentioned anything about her participation. It might be because she and I are not “Tai Chi” friends. We are “English” friends. I mean, we got to know each other through English classes. I did not even know she was also doing Tai Chi when I started. That is why, we seldom talk about Tai Chi when we meet. Interestingly it was the first time for us to see each other in uniform, which is originally for karate but is our school’s (Yang Ming-Shi Simplified 24-Form Tai Chi) official costume. DSCF0771

     The test-takers were divided into two groups. Satchan and Mr. Kawamura were in the  latter group. Besides they were standing next to each other. So It was lucky for me because I was able to take photos of them once. All the examinees looked nervous before their names were called, but once the test started, interestingly the audience seemed to be more nervous than the performers. Fortunately, all of the candidates passed the test. Congratulations!

Change in the Field of Health and Medicine: Anyway, I went to buy oil for cooking after the class…


20141002_192419     At that moment, all the students in the classroom let out a scream. Raising a hand and mouth dropping open, I stared at my teacher. It was one scene at an English class, which I started to take at Chukyo University this week. Actually, the course had already begun at the beginning of last month. I was a little nervous to enter the room before the class because I did not know what the class and my classmates were like. Hoping to relax myself, I took a deep breath, and then opened the door timidly. But it was soon revealed that I already knew most of my classmates. The room was filled with greetings as if I was in a class reunion.

     The English course is entitled “Life in Our Changing World 2.” Oh, I must have missed #1 in the first semester! The course description on the leaflet says: Nowadays, our lives and the world around us are changing faster than ever before in history. People are living longer, yet they are also suffering from new diseases. Now countries are forming and old countries are breaking up. Scientists are making new discoveries and creating technologies – some useful, some dangerous. Even our way of thinking is changing: we used to read long novels, but now we surf the Internet. On this course, we shall look in detail at some of the changes that are so dramatically affecting our lives, and discuss their significance.

     In line with this, the topic of that day was change in the field of health and medicine. For example, dairy products, such as milk, butter and cheese, were thought to be good for our health because of their high calcium and protein content until about 40 years ago. But people started avoiding them as they were afraid of taking too much cholesterol. Now it is known that they do not affect people’s cholesterol levels directly. We produce cholesterol inside and stress rather than dairy products elevates its levels.

     Okay, let us go to the beginning. What happened at that moment? The teacher said to the class, “Raise your hand if you use olive oil at home.” All of them raised their hands and waited for what was coming next. “Extra virgin oil changes to trans fatty acid after heating…” said the teacher with gravity. “Whaaaaaaaaat?!” “Reallyyyyyyyyyyyy?!” All the students made a big exclamation in surprise.CAM00369

     That is, cold pressed olive oil also can be transformed when it is heated. Meanwhile, olive oil extracted by other ways such as heat or with chemicals will not change when it is heated. So, we should use cold pressed olive oil like extra virgin for unheated food such as salads, and use cheaper olive oil (in general, non-cold pressed oils are cheaper) or other kinds of oils for cooking. But the teacher added, “You shouldn’t think about it so seriously. Look at Italian and Spanish people. They don’t mind it so much, yet Mediterranean diet is generally healthy.” 20141002_192450

     After studying about oils, the teacher gave the students a new scientific discovery: Brain repair may be boosted by curry spice! If you cut your skin, the wound will heal gradually. Of course, this is as long as the injury is not so serious, though. And if your brain is injured, what would happen? The damaged cells will never heal again. Brain cells are never regenerated. However, researchers in Germany have found recently that a substance called aromatic-turmerone contained in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells, which is thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit. We might conquer some brain diseases like Alzheimer’s in the near future. In addition, curcurmin, another substance in turmeric is also known for its anti-cancer, liver-protective and –repair benefits. Oh, should I eat curry more? Anyway, I went to a grocery store to buy oil for cooking after the class.