Category Archives: Health and wellness

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

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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!

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

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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.

The Tai Chi Workshop: These 88-year-old ladies would be able to deflate their age to 70!

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20140816_104129     Now Japan is the one of the top countries for long life expectancy. The average life span of Japanese people is about 84 and of Japanese women reaches over 87. But I’m wondering how many people over the age of 70 are healthy and live satisfying lives in this country…20140816_112514

     I attended a big meeting of Tai Chi during the Obon holidays. It was held at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on August 16. About 600 people gathered at the event and most of them were over the age of 65. The participants were divided into 10 groups and studied some actions of Tai Chi. I was able to study many things through the workshop.米

     At the beginning of the event, there was a ceremony in which two 88-year-old ladies received the kotobuki prize. Kotobuki means offering congratulations or longevity in Japanese. The ceremony was to celebrate their 88th birthday. The age of 88 is special in Japan. The Chinese character representing rice looks like the number 88 written in Chinese. You know, rice is the diet and the symbol of life in Japan. 20140816_134624

      The recipients looked much younger than their real age of 88. Their posture and expressions were beautiful. They would be able to deflate their age to 70. As you know, Tai Chi is effective for improving the functions of your heart and lungs and muscular strength. If I keep on doing Tai Chi, I might turn 88 healthily like them.

     By the way, I used the word Obon above, but do you know it? Many people take a kind of summer vacation in mid-August in Japan. It is called Obon holidays. Obon is August 15 and most companies give their employees some holidays including the day. Obon is not a national holiday, but interestingly is dealt with as a holiday. That is why the public transportation schedule is Sunday’s one around the day and most public offices and hospitals are closed. 20140816_150452

     This Obon day is believed by Japanese Buddhists to be the day that the spirits of the dead return to their family. So, basically Japanese people go back to their hometown and spend the holidays with their family including the ones who have already passed away. But young people have tended to spend the holidays for themselves not to meet their family recently. That is why many elderly people were able to attend the meeting…But they did not look sad at all. They looked energetic and were enjoying doing Tai Chi!

A Chinese Medicine Class: You are a part of this universe.

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CAM00373-a     “You shouldn’t try to go on a diet in summer,” said Prof. Yang Wei-ping seriously. I was attending a lecture about Chinese medicine at Aichi Shukutoku University last month. The theme of the class was “healthy summer eating habits.”

     Prof. Yang is from Kunming in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China. That’s why it is called “Spring Castle.” My town, Nagoya is incredibly humid and hot in summer and very cold in winter. So, I assumed he is having a tough time here, but he isn’t. He is a Chinese doctor. He has a broad knowledge for surviving harsh weather conditions.

     There is an idea of “Tao follows nature” in China. That is, it is essential for living healthily and longer to follow nature. From the point of view of Taoism, today’s Japanese diet seems to be crazy. There are a lot of out of season vegetables and fruits which were grown with a large amount of pesticide, meat of animals which were given antibiotics, and many products with added artificial preservative in grocery stores. Japanese people rely on this kind of food industry. CAM00376

     Prof. Yang mentioned five key words for healthy eating manner: warm, mild, soft, little, slowly. That is, you should eat a small amount of warm, soft and mild tasting food slowly at each meal. If you have something hard, you should chew it well until it becomes soft. This eating manner is good for your digestive system.

     On the one hand, in Western medicine, doctors start medical therapy on people after they catch diseases; on the other hand, in Eastern medicine, doctors start treatment before people catch diseases. If you are not in good condition, such as having a headache, stiff shoulders, back problem, or dizziness, and go to see the Western doctor, most of you will be told, “I don’t see any problems. Let’s see how it goes.” But Eastern doctors will regard those symptoms as signals that your internal organs are not working well and start to treat you earnestly. They believe that it is too late to treat patients after they are sick. 漢方 en

     China has the yin-yang principle. Heaven is yang, and the earth is yin. Human-beings take the air from heaven and food from the earth. The Chinese character, which means energy, is made up of the symbols for ‘air’ and ‘rice’, the latter representing food. That is, you get energy from the air and food, and you become healthy with your respiratory and digestive systems working well. You are a part of this universe. You cannot be healthy if you forget about it and ignore natural laws.

     As I told you above, it is very humid and hot in summer in Nagoya. The temperature is over 30 degrees every day. So, people tend to have something cold. But inside the buildings and trains are air-conditioned, and it is sometimes very cold. It means that you make yourself cold both inside and outside. It is bad for your digestive system. If your digestive and absorptive function does not work well, your immune system will weaken. This problem is not only in the summer. It will affect your condition until next spring. That is why you should eat wisely to become or stay healthy. You should eat something warm and avoid cold drinks in summer! Ah, beer and ice cream are calling me from the refrigerator…What shall I do?

The Tai Chi Camp in 2013: I ate too much again!

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Why are they changing the light volume so frequently? I was wondering while doing a qigong exercise. I was doing that with other 400 participants. All of us were taking breath slowly as moving our arms at the same pace. No one uttered a word. The room became brighter and then darker repeatedly. Then I noticed that the room became brighter when we inhaled and became darker when we exhaled. I thought it was strange a hotel staffer changed the light volume in time with our movements…54220081000925697

     Then I came to a sudden realization that no one was controlling the intensity but I just felt like that way! Probably I perceived “qi” radiated from 400 people as light. When I inhaled slowly, the room got brighter and brighter, and when I exhaled slowly, it started darker and darker…How interesting! I’d never perceived “qi” that way. This strange thing happened while I was joining a big Tai Chi meeting in Toyohasi last October.

     The Tai Chi camp was held at Loisir Hotel Toyohashi on October 5th and 6th. I took part in it with two of my friends. When we got on a train, there were many ladies in it. And I glanced at them, wondering if all of us might be heading to the same destination. Sure enough, some of them who were sitting opposite to us smiled and gave us some candies! Suddenly our car became a kind of reserved train, and I was already able to have a wonderful time before the camp began.

     My friends and I had a lunch at a Japanese restaurant named Musashi nearby after we arrived at the hotel. They had many lunch specials, and I chose “hime-kgo-zen”, or a lunch set in a basket of a princess. Yes, the photo was that meal. It cost 1,000 yen. Hmm, reasonable. After lunch, the Tai Chi camp stared. But I was sleepy…you know, I ate too much…

     Around six o’clock, there was a feast. I met many people and made new friends over the wonderful dinner there. A teacher came to our table and told us an interesting episode: He has bought a new house recently in a countryside, where there are still many wildernesses. One night, he noticed a shadow of someone was getting closer to the frosted glass door. He wondered who came at that time of night. Then, the glass door slid open quietly without a knock, and a raccoon peered into his house. He was very surprised because he had not expected that non-human appeared. They stared at each other for a while. Then the raccoon seemed to give up something and left without closing door…

     Actually there was a workshop after the dinner. But I was sleepy…you know, I ate too much again…Around 8:30, it finished. I went to my room with my roommate. Not only me but also she ate too much at the banquet, but we went to a convenience store outside to buy some snacks… No wonder I can’t become thin…

    The morning training started at 6:30. I was almost a zombie. But I revived by breakfast! All of the participants practiced Tai Chi around 9:30. And as you’ve already expected, I was sleepy because I ate too much! After the session, there was an examination for becoming a master of Tai Chi. More than 60 people took the test and wonderfully all of them passed. I might be more nerves than the test-takers…During the test, there were a great deal of tension in the room… Relaxing after the event, I had lunch together with other participants. Ha ha, I ate too much again! Well, I had a great time at the Tai Chi meeting!

Tori-no-ichi Festival at Saiko-ji Temple in Toyohashi: A special bamboo rake might bring happiness to you!

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     Have you ever heard of “Tori-no-ichi”? It literally means “birds’ market”, but birds are not sold in “Tori-no-ichi”, but special rakes are sold… toyohashi 2

     “Tori-no-ichi” is a kind of open-air market held in November on the day of “Tori” in Chinese calendar. It was originally a harvest festival for peasants, but since around the Edo period it has become a place to pray for a health, fortune and good business, and highly decollated bamboo rakes have also become the essential item. Many people believe the rake brings them happiness and prosperity in business. Believers bring their old rakes back to the shrine or the temple where they bought last year and buy new ones for the coming new year. toyohashi 3toyohashi 4

     I had an opportunity to join the festival on November 20. It was held at Saiko-ji Temple in Toyohashi located in the southeast of Nagoya. One of my Tai Chi friends lives in Toyohashi and he invited me to the fair. He also showed me around the temple by the tram.

     First, we went to Toyohashi Park, which is a ruin of a castle called Yoshida-jo. Now there a restored storehouse stands quietly beside a 300-year-old big isunoki tree, or distylium racemosum.

toyohashi 5     Second, we visited a Japanese Orthodox church. This building is one of the three important cultural properties of the Orthodox Church in Japan and called “Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew Church”. Unfortunately we could not enter the 100-year-old church with a dignified air at that time… toyohashi 1

     Third, the place we headed for after the church was a Japan’s shrine named Akumi-Kambe-Shinmei-sha. The shrine is famous for a festival called Oni-Matsuri in February. The festival is to pray for the productiveness of grains and its main act is a fighting between an “oni” goblin and a “tengu” god. The festival has an about 1000-year-old history. toyohashi 6

     Finally, we arrived at Saiko-ji Temple where “Tori-no-ichi” was being held. There were many stalls before the temple and it was setting the mood for the festival. Near the gate there was a stand selling special bamboo rakes, and many people were buying ones from venders in happi coats. When you buy a rake, the venders clapped with the beat and cheered to you. toyohashi 7

     It is not enough to buy a rake at the festival. You have to bring the rake inside the temple and make it have power from Buddhist priests there. Otherwise, the rake is just an ornament without supernatural power.toyohashi 8

      If you’d like to live in prosperity, why don’t you buy one next year? Anyway, the small trip to Toyohashi was very interesting and filled with new discoveries for me. toyohashi 10

Meets Organic Market in Minato: Could you tell me what their business is and what the musical instrument is?

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     It was really cold on November 18. I had to do Tai Chi as a performance with my teacher and some of my friends before children and their parents at an elementary school in Meito-ku, Nagoya in the morning. So, I was wearing a special T-shirt for the event and black satin kung-fu pants. After the event, I put on a fleecy hoodie, an insulated jacket, and windbreaker pants on them, and then went to Minato-ku for another event. There, the outfits like me, I mean, wearing nylon or polyester things, were minority…

     Most people in the event were wearing wool or cotton clothing. Many of them were also wearing knitted caps and long stoles. Interestingly, those people’s costumes were earthy colored and sloppy…オーガニック3

     I was in an event called “Meets Organic Market” held at Chukyo TV Housing Center in Minato-ku. Probably people who are interested in organic things do not like petroleum products. I am also interested in organic or/and natural things, but I have many petroleum-derived things such as fleece, nylon, and polyester clothes as well. オーガニック5

     There were more than 30 booths of foods and clothing in the event. Of course, all of the clothing stalls were selling only cotton or wool products, and all food stands had just organic things. I bought a sandwich with soy ham, a vegetable curry, and a brown rice soup for lunch, and had a cup of coffee after the meal. I felt like becoming healthier with those organic things. My body seemed to be happy. You know, I often eat processed food with lots of additive stuff…オーガニック2

      Suddenly music started while I was sipping the coffee. Two men were playing the strange-looking instruments when I looked at the direction of the sound. One was playing the double-neck guitar and another one was playing the stringed instrument with something mixture of plectrums and sticks. オーガニック6

     Those musicians’ booth had nothing to sell when I arrived at the event. There was a board with “Sold Out” written on it on their stand. It seems that they were selling bread…but I am not sure…What did they sell? What was that musical instrument? オーガニック7

     The next organic market is held on December 16 at the same place. Why don’t you go to the event? And could you tell me what their business is and what the musical instrument is?