What is your art? – A trial of responding to the question.

A general definition of art premises that art is to be seen (heard, or touched). In order to see, a product or an object is required. On the contrary, my art has no product or tangible object to show. My art is a process. Neither have I things to show nor exhibit in a gallery, though 95% of people ask me, “how do you display your art?”  “how do you track your art?” “ This is yet to be answered. What is a verb to materialize an ongoing day-to-day process that cannot be captured but flows away in a river of time? What is a verb to make an invisible, untouchable process tangible? If I discover the verb, it would make my communication to the others easier. I may know a possible verb: “to live with.” The only way of appreciating my art is to enter into it.

My definition of community is that “people are loosely connected beyond chronological and geographical distances and yet involved in one another’s decision-making process at a turning point in their lives.” I launched and developed many communities. Not all of them meet the definition. Some remain a cliche “community” in a broader sense. A “team” formed to achieve a goal of a project or business isn’t a community.

Therefore, I designed a framework where my friends and people could knock on a door and step into my life. That is, “life with.” They become a participant of my process. Becoming an actor in it is the quickest way of appreciating my art.

My art consists of multiple facets of social experimentations. Although it’s complex, I’m going to give it a try to dissect it and answer to a frequently question, “What’s your art?”

  1. Experiment in community:

I shape a new community that is the closest to the community by my definition. My community members are loosely connected to one another beyond chronological, geographical, and mental distances. Nevertheless, they will possibly get involved in one another’s critical decision-making process at a turning point in their lives.

2. Experiment in money as energy, currency:

Shifting numerous psychological meanings and connotations attached to money. Opening an alternative channel in which money is dealt differently from the conventional measurement in the capitalistic market (i.e. the equivalent exchange system of labor, socially value-added, and money). Instead, this is an experiment to exchange money with love, trust, and generosity without return, responsibility, obligation, and power dynamics that the money-goods exchange usually causes.

3. Experiment in a working style

Working is living by my definition. To work doesn’t necessarily mean that you are paid. Paid or unpaid? Employed or unemployed? Under contract or under the table? Enough to cover rent and bills or do I have to cover from my own pocket? Such a criteria for choosing a job and everyday behavior is based on the equal (value) exchange system between money and labor. I think and act out of that box. On the other hand, I don’t go for the “without money” thingy. Being anti is not my stuff. I make a decision on my work by fully (at least learning to) optimizing all the data that I can acquire, from scientific hard data and numbers to movement of spirits in elements. As a result, my decision-making process and motivations for actions are more likely different from general human behaviors in the current capitalistic society. Apparently, money influences less my everyday life choices. I expand my capacity to access as much available data as possible in the universe.

4. Experiment in the relation between the body and the mind

Through self-observation, I elucidate a link between the body and the consciousness. Interactions of the two affect which words I choose and which behaviors I select in my daily life. I carefully monitor and analyze differences in physical, physiological, psychological, mental, and cultural influences.

5. Search for the intrinsic nature of human being, as an animal species

What is wildness, instinct, and intuition? What is innately given potential in humans? I discover answers to those questions by being attentive to the finest subtleties of humans’ trivial actions, instead of being engaged in so-called “wild” and “physical” activities such as sports, athletics, and outdoors. The human physicality and intuitions are not limited to a self-sufficient life in countrysides or farming or hunting in woods. Humans use their bodies 24/7 regardless of a kind of activity. We use our bodies during sleep and brain math problems. Athletes and explorers aren’t the only wild and intuitive humans. How can I tap into human wildness and intuitions, which is largely dormant within my body in the post-modern highly developed society?

6. Creating the view on death and life

I internalize my own death and prepare for it intentionally. But, I don’t live with the “If I should die tomorrow” concept. Neither does it please me nor make sense to me. I prefer not living desperately for my life everyday, as if it would end tomorrow. Death is always here. Never leave us alone since our birth. I see it as a positive phenomenon. There is always a possibility where we become the Schrödinger’s cat ourselves in a second. We are walking towards death. To live is to be dying. The first step towards death is taken much earlier than when we recognize it. How do I ready myself for death? I want to grasp the moment of death, be alerted and conscious of death, accept it, and become it. I have no clue how I would die. A disease? An accident? A murder? A suicide? No matter what, I prepare for it every single day, by staying clear and aware of my true nature as a human animal. That’s why I practice Tibetan Bön (Buddhism) dream yoga.

7. Making my life a piece of art (this is the foundation of all my activities)

We generate ideas, expectations, and wishes to our society constantly.  “What if we had such and such a society?” “What if we could do this and that?“  “That would be much more fun than what it is now!”  These ideas formulate ideal views on our life and world. My art is to actualize the ideas. I live up to my philosophy in daily life. It’s the same as painting, building a sculpture, or making a movie. I just don’t utilize a secondary medium in order to crystalize my philosophy. My medium is my everyday life. I don’t attach much importance to “to show” and “to exhibit” my art to the others. It may not be easy for them to comprehend it as art. You can’t see, hear, or touch it as an object. But, I receive money and make my living out of this art (cf. see above: experiment in money as energy and currency). How to breathe, how to walk, how to encounter people, how to choose every and each behavior, how to sustain my life financially, socially, and psychologically, and how to spend every second. In order to make my life a piece of art, it is essential that my body, mind, and soul are always together and that my mind and soul reside in the body happily and consistently. This is the clarity of consciousness. I practice to attain the state of mind by Tibetan dream yoga, which encompasses all levels of consciousness; waking, dreaming, sleeping, and dying.


I’m not paid for institutional or organizational purposes that make sense within the current socio-economic systems.

Money is bestowed to me for existential purposes by people who see the similar world in front of us.

Spent one year exploring a totally new field, I clearly know to what I want to devote my time and space. I will pour my heart into an endeavor to find out what human consciousness is and what capacity it has in relation to the body. I will elucidate what influences would be made on our society and relationships by expanding capacity of human mind. I practice widening the horizon of consciousness through staying awake in a dream and a day. I continue to breathe in and out with awareness. I let go off what’s happening that shifts immediately into the past and stay alerted to the presence. I cherish peace and silence within me without leaning to the others or objects. I’ve attained a peak of contentment and happiness as Naho Iguchi, whose life reaches 34 years.  From now on, I will even more vigorously dedicate my spirit to the process and shape my daily life around that. This is my passion.

I strive to reveal a new form, or “unform,” of art so as to make one’s life, one’s existence, one’s presence a piece of art, because I have a question to the world, can we stay alive, can we be a part of the complexity of the planet and universe, without claiming what our visions are for the future and what we intend to accomplish, without presenting how valuable ideas we have and what meaningful actions we take,  without proving what talents, power, and competencies we have, without justifying why we are who we are.

I hope to be simply alive. I am life. Fulfillment for dying. Everything ceases at the end.

How can I make a breathe, a glance, a stride of my feet, always connected to my artistic crystallization (I don’t use the word, expression because I’m no longer sure if “expressing thoughts and feelings” is the right word to me”) ? How can I be art? Crystallization is a chemical reaction in which a solution or gas becomes a solid crystal. A paradox is that I honestly want to keep a solution or gas as it is, while “art” asks me (and every artist)  to deliver something crystalized, visible, sensible, tangible, and meaningful.

I still have fear and anxiety for money (= the near future) and the way of sustaining my life. The fear doesn’t go away completely. I have no clue how my art-life in Berlin will go.  At the end, however, I don’t know if the fear stems from anxiety for running out of the financial source or not. Am I afraid of the shortage of money? What is it really? I’m very sad when I imagine a situation where my life in Berlin suddenly ends. I have love for the city. I’m building affection and attachment to my living in Berlin. I’m cultivating new soil to be rooted here. Vibration that the city has matches my life phase, what my body and heart want in order to spend each and every moment in happiness, tranquility, and awe for the world. But, this will end sooner or later. Everything ceases eventually. Materials are to be worn down. Occurrences are to begin and end. Am I afraid of losing my life here? No, I’m not but simply sad. It’s truly sad to lose something or someone you are fond of and intensely connected to. Regardless of my feelings, however, things happen. I would be ok when I lose my life here, as long as I stay alive, or I have life. Sadness will be appeased. Most importantly, I’m not losing it  now but perfectly in it!

I’m determined to pursue this journey, following my passion. The path will unfold by itself. The fear and anxiety for my future money and future sustainable life can get in a way and makes me blind and deaf for a few minutes, but they are at last passers-by. I will keep a trial and error of circulating energy with my beloved people and make my life art.

Embodying my Life as Art in the Selfmade City

Last Saturday, I participated in Flow Game. It’s invented by Danish who, I suppose, are involved in the Art of Hosting community. Flow Game is a game to “question your question.” It’s a profound quest for who you are and how you are. Players of the game are asked to ponder deeply and craft a “right-on” question that they can carry with and reflect upon at times. A question that matters not only in the present but also in the future. The question guides you to walk through an unclear path. The question prompts you to take the lead. The question helps you to sit back and take a deep breath.

Flow Game

The game was facilitated by Mary Alice. We worked together in 2011 in Japan. When the triple disasters hit the country, my friends and colleagues got a strong urge to offer space where young doers and leaders came together, expressed out themselves, nurture personal leadership, and build a community. Mary was one of the guest facilitators. One program we did based on her idea is still memorable. All the participants circled around a camp fire and confessed what to take away and what to let go off. We threw away in the fire a piece of paper where what to let go off was written. A powerful initiation that we desperately needed in the mist of abyss.

So. What is my question?

Two things immediately come into my mind: Room hunting (WG) and visa application. These are rather tasks than questions. Practical and superficial in a sense, but very urgent and important, and greatly linked with my intention to live in Berlin. Without such admin procedures, I’m not eligible to stay here in the long term.

To find my question, I keep thinking why I want to live here.

It’s because I want to make my life a piece of art. I believe that everyday life is art work. I don’t professionally paint or make sculptures. I’m neither a musician nor a digital media creator. How I lead a life, how I build relationships with people, how I work, what I say, what I write, how I love,,, all the things are my art. I hope to draw and curve beautiful lines of life.

While living in Japan, I created a profession for myself: Communication Process Designer, simply because I didn’t find any job or position that exactly fit my value systems. (I should write more about the concept and application of Communication Process Designer in another post;)) Basically, CPD is a lens that enables you to grasp all social phenomena in terms of human interaction. Communication is the smallest unit/particle of human activities, whether in family matters, work settings, school, or art scenes. Hence, designing each and every path of communication yields what you do, what you have, and how you are in life.

With the background of Organizational Psychology, my major experiment was to make a new theory of organization (it’s still going on.) The way that human beings flock into a group and form an organization to achieve larger goals and higher purposes. How do we do so? Is the current way working? What is an alternative way? What suits more to my philosophy? For the past four years, with allies, I kneaded my hypotheses and tried out to design multiple communities where new type of organizations (teams) and working styles emerged.

When you think of organization design and individual working styles, you can’t avoid facing the bigger systems such as theories of economics, laws, and polotics. Economics especially drew my attention. Organization studies were tied into economics since most of them started from measuring work efficiency (how to get tasks done) in the industrial fields. Indeed, in the present, majority of “hot” theories around corporate management and organizational development is influenced with “common knowledge” of business. Nevertheless, I kinda left it out and concentrated on purely designing a smaller scale of organizations (team and community) at that time, while always questioning the current economic systems, what worked and what didn’t.

But, time has come to begin a different experiment that allows me to explore even further. The experiment of organization, community, individual life, and socio–cultural-economic systems. My focus is now shifted to life as a whole. Specifically, to set about, I intend to address an alternative way of exchanging money with other stuff in capitalism and rational exchange economy (*I’m not an expert in Economics and might be wrong in using terminology in English…Excuse me!) To simply put, what I’m doing now is to exchange money with love and trust without ROI, obligations, benefits, expectations, promises, etc. The mainstream of usage of money is fine. Good! I have no objection to it. BUT, it’s weird to me that money can be exchanged only in a certain manner. In other words, we can “earn” money (almost) only for what is marketable and profitable in the current economic system. In my opinion, however, money should be able to be circulated into other places thoroughly in the eco-system. Why don’t we equivalently exchange money with love and trust?

I form a group of people who willingly and heartedly give away money to me so that I can live a life in Berlin. They truly want me to be myself, purely express myself. 22 people join so far and collective money reaches to over 2,500,000 JPY. We observe our behaviors and emotions that arouse through the experiment as the givers or the recipient, and discuss it, monitor it, and attempt to understand what the heck we are doing. All we know is that this money is a gift. They trust and love me. I trust and love them.

What will I do with all the money?

I will weave art pieces out of my life.

Why Berlin?

Because Berlin is known as the city made by its people and has freedom to be how you want to be. The notion of social sculpture has sprouted here. Everybody is part of making up the city by making up own life.

By the way, it’s not me but my friend who came up with an idea that I could be a social sculptor. I’m constantly being re-defined by my folks. Even if I have no clue who I am, the others do, sometimes. And Berlin will surely redefine myself and my community, while we play a role of making the city, we wish!

Also. My question is

How to invite Berlin to support me in fully embodying my life as a piece of art?

TED Prize City 2.0: A question worth asking from a Japanese national

This year’s TED Prize is not for a person but an idea: City 2.0.

At TEDxSummit in Doha, I shared “a question worth asking”, instead of an idea worth spreading, with the TED global community.

I have freaking no clue. No idea worth spreading… I simply wanted to toss my question to the world as Japan needs help devastatedly.

I and most of Japanese just do whatever they can right now. Even if we envision something for the better future in a positive manner and create strategies, everything is uncertain.

The issues in Japan truly throw a philosophical question to us.

“What do we live for?”

Is it really important to rebuild the city 2.0 or 3.0 whatsoever in the Tohoku region that will always be affected by tsunami and quake every hundreds years AND is being damaged by radiation? (note: as long as we live on this planet, natural threats occur to us anywhere in any cases. I believe each of us can choose where to live, from the coastal area to high mountains to the desert.)

Does it really matter to increase job opportunities and revitalize economy for us humans to live happily?

Isn’t there REALLY a way of living besides what we do now with money, education system, food chain, etc…?

Nevertheless, we do what we can do for Tohoku and our country, building new communities, inspiring each other, launching new projects.

That’s life. I’m optimistic, but facing the question.

Youth Community Leader Dialog

Since last August, I’ve been involved in a Tohoku restration project, “Youth Community Leader Dialog (YCLD).” This initiative is taken the lead by NPO Miratuku (meaning “Emerging Future”), the Berkana Institute, and KEEP Foundation as a result of 311.

YCLD aims to offer an opportunity for us who reside in Japan facing the gigantic crisis to co-create resilient community where we can lean to each other for today and tomorrow. We specifically focus on nurturing youth (but not excluded) leaders who are to take the initiative on the current challenges. Nonetheless, interestingly enough, a wide variety of generations gather to support the younger generations and mentorship is generated.

YCLD is a three-day workshop held in Kiyosato, Yamanashi Prefecture, the foot of Mt. Fuji. Our facilitator team (we call it a “hosting team”) consists of Japanese as well as foreigners. Amazingly, the foreign hosts fly all the way from the States, Latin America, Oceania, or Europe to Japan just for this workshop! Therefore, the workshop is conducted bilingual with excellent interpreters.

Participants have a series of intensive dialog that rarely happen in our busy daily life, revisit their fundamental values, become aware of who they are and how they are connected to society, and discover an elegant minimum action step to take from now on. We strongly believe that conscientious and deliberate communication is the core competence that today’s leaders must have because the leaders are required to form the new teams, organizations, and systems to respond to rapid social, economic and political changes. The workshop is designed in a way that the participants experience deep dialog to open up themselves and develop trustworthy and lasting relationships with others. It is stunning to witness how much we are able to accomplish and build rapport with strangers for merely three days. As long as we know how to liberate ourselves just a bit from our old nutshell and accept the way we are, others come closer to us automatically.

We, the hosting team, has very very intense meetings during the workshop because we improvise and decide what we do with the participants along the way. We roughly design the program (how the workshop flows throughout three days) in advance (the day before!) but continue to make adjustments and sometimes major changes as we listen to the participants’ voices. This design process isn’t a piece of cake, but enables me to develop an active listening skill and refine an ability to sense “ba.” A phenomenon arises and passes by at each and every moment. We can never anticipate things perfectly. Even if we design a beautiful program of three days, it might not simply fit the participants’ needs or particular situations where we happen to be. Therefore, we create a few plans, carry out one of them, sense the space (ba) to see if that works or not, and persistently revise it.

Another remarkable characteristic of the design process is that we use dialog as a method of planning. In general, dialog is considered to be unpractical so that time is wasted while nothing is decided. It’s true in many occasions. Nevertheless, once you learn how to get rid of your attachment to your “good” ideas but tap into your honest thoughts based on your intuition, dialog can be a powerful way to stimulate ideas and make a decision.

Many participants reach to striking realization of self and go through significant shifts in their mind and heart. Positive impact that the participants get seems to be much bigger than I imagine, even when I feel that I could have done differently. This makes me more humble, and more cautious about my behavior and words because I can’t expect how and when I possibly influence others’ life and because I can’t control whether influence is positive or negative. That’s all up to recipients.

We have hosted the workshop four times in 2011 (I missed the first one, though) and the fifth one is upcoming in March. I’m excited to plunge into the new community that will be presenting itself.

Make Our Life A Piece of Art

To get started, I would like to toss a question to us.

“Can we really walk on two feet?”

Yoga and meditation, by means of intentional or unintentional breathing, gradually alter physical alignment of our body. Twisted bones and tweaked muscles are unlocked, flexed, and get stored back in the right places.

The forward-bent shoulders, narrowed chest, stooped spine are opened up, stretched out, and become more and more straightened. When my head, neck, shoulder blades, spine, lower back bone, and hip joints are firmly aligned, I notice a difference in my walking. I become able to walk more naturally in a balanced manner. I am stunned to learn how distorted my walking was. I have failed to be bipeds for the past 30 years.

What we normally do everyday for a number of years. What we undoubtedly believe that we are capable of doing with excellence. Our life is accumulation of such things. Walking. Eating. Seeing. Hearing, and so forth.

Yet, can we really say so?

Do we really walk on the two legs? Do we really taste food on the tongue? Do we truly see things with our eyes?

Are we fully connected to what we are intrinsically given? What does it mean to be authentic? How can we stay true to ourselves? I have been searching for it.

What is the purpose for our life? It could be for the earth in 100 years. It could be for the next generation. It could be for giving a positive impact on the present society. No matter what it might be, we are to quest why we are here, and what our roles to play and be part of this world

As I’m heavily involved in such a forward-thinking project as TEDxTokyo, I’m often asked, “what’s your next project?” “what goal do you want to achieve?”  But, I don’t have much to say because I’m not as ambitious as people expect. I’m not interested in leaving my marks on the world. I don’t have a 10-year vision.

What do I want to do, then?

I’d love to express myself to the fullest. Though it sounds selfish, this is my honest feeling.

An old friend of mine back from college described me, “you live your life as art”

I pursue a path of being myself, letting my presence as it is, for nothing. I simply embody it in my daily life. I am a piece of my art work. I am the consequence of my expression.

Whom I meet to, where I choose to live, what kind of words I weave, what way I work, what color of love I embrace. My art is neither paintings nor sculptures, but the way of my living.

I wish to be always there for someone who needs my existence at a moment. Being just who I am can be of great help for others, I believe. With no self-sacrifice. With no self-restraint. Without losing a sense of who I am. We humans are meant to appreciate our life, put smiles on others’ faces, and build symbiotic relationships with the other species. Why not doing it? Where egoism units with altruism, my life exists.

But, how? What possibly makes someone’s life art?

My painting blush and ink are communication. From the very beginning to the ending of life, we are destined to communicate seamlessly, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, age, sex, or even species. When alone, we play with imagination. When asleep, we travel in a dream. Talking. Writing. Drawing. Using sounds and movements. We are no longer limited to proximity. Physical communication. Tele communication. Online communication.

We never stop breathing from the birth to the death. Likewise, we don’t cease to communicate until the last day. I think that communication is the minimum unit of social activity of human being.

Each and every portion of communication is the painting blush and colored ink that I select to use.

In order to pursue my art of living, I create the new profession for me; Communication Process Designer. It allows me to seek my soul that is neither defined nor confined by society and culture.

As Communication Process Designer, I support people in tapping into their values and discovering their favorite ways of working. I nurture community where similar passions are shared among its members. I also produce and curate events, and take the lead in various projects. While my job covers a wide range, the essence of Communication Process Design is to lay the foundation of love and trust in order for us to accept as it is and live with integrity.

Breathing dissolves imbalance in our body. Communication dissolves imbalance of society, in other words, the web of human relation.

There are a plenty of breathing techniques invented to purify our body and soul. What kind of communication is in need to work on imbalance of society?

We take it for granted to excel in communication since we do it for years. However, do we really communicate in a genuine manner that enables us to come close together? Have we cultivated such capacity?

Dive into Your Deep Ocean

In Tokyo, Japan, I throw a workshop called, “Visualize Your Process.” It consists of three weekday evening classes. Each has three hours. In total 9 hours.

In my practice, “Communication Process Design,” it’s essential to explore deep inside of self and find out how one communicates with others as well as within oneself. In order to discover it, visualization is one of the powerful methods. The term “visualization” might remind you of drawing and painting. Yet, in my opinion, visualization includes simple thinking, as long as it’s consciously processed. Visualization could mean story-telling while imagining its scenes in your mind. Visualization could refer to verbalizing unclear emotions through sounds and onomatopoeia. Visualization could be somatic movements.

The “Visualize Your Process” workshop allows participants to free up their “in-the-box” thinking and tap into their creativity by self-reflection, pair interview, group dialog, and Graphic Facilitation. As the final deliverable, every participant designs and creates one visual mapping.

In July 2011, I facilitated the third season of VYP, and specially focused on the impact of 311 on individuals. I added a sub line to the title, “Dive into Your Deep Ocean.”

Four months had already passed since the historical crisis in Japan at that time. We crawled and stumbled everyday to tackle the outrageous situation. We were too preoccupied to try to run the political, economic, and social system. We didn’t have time and space to take a pause, chew, and diget what had happened and were still happening to us. There were urgent yet covert demands for “time for processing” arising.

So, I redesigned the VYP workshop to meet these demands. I hoped that my workshop gives people an opportunity to revisit their value systems and touch their true emotions.

Participants learned the basic skill of Graphic Facilitation while spending the decent amount of time for his/her-own to think through the past, feel the present, recall the past, recapture the present, and imagine the future.

On the first night, the participants did pair-interview based on the four questions: “What brought you here?” “What emotions are behind it?” “What happened to you on 311?” and “How do you feel now?” Then, they made a reflection map to illustrate their short history between 311 and now.

On the second night, the participants picked up a few points from the map that most affected them. Besides, they added new factors that the map had missed out. Then, I asked them to describe these significant elements by means of emotions, forms, shapes, colors, sounds, smells, and mental images. At the end, they “rephrased” these abstract words into concrete key words and clear visuals.

With all these parts prepared, on the third night, they drew visual maps to show where they stand at the very moment.

Some of the participants had never heard of or seen Graphic Facilitation. Most of them felt intimidated about drawing. Nonetheless, the only three evening classes quickly enabled them to visually understand and express themselves amazingly. Moreover, it became an eye-opening experience for the participants to take time for the active self-reflection. They realized how important and influential it is to communicate within oneself, and share the inner journey with others.

To survive, we must keep on moving forward. We have to maintain our everyday life while striving to address the problems. More and more fatal issues swallow us like tsunami and we are almost drawn. Nevertheless, at times, I believe that we need to pause for a moment, looking back, looking around on our sides, looking down to the earth, and looking up to the sky. It definitely makes us feel secure and safe to “ping” our current position on the map of uncertainty, even though we are ever-changing.

Finally, this is my mind image that greatly influenced who I am right now: The scenery of the Himalayan in Dharamsala, India.

311 and me

On March 11th,  I was in the foot of Himalayan mountains in Dehradun, India.

How come? I was undertaking a 10 day course of Vipassana Meditation from March 1st. Vipassana is the way of meditation that Buddha applied in his entering into Enlightenment. Meditators of the course live in a Vipassana meditation center for 12 days and simply sit for 10 days. They are not allowed to carry out any type of communication (verbal, non-verbal, even making a sound). They are prohibited to write, draw, read, run, exercise, practice other meditation techniques, and conduct religious or spiritual rituals. Noble silence must be kept. They share a room with another participant, but they may not communicate with each other at any level. Everyday, we looked down on the floor and soil or looked up to the ceiling or sky to avoid eye contact. In the dining room, nothing but little cracking sounds of cutlery and dishes resonated.

I got the tragic news of my country on the final day of the Vipassana. On Day 10, in order for meditators to gradually go back to normal society, the noble silence ends and they are allowed to look into the others’ eyes and talk in limited areas. During a lunch break, I retrieved my valuables from the reception and turned on my mobile just because I wanted to make sure that “nothing had happened to my family” for the 10 days. As soon as the mobile was on, one text message was delivered from an Indian friend of mine who used to live in Tokyo.

“M9.0 earthquake hit Yokohama.”

The very first information from the world after such intense 10 days of inner exploration was this.

What the fxxk.




Looking back, I probably learned about the crisis right after it had actually occurred. Time difference between Japan and India is 3.5 hours. The morning meditation session finished at 11am and the lunch break lasted until 1pm.

The shock I got was incredibly amplified due to the Vipassana effect. I was terrified by the fact that my intuition of “emergency” was right. While shaking, I barely managed to make a phone call to my mom and assured her and my bro’s safety. I was almost resolved to fly back to Japan immediately as thinking of the worst case scenario for my family (luckily that wasn’t the case). When merciless incidents occur in my life, I’m always abroad. I’m used to jumping in an airplane and rushing to my family. Good lord.

On the very last day of the course, this tragedy happened to my beautiful country. This coincidence makes me ponder, what role is given to me?

Threads of life were intertwined and woven strikingly. At the end, my life took me to Dharamsala, the sacred village for both Indian and Tibetan. I led a everyday life there for three weeks. Then I flew back to Tokyo on April 12th.

Despite people’s curiosity of how I coped with being back in Tokyo that drastically changed, I should say that nothing affected me. Regardless of 311, I had been going through transformation during the journey in India (to be precise, it had set about since 2010). I was fully transformed and arrived at Narita with the new senses. Therefore, I could naturally accept the world of Japan as it was.

It’s been almost two months since my return. Japan, especially the northern part of Tokyo and Kanagawa (my city) upward, is facing tremendous danger. The disaster areas are beyond description. Moreover, the nuc plants are miserably severely damaged. Now, three of Fukushima plants are in complete meltdown. (not merely Daiichi). Our gov. is so fxxked up that no information and data is reliably released.

I admit my responsibility that I have been dependent on the Japanese energy system and economic/political policy as a national, and a risk of potential life hazard such as cancer at early age or impairment of pregnancy. Needless to say, I try my best and hardest to protect my healthy body as well as family, friends and people. Nonetheless, in reality, we don’t have the right solution to escape from invisible radiation. We are and will be exposed to it to some degree anyway. I’m scared.

But, I’m a part of it.

Going back to my question that arose on the 10th day of vipassana. What is my role here?

I came to a conclusion towards the end of my trip in India: I’m meant to be there for those who are in need to let their emotions and feelings out as well as support them in thinking through what their life really is. I would come and listen to them only when they ask me so. This year, my focal point is to be shifted to the more individual level.

A few of my friends share with me an intriguing aspect: People residing in the Tokyo Metropolitan area are reluctant to acknowledge that they are also victims of the 311 disaster because “real” victims up in north suffer so devastatingly that Tokyo people feel guilty to consider themselves as victims. Relativism of misfortune. But, we know that we can’t compare the quality of happiness and misfortune with those of others. We individuals are only able to experience what each of us experiences.

And my friends continue like this: Naho is not a victim since she was in India. Having this different angle of looking at Japan as a non-victim Japanese is beneficial. For, thoughts and actions of Tokyo people who went through the 311 are confined, which hinders them from seeing things from a wider perspective. Besides, I could be of help to release their hidden tension and anxiety that they are unwilling to express because of a sense of guilt.

It appears to me that my awareness and my friends’ awareness of my role are in synch.

What makes life fascinating is that inquiries started to come to me soon after I was settled back in Tokyo. It flows naturally.

Connecting to my heart through my body

The Mindful Body.

It’s a name of a yoga studio located in Pacific Heights, San Francisco.

“Mindful” is a very good term that is hard to translate into Japanese. The dictionary defines: attentive, aware, or careful.

Both “attentive” and “aware” are also sort of difficult words to translate precisely into Japanese.  Mindful is a combination of ”気付いている,” “思慮深い,” “気遣う,” “感覚的に鋭い,” “注意深い,” etc. etc.  To me, the word connotes gentleness and tenderness.

My old yoga teacher, Maile, teaches Hatha Flow at the Mindful Body.  Interestingly enough, Maile is my current yoga teacher, Stacey’s best friend. Isn’t it amazing that the best friend of my yoga teacher in SF lives in Kamakura, next to my home town in Japan?  Like-minded people are meant to flock together.

On Friday evening, I went to Maile’s class. A yoga studio at the Mindful Body had a high ceiling with a skylight. Three sides were walled, and one side was completely curtained (that was also an entrance to the studio). This structure gave it to a soft and open touch.

Guided by Maile’s grounded and graceful voice, I gradually synchronized with my breathing. In the downward dog asana, I sensed where pains resided in my deep inner muscles. One line in the left side body from the buttocks all the way up to the neck, and the left arm from the pinkie to the shoulder. The more I pushed my legs onto the floor, the more energy was released and spread into the entire body. As if the wave of energy had penetrated throughout my triangled body. Up. And down. It felt so good. In everyday life, most of us (needless to say, including me) focus too much on the head and use partially just the upper body: the neck, shoulders, arms. We don’t utilize the chest and belly and back, not to mention the lower body. As a result, tension and stiffness is stored in the upper body. Stuck. Stagnant. Aches. Yoga helps activate the parts of the body underused and flow the breath and energy.

Concentrating on each and every asana accompanied with deep breath allowed me to feel pains that had been dormant. Hidden pains veiled underneath rushy busy daily life. I got connected to the pains. I realized how much pain I carried unconsciously yet ignored them.

A pain can be just physical. However, a pain can be emotional as well. We metamorphose an emotional pain into a physical one and accumulate it in the body. As I was stretching the body and plunging into my pains, I became emotional and tearful. The body pains reminded me that I was psychologically hurt. It made me aware of why I have come to the Bay Area on this trip. There is something that I need to and want to take care of.

On the way back home, I took a Divisadero bus. I got off at 18th and Castro, my old neighborhood. Everything seemingly stayed the same as when I left there, except that a few new shops opened. With mixed feelings, I walked up on the steep hill to my old apartment. I looked at the room where I used to live. It was somehow striking that my mirror that I hadn’t taken with me when moving out was still leaned to the window. Perhaps, the new person kept using it.

I walked down on the street, thinking that my life in Castro was filled with struggles and sufferings. Castro is one of the most lively areas in the city. People laugh, chat, hug, sing, dance and get drunk. Struggles and sufferings sound like a total contrast. Nonetheless, maybe that’s the real face of Castro. At the end, I was living in the right place in the right time of my life, and got forced to be out when it collapsed.

I’m happy to be back, ready for recap.

Chicken Wing Waffle

What’s hot in Chicago nowadays?

It’s Chicken Wing Waffle!

You may wonder if you heard right or not. “Waffle is supposed to be sweet with whip cream and fruits. How can chicken wing play a role here???”

Well, you gotta be creative. Waffle can be savory at times, like crapes. Chicken Wing Waffle in question is literally a pile of chicken wings on top of waffles.

Here you go!