I have had stiffness and pain in my neck for the last week or so, which is very unusual for me. One of my good friends in Japan, The Journalist, knows an acupuncturist whose office/apartment is not far from my house, so after my training on Monday, we meet up and head over there.
The office is not unlike the acupuncturist ‘office’ I knew in Boston. Basically, it is a thinly disguised house, with massage tables and an electrical stimulation machine in the corner.
The Journalist, the wife half of the acupuncturist couple and I sit in the kitchen, and I listen as the two banter a little about life. She strikes me as an unusual Japanese woman. Very outspoken, and rips into The Journalist a little with biting sarcasm.
I am the first to get acupuncture treatment that night, preceded by a nice bit of shiatsu massage. She sticks five needles into my neck and then hooks me up to a machine that delivers low-level electrical impulses through the needles causing deep muscle contractions in my neck. It doesn’t really hurt, but it does feel strange.
I hear the husband return and exchange some barbs with The Journalist before sticking him with pins and making him scream.
By this time, my acupuncture electrocution is over, and he comes over to me to massage my tendons and ligaments with needles. This hurts a little more, and I could really feel it when the needles hit nerves and blood vessels. Again, not really painful, but very strange, like electrical shocks that come from inside my own body.
After the treatment, I really do notice that most of the stiffness in my neck has dissipated, but there is a residual pain from the needles, so it is hard to say what the net effect is. The acupuncturists advise me to take it easy on my training for two day, and after The Journalist and I pay a nominal fee for their services, they take us out for dinner at an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub) near the station.
There, as the alcohol flows, we speak freely about all kinds of things. Acupuncture, life in Japan, my job, and The Journalist’s foolishness. Most of the food was delicious except for some of the more exotic parts of the chicken (the skin, gizzard, tail, ovaries, and heart) that I neither The Journalist or I have been able to get used to. I learn the Japanese euphemism for ‘this tastes terrible’: ‘natsukashii aji,’ literally ‘nostalgic flavor.’ Think, ‘wow, that taste really takes me back…’ I guess the idea is that you get so lost in reminiscence that you forget to eat the rest.
But my God, go out for an hour of acupuncture and end up spending the evening with two new friends. A whole new world for free. I love my job.