How Akahigedo Changed My Life

Akihiko Wakabayashi
Akihiko Wakabayashi

What made me ever consider staying in Japan more than a year? Does it sound crazy to imagine I would stay because I found a good doctor? And to give up the “search” for a Jewish husband in Japan so quickly after meeting Wakabayashi Sensei at Akahigedo?

What made this clinic so profoundly life changing for me–besides the fact that I fell madly in love with and married one of its therapists–were the incredibly high demands the clinic placed on its patients to do the healing work themselves. It all seemed familiar. So Jewish in a way. 

My First Impression of Being Treated at Akahigedo, excerpted from The Wagamama Bride, a memoir in progress:

Incho looks like someone who’d just shot a scene for an NHK television Sunday night history drama, set in a feudal samurai household overlooking rice fields. His costume makes a curious contrast to this clinic, which instead of time-varnished wood beams and sliding paper doors,  offers 20th century functionality– glazed windows,  black cots,  cocooned inside reinforced, earthquake-proofed, concrete walls.

I lie down on one in a row of identical massage tables, separated from the other patients by pink hospital style curtains. Incho, the clinic chief, appears. He bows. he smiles He places his right hand in the air, high over the green hospital gown and oversized basketball shorts that I’m instructed to wear for this treatment session. We are both in costumes. He knows what his role is, and I’m about to find out what is mine.

His hand responds to the heat within me. His fingers move marionette-like over my belly. His interpreter, Wakabayashi Sensei, explains that Incho is picking up energetic data, which strikes me as hocus-pocus ludicrous nonsense  – until he begins talking. Through Wakabayashi Sensei, Incho  tells me about my tired intestine, my overindulgence in sugar, and how daily stress can effect the liver as much as a bottle of wine. I don’t even drink! Well, hardly. It’s all a bit overwhelming—like being a contestant on the game show, “This is Your Life!” Except its done by a man with black pantaloon pants and a white sashed shirt who seems to know me inside out.”

The Stronger the Skeptic the Stronger the Motivation to Learn

Akahigedo presented me with a golden opportunity to examine my own fears and prejudices. And to open up to change.  I was ripe for change: the stronger the skeptic, the stronger the motivation to reach for the truth. From my skepticism about my own Jewish roots, my doubts fanned out to Akahigedo, to Eastern medicine, and anything that smacked of spirituality. 

Sometimes this process of allowing the unknown into our lives can alter the foundation of our world view, as it did mine.  Akahigedo clinic’s approach is based on Taoist principles, a master-disciple system, and places inconveniences and hardships on both healer and patient. Clinic chief, Incho, offered and still does tend toward radical healing ideas way ahead of his times.  And yet, many of Akahigedo’s ideas which were pretty radical 30 years ago, have become mainstream, particularly the principal  that one must be a committed partner in order to  “Heal Thyself.” Today  I have to pinch myself as a reminder how much more accepted acupuncture, shiatsu, herbal medicine and dietary adjustments have become in root healing for all diseases. 

How do you feel when you are in a situation where you have an opportunity to go outside your comfort zone and try a new modality of healing? Or a new depth of spiritual practice in Judaism? 

I’m very interested in hearing about your own life changing experiences with Eastern medicine, and with Akahigedo Clinic in particular. How did becoming a patient change your life? I welcome your comments below!

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2 Responses

  1. Look forward to more of your memoir.

    Had a “bad experience” many, many years ago with acupuncture ( thing the guy must have still been a student”. )

    We often do know what is wrong with us physically and mentally, so “heal thy self” rings true, but not always easy to do is it?

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