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Following my mother’s wisdom: Learning How to Get Along with My Body – Yakuzen Cuisine

People

Following my mother’s wisdom: Learning How to Get Along with My Body – Yakuzen Cuisine

Content Partner

KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.

Content Partner

KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.

 Akiko Nakanishi, a yakuzen therapist (yakuzen, literally meaning ‘medicinal meal’ is a cusine based on the approach of Oriental medicine) who goes by the name, “aco.” Originally from Okayama, she attended college in Kyoto and has lived in Kyoto ever since. I visited her at Community Store TO SEE, where she provides health drinks, and she told me how she switched to the pursuit of yakuzen from her work in the clothing retail industry that she had been very fond of. She also shared messages she wished to spread as a yakuzen therapist.

My body that I was too busy to give proper care and attention to

– Please tell me what brought you to live in Kyoto.

 I was admitted to a college in Kyoto, so, that was how I left my hometown in Okayama and started living here. I majored in English language, though I was still unsure if I really wanted to find employment related to language skills.
 

– What did you do afterwards?

 Since the time I was in college, I actually wanted to have a job handling clothing. So I started working at a small secondhand clothing store in Kyoto. Then, at the point when I thought I had gained enough knowledge about secondhand clothing, I started working for a big fashion retailer, at a shop it had newly opened in Kansai. After I gained experience as a sales representative, I was put in charge of shop management. This position required me to go on business trips all the time, though. And that put me in a physical condition that was poor enough that it forced me to resign. But I kept on pushing myself to support the shop and the staff. But I realized that I couldn’t take care of others unless I could take care of myself.
 
 
 

Switching from clothing retail to the pursuit of yakuzen

– What did you do after quitting your job?

 Honestly, I was lost. But then I remembered a time when I was in elementary school and my mother gave me a bath with peach leaves to cure a mild atopic dermatitis I had. She always chose things that were more or less natural or friendly to the environment, whether they were for us to use or eat. I always ate junk food when I was living by myself, though, because I was fed up with her ways. It was only after I fell ill that I learned the value of the lifestyle that my mother led.

 Another reason was because my father was suffering from poor health of an unknown cause. The doctor said he was suffering from stress or a disorder in the autonomic nervous system, and it didn’t seem to get better. So I started to think about what I could do to support the people around me, beginning with my father; and I wondered what sort of job that would be. I found a clue in a novel titled Ōkoku by Banana Yoshimoto. Its protagonist had a job handling medicinal plants, and I intuitively thought, This is it, and I decided to study things such as naturopathy and Oriental medicine.

– I see. So that was how you began to pursue yakuzen.

 As I studied, it became clear to me that there was always a cause to a poor physical condition. We tend to just take medicine to suppress migraines. And if our bodies feel dull and heavy, we tend to just ignore it. But poor physical conditions have causes, and it is possible to reveal those causes in order to address the condition of each person. Eastern medicine actually doesn’t aim for full recovery. Rather, it is a way to approach conditions by recognizing them and then getting along with them in a well-balanced manner. I wanted to learn more about this approach and share it with people suffering from poor physical conditions. So, that was why I started a yakuzen workshop.
 

Yakuzen for a balanced relationship with the body

– What sorts of activities have you been carrying out these days as a yakuzen therapist?

 At Kyoto Art Hostel kumagusuku, I have been holding “Otomari Retreat,” which is a sleep-over workshop that includes lodging accommodation. I have also been supervising a yakuzen bagel recipe for Kurashizukuri Bagel, which is in Fukushima prefecture. At Community Store TO SEE, I am providing original-recipe beverages that incorporate yakuzen. When I provide them at events, I first have the people self-diagnose their physical conditions using a questionnaire sheet, and then I have them choose their drinks based on the self-diagnosis.

– That’s wonderful that you can drink a beverage that best suits your physical condition!

 By checking your physical condition on your own, you can learn about your physical constitution, like “My body tends to get cold.” Such knowledge changes your daily, body-mindfulness in life. It is actually difficult to notice things about your own body. So, I thought about selling blended yakuzen tea to let people incorporate more yakuzen into daily life. I wish to give people opportunities to easily expose themselves to yakuzen—especially people like my former self who don’t have the time to check and reflect on their physical health.  

– Listening to your story, I have become very interested in yakuzen.

 It was my father’s condition that caused me to pursue yakuzen. He was feeling ill for about eight years, and when he was finally diagnosed, it became clear that he had a disease that was difficult to cure; its treatment method was unestablished. Wondering how I could ease his illness, I started studying yakuzen, and that became the foundation of what I do now. I wish to take care of people around me while remembering my feelings for my father, which led me to the pursuit of yakuzen.

 Through the workshops and health drinks, I hope to give more people the opportunity to build a well-balanced relationship with their bodies. And I wish to further deepen my knowledge to become a person that others who are going through a similar situation as I did can rely on.

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Creatives who contributed to this article:
Text written and photos taken by
YUKARI MIKAMI

March 1st, 2020

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KYOTO migration project is a website designed to support those who wish to realize their dream to live in Kyoto. We provide information on communities, jobs and housing essential to people who wish to “migrate” here.