Accepted Paper:

Bodily 'ways' to healing among the elderly Japanese in Kuala Lumpur  


Shiori Shakuto (University of Tokyo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper identifies the sensory recognition of ageing and counter-ageing as the narrowing and expanding of bodily pathways among the elderly Japanese in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It embeds their bodily metaphors within the aesthetic and spiritual cosmology of Japanese traditional art practice of do (way).

Paper long abstract:

Migration to Southeast Asia has become a retirement option for some Japanese elderly in recent years. The Japanese are one of the highest foreign retiree populations in Malaysia. Many Japanese retirees in Malaysia take Japanese traditional art and choir lessons offered by the local Japanese associations. This paper will study the bodily experience of ageing and counter-ageing among the elderly Japanese traditional art practitioners in Kuala Lumpur. Their experience of ageing transcends the five senses. On the one hand, they describe it as a narrowing of their bodily pathways; such as speech impediment, the contraction of blood veins, and suffocation. On the other hand, migrating to Kuala Lumpur is experienced as an expansion in their bodily pathways and thus an attainment of new physical feats in old age. How might their bodily sensations relate to their social relationships and their life trajectory? And how does participation in traditional art practices influence individual anatomy and healing? To decipher the meaning of the bodily pathways that contract and expand, this paper will link the bodily metaphor of pathway with aesthetic and religious metaphor of Do. Do, literally translated as 'pathway', is embedded in traditional art practices in Japan. This paper argues that the bodily ways and aesthetic and religious ways are lived dimensions of a single experience. Participations in traditional art, and consequently, expansions in one's spiritual pathways are experienced as expansions in one's bodily pathways. This gives rise to a better sense of well-being and meaningfulness in later-life.

Panel P069
The sensory experience of suffering and healing