Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Ryo Imamura Interview
Narrator: Ryo Imamura
Interviewers: Stephen Fugita (primary), Erin Kimura (secondary)
Location: Olympia, Washington
Date: August 3, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-iryo-01-0024

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EK: Can you describe a little bit about the -- is it Morita therapy for our users? 'Cause I don't know if they're gonna be... if you could just summarize those two types of therapies if that's possible.

RI: Well, I think Morita therapy, like I said is, I think the roots are from Zen Buddhism. It addresses a certain condition that's very Japanese called shinkeishitsu which is a, an anxiety that -- well I guess other people can have this, but it's particularly prevalent in Japan where you're so self conscious about how people see you, see your family. Everything you do seems to have terrible, uh -- well possible results to them. Not only to yourself, but to your family and your colleagues and everything. So people get immobilized by this anxiety. And these people are -- have a hard time with authority figures, 'cause it makes them even more anxious. We're all nodding 'cause we have some of this too. Then, what's happened is it looks at Buddhist meditation, and the first step after getting the person, educating them about what's gonna happen at each stage of this -- often it's sort of like the two-month process within a hospital -- is that the first week they're put into a, an isolated room with no stimuli at all, just a bare room. And they'd see nobody for a week. They just lie on a futon for a week. The food is kind of slide, slid to them through a slot. And this isolation, what it does to I guess virtually everybody who goes through it is to make them realize how unrealistic their reticence to engage life is. You know, if they're just lying there doing nothing at first they think, "Oh, this is nice. I don't have to be seen by anybody or be nervous about my actions or thoughts or whatever." But after a few days of just lying there you begin to have this gnawing realization that, "No, this is very unnatural. I should be out there and engaged in life." So this is kind of what one week of sleep does for you. Then the rest of the therapy is on hospital grounds giving you little jobs to make you enjoy being productive rather than ruminating on your anxieties. And yeah, so that's in a way character building. It's not therapy in the usual sense. And the only problem is that you stop living productively. And that sounds very Japanese, right? So once you're out there living productively then everything's fine and we don't worry about your inner processes, or whether you had a bad childhood, or any of this is irrelevant. So that's very attractive to, even some Americans here who are just tired of all the analysis, and that, analysis of childhood themes, and what seems to go on and on and on. And somehow the feeling that the more you talk about a problem the bigger it gets rather than goes away. Whereas Morita approach would be, "Okay, that did happen to you, but what's the purpose? You should be out there taking care of your children and doing your job the best you can. So whenever you start thinking about those things, put it aside, put your attention back to your activity." And it comes back to almost, it seems like a real American viewpoint, this whole pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.