Mayumi “Souffler” Yamashita translates for my Friday afternoon Vinayasa/Mediation class at the YogaPlus studio in Sangenjaya. A seasoned world traveler, Souffler first studied at the Sivananda Vendana Yoga Center in India and then later completed the 200hr Yoga Works Teacher Training in Tokyo with Caitlin Casella. Her experiences during this training inspired her to become a translator. She currently teaches for YogaPlus and the Sivananda Center in Tokyo, and has taught yoga in the Bahamas, United Kingdom and India. She was motivated to teach yoga teacher as a means to maintain her connection with her friends all over the word, but mostly because of her late father, Sadayuki Yamashita, who taught Japanese and was a translator as well. Souffler said that her parents were so proud of her choice to become a yoga teacher and the potential he had to have a positive influence on people’s lives. Gregarious and always upbeat, you really do feel the positive energy that Souffler emits in her presence, she is the true embodiment of “sattva”–luminous and light.
What I also like about Souffler is that she keeps on top of me to get my sequences in to her on time. Each translator requests my sequence prior to class so that they can prepare and research poses or anatomical terms—I just can’t show up and teach there’s a collaborative process involved. Another fact that I appreciate about Souffler is that she is always willing to offer to show me around Tokyo or suggest a store, neighborhood, or site that I should visit. Japanese women in general are very fashionable, especially Souffler, and I’m always commenting on her great outfits. During one of our conversations after class, she said:
“Have you been to Shimokitazawa?
“What? …Where is that.” I said
“Shimokitazawa…you’ll love it! I’ts near Shibuya, take the Inokashria Line to the Shimokitazawa train station. They have lots of good deals there on clothes.”
She wrote out the directions for me and I did take her advice go there the other day and she was right–it was a terrific community–sort of like the East Village in Manhattan with lots of thrift shops and boutiques with fashionable clothes at prices far more affordable than in other areas of Tokyo.
One day she wanted me to meet her take a yoga class in Meguro, I was late so she decided we should have lunch in Ebisu instead. We went to a quaint French restaurant (Les Lions) that she likes which has a prix-fixe meal–I marvel at how the smallest of spaces can be a restaurant or cafe in Tokyo. I’ve also noticed that French food is very popular in Tokyo. Souffler said that there are a number of French restaurants in Tokyo better than those in Paris. It was a nice sunny day so after lunch she thought I’d might like the shopping center at Ebisu Gardens and took me there. As we rode on the lengthy “skywalk” for about a mile through a massive subway station, we saw a small building with a red gate nestled between two tall buildings outside. I asked her why a temple would be there of all places, and she said “because its an Inari temple and years ago, someone designated the spot as sacred and nothing can ever be built on the land and the temple will never be moved.” How interesting I thought, that a piece of ground could be so sacred and respected today especially in Tokyo where land is so scarce and real-estate is so valuable. I was very impressed, these influences go back for centuries and decades and I have seen this respect for tradition throughout my trip here which is evident in the food, objects, clothing and customs.