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“Tokyo Twins”, Chapter 2 – A workout, a day and a puzzle going home.

Tokyo Twins A serialized online story


Tokyo Twins looks at two issues –

what the roots of terrorism are, and what the end of terrorism might be.
Two new chapters, in both text and audio, will be posted each week to Pakistan Times.

Chapter 2
“Why can’t I get this!” Katie starts in a whimper and ends in a yell.

She is referring to the running back flips she performs with the intention of catching a hoop thrown precisely 20 meters at precisely 64 degrees.

It’s the beginning of the tumbling sequence… the final sequence, actually, in her competition routine.

Katie’s been working on this one for a while. She catches the hoop with her right foot – to forego the whimper and yell.

“I was doing it better three weeks ago!”

“Keep working, Katie! Again now. Concentrate.” said the coach. “You’re almost there!”

Susan worked mechanically on a similar tumbling run, with a ribbon instead of a hoop. The final catch after throwing the ribbon Susan does with her knees.

The coach is Inga Godotnova, a Russian Federation National Champion, Olympic medalist and one of the best in the world ten years ago.

Katie and Susan have been with her for a year, and say this about her.

“She’s nice,” Susan says.

“She’s good,” says Katie.

Well. “Nice” goes a long way with these two O’Briens. And “good”, for the girls, is high recognition – rarely a part of the deal.

In the past twelve months, Katie and Susan O’Brien have gone from the top tiers in Tokyo for their age group to the top tiers in Japan.

Shintaiso is now their chosen life.

Shintaiso is Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics, or simply Rhythmic Gymnastics, these days.

Katie and Susan O’Brien began regular workouts nine years ago at five years old.

Their father, Henry O’Brien, would take them to a gym in Setagaya-ku every Saturday afternoon.

The girls said they enjoyed it. Henry thought it was cute. The girls could barely bend to touch their knees, let alone their toes…

Now, both mom and dad shake their heads in wonder at the progress the girls have made, somewhat quietly, without hype, without drama, one workout at a time,  stacking up the days gluing one upon the other with tiny bits of progress, or maybe none… a sturdy enough stack, well earned the girls feel, and now topping 3,000.

Their parents never talked to them about becoming champions. Not once.

They could simply look in their eyes to see the girls already knew what it is they’d be.

“Enough playing! Back to work!” said the voice of their coach.

A short break was coming to an end, and a dozen teenage girls, a few a bit younger, scattered and fetched a slew of mallets and balls, ribbons and hoops, a headband or two, and fell into a square of four girls across, three back.

In rhythmic gymnastics as in dance as in sumo you not only warm up you warm down.

Now it was time to warm down – not Katie and Susan’s favorite thing about Shintaiso.

The day was already long at the conclusion of practice, and still homework to do, a meal to help prepare then eating and cleaning-up and more homework just before bedtime.

Time spent commuting from home to school to gym  and then back home… daily riding on rail, or walking to one, or waiting at a station platform, tallies over three hours each day, three hours that might be spent getting homework done allowing more time to sleep.

But standing up in trains and subway cars crowded with people, not just shoulder to shoulder, but cheek to cheek and bellies to backs, makes it kinda hard to spread out your stuff, your assignments and books and papers and pens.

Susan O’Brien over e-mail recently corrected her cousin in America who was comparing the riding of Tokyo mass transit to getting canned with a mass of sardines.

“Not fair.” Susan said. “Sardines don’t have to listen for their station. Sardines don’t have to stand-up.”

But tonight there was one more concern going home.

One they usually didn’t have.

Someone was lurking, and maybe living in the thick bamboo forest next to their home near the Tama River.

Yes. A thick bamboo forest right in the middle of Tokyo… Hebiyama or Snake Mountain… set aside and protected by the government for ongoing archaeological research into the Japanese culture that flourished there by the very same river two thousand five hundred years ago.

the audio version of this chapter on mp3 is available here:

Chapter 3 will be posted next Wednesday.

About the author


Tommy Schmitz is a writer in Des Moines, Iowa.

He Grew up in Cincinnati's west side, spent nine years in the corporate world, then seventeen years running his own consultancy, mostly to automobile machinery makers in Japan, China and the US.

He lived in Tokyo from 1992 to 1999. Besides serving auto industry clients (Toyota, Honda, Denso, Robert Bosch, Mitsubishi) he was the first non-Japanese accepted by the government as a paid advisor to Japanese small and medium sized companies. (Chushokigyochou, Division of JETRO and MITI).

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