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Thursday, July 07, 2016

An Encounter with Walking Doctor Duke Saraie - Pounding the Pavements of Akasaka


Duke Saraie in Akasaka, Tokyo.
Duke Saraie, the "Walking Doctor," in Akasaka, Tokyo.
Walking though Tokyo's Akasaka district the other day with my trusty camera in hand, I found myself waiting at a pedestrian crossing alongside a glamorous looking couple who I asked if I could take their photo.

The man, in his late fifties or early sixties, jovial, wearing a beanie, quite heavily bejeweled, and, all in all, something of a character, instantly agreed. The woman with him was a bit more reticent, and when I tried to persuade her he told me she was "his manager" - so of course I desisted, thinking he meant it was below her.

I took a couple of shots of the old guy posing, and then chatted a little for the minute we had before the lights changed. His name was Duke Saraie, and he said he was famous - at least up until a few years ago - for "walking", which he demonstrated for me for a moment or two by holding his arms up straight, hands together, in a sort of catwalk pose. (Thus the pose for the photo without his manager, who no doubt would have stolen some thunder.)

I repeated his name back to him to confirm, we shook hands and said goodbye. Looking him up online, I discovered that this was indeed the famous "Walking Doctor" Duke Saraie, who was the star of a long-running mini-series on Kansai TV (Kansai Telecasting Corporation) called "Bi (pronounced "bee") Walk: A Gift from Duke Saraie" which ran from 2003 to 2008.

Each episode was just six minutes long and ran every Monday just before 10 pm. In it, random people would hunt for a box which contained an invitation to go to Duke Saraie's house, where he would advise the lucky winner on how to improve her (occasionally, his) walking style.

The good Walking Doctor's technique is apparently based on a multitude of arts and disciplines including qigong, sports medicine, martial arts, yoga, ballet, Pilates and breathing exercises. He is said to have developed it working with fashion models for whom good walking is key to success in what they do. He then broadened the scope of his walking regime to include everyone, and has promoted "proper" walking ever since as a panacea.

He is famous enough for most of my Japanese colleagues to know of him.

Duke Saraie was born in Wakayama prefecture in 1954, went to university in Osaka, and, according to the Japanese Wikipedia article on him, lived in Monaco from 2002, dividing his time between there and Japan. He has a wife, who styles herself "Madame Saraie," and two daughters.

He has received awards from the Japan Culture Promotion Association. from his native Wakayama Prefecture, and a Ph.D. from the The International Academy of Education University.

Last, but not least, the Duke apparently boasts a BMI of 22.3 - not bad for a 62-year-old.

Check out Duke Saraie's website (Japanese only)

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