Japanese Medical Beliefs

4 April 2017

Japanese Medical Beliefs Medicine is all around us. It comes in all forms and all types of beliefs. Each person has their own beliefs on what medicine can do to or for the body. No matter what country one visits, there will be a medical office to assist, however their views may vary that what one may be use to. In Japan, things are no different; however, Japan has some beliefs that contrast other countries. The Japanese has received influence from other countries, such as the Chinese, but they have turned everything into their own.

They have their own superstitions, traditional medicine (including how they view modern medical needs), and different types of current trends that they follow. Every country has its own superstitions. Certain things that are not allowed to happen on certain days or even certain things must be kept away because of its meanings. In 1998, an experiment was done to see if the Japanese was using the Taian-Butsumetsu superstition when discharging patients.

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The basis of the study was “To determine the influence of superstition about Taian (a lucky day)-Butsumetsu (an unlucky day) on decision to leave hospital.

To estimate the costs of the effect of this superstition” (Hira, Fukui, Endoh, Rahman, & Maekawa, 1998). They took figures from patients discharged from Kyoto University Hospital from the beginning of April 1992 to the end of March of 1995, 3 years worth of patients. In the Japanese world, the Taian-Butsumetsu belief is related to the six day lunar calendar and affects the Japanese culture in a variety of ways since the Taian is suppose to be a lucky day where as the Butsumetsu is supposed to mean unlucky.

Due to this superstition, some patients have asked to extend their stay so that they can be released on the following Taian day, which means more costs to the hospitals. To get the most accurate data, they used hospital records and calculated the amount of days that patients were released on each day of the six lunar cycle, and then estimated the costs that the extension brought on to the hospital. They also took into consideration the patients age and gender. The results showed that “Of the 23677 patients discharged from the Kyoto University Hospital during the study period, 12613 (53. %) were female and 11064 (46. 7%) were male. The mean number of discharged patients was 21. 6 a day with the mean age 42. 3 years and the mean hospital stay 37. 1 days. The mean number, age, and hospital stay of discharged patients were highest on Taian and lowest on Butsumetsu. The Kruskal-Wallis test showed significant difference among the days of this cycle regarding the mean number, age, and hospital stay of discharged patients” (Hira, Fukui, Endoh, Rahman, & Maekawa, 1998). Reports also showed that 3. 3% of the discharged patients adjusted their discharge date due to their belief in Taian.

It goes on to state the estimation that the mean of a typical hospital charge was 12 600 yen a day. The extra charges the patients caused the hospital to incur in order to stay to the next Taian, amount to 7. 4 million yen a year all due to a superstition. If the patients would have shorted their stay to a prior Taian, there could have been a savings of roughly 12. 1 million yen. Another superstition for the Japanese is blood type. According to superstitions, your blood type can tell your temperament and personality.

A man named Furukawa Takeji suggested a link between the two after working in a high school and observing the temperamental differences between applicants. His theory suggests that type A were generally mild tempered and intellectual, while blood types B were opposite (Thatcher). This superstition has influenced the Japanese so much that some companies have actually grouped their workforce together depending on their blood type. In the 1920’s and 30’s blood type grew more intriguing. Scientists in the west found that type B was common in Asia, but rare in Caucasians.

As type B was typical in animals, they argued that Asians were inferior, lower on the evolutionary scale. Japan does have some forms of traditional medicine. They are required to have independent licensees for Kampo, acupuncture, moxibustion, and anma-massage-shiatsu. Kampo is only able to be performed by physicians with western medical doctor’s license. Acupuncture and moxibustion can be given by a person graduated from senior high school and later completed a 3 year education at one of the educational facilities specified.

Acupuncture, moxibustion and anma are classified within the framework of the Japanese medical care system (Katai). Of these, Kampo seems to be the most widely used in Japan. Kampo medicine is widely practiced and is fully included into their modern healthcare system. The word Kampo means Han Method, which refers to China’s herbal system which developed in the Han dynasty. It was used in ancient China but is believed that Kampo came to Japan from Korea in the 5th or 6th century. In 1976, it was added to Japans national health insurance plan.

Although it relies on herb formulas, it uses acupuncture, moxibustion and a few other components. 70 percent of physicians in Japan regularly prescribe it to their patients (Tanaka, 2010). It has been used by gynecologists, urologists, cardiologists and even gastrointestinal specialists. In order to determine the right formula for each patient, they require a sho. This is a diagnosis based on patient’s symptoms and patterns of disease. In 2007 Japan’s Society of Oriental Medicine issued an evidence report which shows all the findings of the research published from 1999-2005. 8 papers were deemed qualified. Some double blind showings were, “Hypertension related symptoms (flashed faces, etc. ): The administration of Ourengedokuto (Huang Lian Jie Du Tang) decreased hypertension related symptoms (Muli-center study of 116 facilities) Upper Gastric Symptoms: Rikkunshito (Liu Jun Zi Tang) was effective in decreasing upper GI discomfort and related complaints, such as a lack of appetite. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Administration of Keishikashakuyakuto (Gui Zhi Jia Shao Yao Tang) decreased abdominal pain among IBS patients.

The effects were more pronounced among diarrhoea-dominant IBS cases. Muscle Cramping: Shakuyakukanzouto (Shao Yao Gan Cao Tang) was effective for reducing muscle cramping among cirrhosis patients. Obesity: 24 weeks of administering Bofutsuseisan (Fang Feng Tong Sheng San) decreased visceral fats and waist circle, as well as improved insulin resistance among obese female patients. Allergic Rhinitis: Shouseiryuto (Xiao Qing Long Tang) was effective in improving symptoms of allergic rhinitis” (Tanka, 2010).

Another form of traditional medicine is Acupuncture and Shiatsu massage. Acupuncture is where extremely thin needles are gently placed in certain areas of your body. It can be uses to help balance the flow of energy through pathways in the body or can be used to stimulate nerves, muscles and tissue. It can be a more natural way of making the body feel better, without medication. Shiatsu is a massage that is used to relax people. The massage therapist uses hand, thumbs, elbows and knees to help dig into the more “knotted” areas of the body. It is an acupressure therapy.

By using these additional parts of the body, they can use their whole body to endure more pressure onto the person in order to offset tension. The difference between acupuncture and acupressure is that acupuncture uses needles, where as acupressure uses body part to dig into the tissue. Some people do not truly understand the alternative ways. “The biggest misconception about alternative medicine is that it’s just a different procedure–that one can just replace it with conventional medicine, like taking an herb instead of a pill. ”(Gray 2009). The Japanese also has strong views on medical beliefs.

Things such as organ transplants are strongly discouraged due to Japans belief. In 1987, the Medical Association declared brain death to be equivalent to the death of a human being (Masahiro, 1995). Some Japanese doctors practice “closed-door medicine”, which is where the doctor fails to properly inform patients about their condition or straight out lies to them about it. A study in 1992 showed that only 20% of terminal cancer patients knew they had cancer because of the doctor’s decision to inform them on the truth. This shows that 80% of patients were lied to or told nothing. Masahiro, 1995) Due to this, Through the brain death controversy quite a few people expressed great fear that in the process of the determination of brain death and transplantation no information might be given to family members, and in the worst case that the doctors might lie to family members. Some pointed out the possibility that doctors might psychologically threaten the family members if they refuse to agree to organ donations from a brain-dead relative. As time passed, it appeared that Japan accepted modern technology in almost every form except human birth and death.

Research has shown that they believed a dead person goes to the next world as a soul. If parts of that body were to be donated, then body as a whole would not be together, thus making the soul unhappy in the next world. The Japanese has however become more willing to use terms such as “informed consent” or “patients rights”. It appears as if Japans beliefs will simply be based off of their own cultural beliefs, as oppose to something such as the Euro-American beliefs. Due to the fast paced living in Japan, they have begun trends to help ease the stressed out society and bring forth relaxation.

They have opened oxygen bars, nap salons and animal therapy. In oxygen bars, you can have personal flavored oxygen cans that can help bring you energy and provide fresh air. You can also purchase them at salons and beauty halls. The canisters, such as Big Ox’s helpfully informs that “oxygen is an essential gas for human beings” and claims that its 89 per cent oxygen blend (normal air contains about 21 per cent) can help boost energy, particularly during exercise (Feelgood, 2008). In recent years, major cities in Japan have opened nap salons. A particular salon in Tokyo, Napia has over 1,500 members.

Fatigued office workers can take a brief lunchtime nap on a daybed there for roughly equivalent of $4. 50 (US). Sleep studies have shown that their naps should not go beyond 30 minutes because it is then more likely for them to fall into a deep sleep and end up waking up feeling extremely groggy. To help ensure that customers do not sleep beyond 30 minutes, they provide customers with coffee right before their nap. Since it generally take 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, they can get a quick nap in, then the caffeine will kick in and allow the person to have a more natural wake up (Faiola, 2006).

Some Japanese companies have even gotten their health insurance providers to cover the fees for nap salons. If they have not succeeded in that route, they simply take naps at their desk during lunchtime. This way they are not only getting their nap in but the office lights are being turned off which is saving energy. In Japan, bathing in mineral waters is popular as a health-promotion practice. (Miller, 2007) Onsen, which is a hot spring, is in their belief to be opposite of everything in their normal crazy lifestyle.

It represents an opportunity for the Japanese to melt down the hierarchical nature of society through mutual nakedness and intimacy (Onsen, 2006-7). It is pretty much a public bath with natural hot spring water for them to use in order to relax from their hectic work schedules. It is their belief that the water holds healing powers. There are a few different types of hot springs: Simple Springs, Carbonate Springs, Salt Springs, Sodium Sulfate Springs, Iron Springs, Acidic Springs, Sulfur Springs and Radium Hot Springs. Most people sit back quietly and enjoy the silence that surrounds them while bathing for roughly 20-30 minutes. The extremely acid hot spring Onsen water is believed to ease neuralgia, alleviate muscle pain and the symptoms of chronic skin disease. It also relieves chronic fatigue and stress. Since ancient times, Onsen water has been renowned to help maintain a beautiful skin. In addition to its other health and beauty benefits, the hot springs energize the metabolism. The Onsen experience is also known to calm nerves and put the bather in a relaxed, meditative state” (Onsen, 2006-7) Unfortunately today there are only three hot spring resorts remaining.

One is Kusatsu Thermal Spring which is in a small town roughly two and a half hours from Tokyo by train. It can either be visited for the day, or turned into a mini vacation. If only wanting to spend a day, you can visit one of 18 public hot springs in the town for a quick fix. Another location is Gero Thermal Spring. It is roughly three and a half hours from Tokyo by train to Nagoya, then about an hour and a half to Gifu, where Gero is located. Here, you can stay at one of the resorts or visit the public springs which allows you to test out three of the twenty.

The final is Arima Onsen Thermal Spring. This final spring is roughly three hours from Tokyo then another 30 minutes to Kobe, where Arima is located. This spa is the oldest spa known to the country. Here, there is a public theme park which holds 17 hot springs. Another trend is fish pedicures. At some Onsen Springs, there are spas where you can dip you feet into the water and have these fish eat the dead skin off your feet. Although they are considered “flesh eating” they actually have no teeth, meaning that you will not get bitten.

They basically suck the dead skin and cells off, leaving your skin silky smooth. No matter what country you look at, each will have its own beliefs on medicine. Some are traditional and some may by alternative. Japan is widely known for having a mixture of each. While receiving influence from other countries, Japan has incorporated other medical approaches into their own. They have their own superstitions, traditional medicine (including how they view modern medical needs), and different types of current trends that they follow.

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