The main reason we chose Japan as one of our targets for my sabbatical was the invitation to visit Yugo Narita in Mie. I first met Yugo, a consultant neurologist, during the Motor Neurone Disease Annual Symposium in Yokohama 3 years ago. We have kept in touch ever since and I was interested in learning more about his work as well as seeing more of his beautiful country. He and his wife, Nabuko, had been to our home briefly last year and we also looked forward to seeing their daughter, Yoko, who had also been to visit Dorchester and the hospice to further her interest in palliative care nursing.
Mie is on a peninsula which juts out into the Pacific about 5 hours south of Tokyo by train. Compared to the strip of industrial coastline on the mainland, Mie is relatively rural. Ranges of wooded mountains rise up steeply from the sea. Much of the interior is relatively inaccessible with networks of roads using viaducts and tunnels to cut through the land.
Mie University Hospital
If you look carefully, you can see the Pacific Ocean from Yugo's office
Nurses staions are the same the world over
Yugo and his family live in the city of Ise. His place of work is the University Hospital in the provincial capital, Tsu.
He took us to see his office in the School of Nursing and the neurological wards in the hospital next door. As well as his clinical duties, Yugo has responsibilities for medical and nursing education. We met with members of his department including the lead nurse and pharmacologist in palliative care - very progressive appointments for a provincial neurology department.
In the grounds of the University, there was a garden in memory of those animals and humans who had donated their bodies over the years to medical research. The inscription in Japanese on the memorial stone reads “The Foundation of Scientific Progress.“
The other feature I noticed was that, on retirement, senior members of the university had a pre-humus memorial stone placed in the grounds alongside a tree of their choice. I am thinking of suggesting the same where I work. My personal choice of tree would be the monkey-puzzle variety.
During our visit to Mie, we were taken on a wonderful walk along an ancient pilgrim route. Paving stones, first laid down in the 10th century, led up a steep route through beautiful woods to a spectacular viewing point looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Along with other walkers, we picnicked in the sunshine at the top. It was easy to imagine in these unspoilt natural surroundings the thousands of pilgrims who had travelled the same route over centuries gone by.
Ise has one of the most famous shrines in Japan which all Japanese try to visit at least once in their lifetimes. In another remarkable example of Japanese culture, we learnt that, every 20 years, the shrine is completely dismantled and a new one constructed nearby in its place. This is so that the skills used are not lost to successive generations. We walked across the beautiful new wooden bridge which had been consecrated only a week previously, replacing the one built 20 years before.
Yoko (aka Penelope Pitstop) and her Mini Cooper
On our final night in Mie, we had a lovely evening in the company of Yugo, Nabuko and their 3 daughters at home. Much sake was imbibed and stories exchanged. As we have experienced elsewhere, such generous hospitality from people in their own country is a great privilege.