The illness that you carry with you

When you feel unwell, what do you think is happening inside your body? Do you think something is happening to your body? To what extent do you attribute your environmental conditions to your illness? These are the kinds of questions raised when considering 漢方 (kanpō), traditional Japanese medicine with Chinese origins. Today we looked at illness and medical treatment in Japan. There are distinct medical practices and interactions pertaining to illness that distinguish Japan from other societies. For one, a common ailment is 持病 (jibyō) which could translate to something like “the illness I hold” and is a chronic illness that affects Japanese people throughout their lives. So then how does one cure themselves of jibyō? That’s a bit of a trick question. A main discussion point that we tossed around today dealt with the idea of “curing” versus “healing.” In fact, it can be said that in kanpō, a physician does not intend to cure a patient of their illness, say their jibyō; rather, a physician intends to correct in imbalance in the body. This is where kanpō departs from Western medicine. Western medicine doesn’t really see imbalances in the body; instead, it looks for a pathogen, a biochemical substance that is foreign to the body, and decides the best way to eliminate that pathogen. Western medicine attempts to “cure” a patient by eliminating the pathogen and kanpō attempts to heal them by correcting an imbalance.


I’m going to start writing some parts of these posts in Japanese. This bit is about etiquette when entering a Japanese home. One must be extremely polite and humble, using set phrases to express gratitude to the host. A guest always brings a gift, usually food, as a display of appreciation to the host. It is essential that a guest properly enters the home from the 玄関 (genkan), or entryway where the shoes are taken off. Although I’m anxious about getting something wrong in these settings, I feel motivated to try it out with the tools that I have learned today.