Kanpo(漢方): Before meeting Dr. Qiu, I gave a  draft of my kanpo-related questions to Aridome sensei (質問は翻訳してありがとうございます!) which he ten sent forward. Dr. Qiu answered all of the listed questions with clarity, but before she did that, she offered us a small a glimpse of her life story and how she ended up as a kanpo doctor. As a child born during late maternal age, she required medical attention, a responsibility which her father as a pediatrician and later a kanji doctor. Through tangible experience, Dr. Qiu decided to follow into her father’s footstep and become a Kanpo practitioner.

Many of the ideas and processes discussed during the lecture resonated with the our readings. Such things were the differences of approach in biomedicine (Bullet Point approach) and Kanpo (Individualistic-Environmental Approach), and the importance of the doctor’s sensitivity to patient’s body language, smell, visual and touch. The new things I learned were:

  • Kanpo is an OBSERVATIONAL Science
  • Kanpo places more importance and the individual and surroundings than “genetics.” In biomedicine forms it is really important to know the race and ethnicity of an individual as some of us are prone to certain diseases such illness. However, although Kanpo does take into consideration these factors-its main regard is the individual’s body constitution and response to the environment.
  • Kanpo’s main goal of restoring balance in the body is achieved through enforcing the body’s immune system or boosting one’s chi or ki. In cases of unknown cause or a new disease, such as radiation exposure, Kanpo’s approach is the above: BOOST THE CHI.
  • Dermatologist, Cancer-Treatment Facilities, and women who wish to conceive are embracing Kanpo.
  • The difference in kanpo between Japan and China: in Japan, Kanpo and biomedicine are seen as complimentary to one another, while China it is regarded as its own way of medicine (separate from bio medicine) and is practiced independently from biomedicine.
Kanpo Medicine

Edo-Tokyo Museum: Definitely, as Selinger Sensei mentioned, no expenses were spared…The museum’s permanent exhibit was extremely detailed. Each model and figurine were carved/molded in such a careful manner…

Nihonbashi Bridge Replica (Edo-Tokyo Museum)

This past academic year, besides Japanese language classes, my Asian studies courses consisted of Christmas Sensei’s history class: Modernity and Identity, which covers the Meiji restoration till present, and Culture and Conquest, which’s focus is Japan’s pre-modern history.  In the Edo-Section, there were palanquins in which the daimyo used to ride in and a model of what a daimyo residence in Edo would have looked like… One of the last things we discussed in class this past semester was Sankin Kotai, which in the ended up draining the financial resources each domain-as each daimyo felt the need to demonstrate its power and influence through wealth and fashion. Seeing the the models finally made me understand how much of a toll this procession must have been… (I should have really taken a picture, すみません). Also, last semester we read a Junichiro’s novel, Naomi. The novel explores life Japanese life in the early 20th century. Culture Homes (houses that were made in half Japanese and half western style) were very popular. The Museum had a life-size model of such a home. I have to say- at had imagined it a little different, a little more eccentric maybe. But seeing it, I understood why Naomi picked out a culture house to live in…

I really like Ukiyo-e prints (a style of woodblock print popular around the Meiji Period). We had discussed the process of woodblock print with Selinger Sensei during class once and I was simply stunned by the intricacy of the process…

The Process of making a Woodblock print (Edo-Tokyo Museum) from right to left. There are many wood blocks that go into making one single print.



After relentless travel, WE ARE IN 東京(Tokyo)! While yesterday was sort of a passive travel day, today we engaged in an extremely physically active (walking) and mentally (Japanese everywhere!) active tour thanks to Ozaki-san, who spoke to us in Japanese for of the whole day. Our first stop of the tour was the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market. The pace of Tokyo city life is fast, but Tuskiji’s is even faster…


Tsukiji now sits on some of Japan’s most expensive real estate (right next to Ginza). For economic purposes, Tsukiji will most likely be moved to a different place. With its stone streets gone, its grubby candor will be lost to a modern facility.

As mentioned in the reading, the presentation of the goods were stunning. Display sections in the “separate” market were decorated accordingly and the fruit simply stunning. Vegetables and fruits were carefully examined, washed, packaged and each were exquisitely mouth-watering.

After Tsukiji, we walked to different parts of Tokyo, like Shiodome and Ueno Park. From the top of one of the sky scraper, Tokyo’s reclaimed land was visible. This once again, brought up the question the natural vs. un-natural/manmade. Is this real land?nIt was however, incredible to see how, Japan is bordered by the sea, but in a way not bounded by it.

Shiodome view.

Tokyo is lined with massive skyscrapers and occasional oasis of nature such as gardens and parks. Meiji Period Museums, ideas, and artifacts are live in Ueno Park. The Western art museum, the Meiji Museum, as well as the zoo (which we will be tending in the near future) and several Jinja and opera (shrine sand temples) are scattered through out Ueno Park.

Otera (temple) where people wish for a good outcome on a test. Usually students wish to pass an exam/class or entrance exam.

Tokyo is a dynamic place in which many aspects of life are woven into a surprise pattern, although the placement of these placement may seem out of place(issue of purity) such as a park placed in between skyscrapers or temples/shrines in the middle of a business zone- I think it is an attempt to live in this “concrete jungle”  with occasional presence of the “other”(or the natural/not-manmade) in order to not forget about the forces of nature and our need for them.


日本語:Today was the first time where I was completely surrounded by the Japanese language. Although the day started pretty well-of interns of understanding and speaking-as the the day wore on communication grew harder (Hopefully due to the jet lag and not me forgetting structures and vocab…).

The 日本語 adventure of the day was ordering dinner at the “food court” place underneath the department store.


Minamata and Fukushima

Karen started today’s discussion with her presentation of “In light of Minamata” in which it was a sort of compare and contrasts between the “nature” of the two disasters and reactions from the government. While Minamata was clearly labeled a man-made disaster and Fukushima a “natural”-disaster: there was a rather similar response from the government and the companies associated (Chisso and TEPCO respectively)- a denial of responsibility. Furthermore, the question of the disaster being “over” was introduced. Can it really be over, if the mercury in the water as well as the radiation in the soil can only be diluted and not eradicated? It changes our perspective from thinking of a disaster being over to moving forward and learning how to live with them…

“what would it mean for the environment to be healed?

Due to the political structure of Japan and the societal pressure to conform, protest and social activism are seen as unpopular to engage with. Michael talked about the power role of women, especially mothers in activism in Japan. Women and children are seen as the most vulnerable of the population-when they suffer it becomes more tragic, and therefore social protests turn from factual and violent riots to emphatic movements.  Through the feminization of memory, the social movements appeal to societal values-which provokes the masses to voice their concerns and cause a change.

We briefly reviewed the history of some the places we will be visiting in Japan, such as Harajuku, where america transitioned from violence to desire and Meiji Shrine, the “Man-Planned” eternal forest. Throughout the viewing the Meiji Shrine Video, there were audible gasps and comments of awe due to the diversity found in the the “eternal forest.” The forest in the heart of Tokyo that surrounds Meiji Shrine is an interesting political as well as environmental experiment. After carefully planning the forest onto a wasteland, the forest has been left alone to take its own course…

明後日は日本に行きますね! 私はこの旅行に興奮しています。楽しみにしています。興奮みましょう、みんなさん!\(^o^)/

Healing vs. Curing

As a future health care professional, I want to be aware of biomedicine limitations and the benefits of understanding other forms of medicine practice in this case Kanpo. Kanpo treatment is composed of many attributes, but it is in great part, herbal medicine, which I personally find quite fascinating. To think that a “cure” or aide can be found in the leaves or roots of plants! I can’t but awe at the power and completeness of nature…

Culture and Illness by Emiko Ohunuki-Tierney carefully explained the differences between Kanpo(漢方薬), Japanese Traditional Medicine (derived from Chinese medicine) and biomedicine. One of the main differences between the two is the that while biomedicine specifically focuses on the pathogen, Kanpo places a great importance to the Etiology, or the circumstances that lead to the susceptibility of the patient to contract an illness/disease, such as humoral imbalances and this includes climatic conditions in general (weather patterns, environment factors and surroundings). And this is where we can establish a direct link between Kanpo Medicine and the Environment. For example, Kaze (風)or wind (really any sort of breeze) is said to be the one of the main components of most illness, how then does the issues with Air pollution affect people’s susceptibility to illness?

We were able to establish several binaries:

illness vs. disease; treating imbalance vs. treating pathogen; chronic illness vs. acute illness; correlative thinking vs. magic-bullet thinking; body as homeostatic system vs. body as discrete parts; treatment vs. diagnosis: ==== healing vs. curing. 

Today’s discussion of Kanpo(漢方薬)cultivated my understanding of Japanese culture, especially the significance of the genkan (玄関)and the Japanese notions of purity and impurity and their relation to Japan’s creation myth, the Kojiki.

Some of the questions I’d like to ask the Kanpo sensei we are meeting SOON next week are: What are some of the questions that you ask your patients in the diagnostic process? With what kind of illness are people approaching Kanpo? Environmental?  Is there Kanpo formulas that treat environmental diseases such as Kawasaki Disease, Minamata Disease, Yokkaichi Asthma etc? Is there a reaction of health care systems, particularly Kanpo Medicine, to the environmental health problems in Japan. If there is―what sorts if initiatives have been set into motion? Is Kanpo widely used among all demographics in Japan (young/old, rural/urban citizens, etc)? Is there Kampo campaigns that promote the well-being of the environment? 

With Julian’s presentation and a brief history of Aquariums, I am anxious to see how Tokyo Sea Life Park is attempting to blur the line between the natural world, the ocean, and humans, and actually promote the marine life conservation and education of patrons.

A Sense of Nature…?Nah.

The prevalent Japanese stereotype is that of an individual who reveres nature and generally has a greater appreciation of nature. Discussions from D.P. Martinez’s article “Is there a Japanese sense of Nature” led to the conclusion of there is not an innate-but rather an appreciation of nature perfected by human touch (Japanese artwork in which nature is manipulated to represent spirits or other aspects of nature).

Man-made vs Natural disaster:

Oguma Eiji poses an interesting and thought-provoking history of Tohoku and its relationship with Tokyo. Throughout the article there seems to be a theme of disregard of people in Tohoku by the policy-makers and maybe even the population as a whole of Tokyo.  The disaster at Fukushima and the whole of Tohoku was set up by the path in which it was placed my policymakers and directors in Tokyo since Japan’s rapid modernization in the late 20th century. This is not to say that a tsunami would not have happened, but rather the conditions in which Tohoku found itself at the time of the tsunami was that of a rather poor depopulated region. As modernization/industrialization was prioritized the continuous disregard of Tohoku as the periphery and the careless decisions concerning the population continued. Why was Tohoku the designated rice production? Knowing the devastating consequences of removing factories from this villages would  have, why did they do it? Many have asked the question of: Why were the Nuclear plants established in a earthquake proned area? Maybe because of the “open space” and its proximity to Tokyo and the fact that its not Tokyo but Tokyo’s “backyard?”

“Nuclear power and democracy are not compatible” How and why?

Oguma Eiji puts the disaster of March 11 under the light of justice and as an activist he demands answers and envisions a better future. Although mentioned in his article, I’d like to know more about what he thinks the odds are for the reconstruction and restoration of the Tohoku region.

Nan’s brief history and statistics on acid rain an Yokkaichi were examples of how serious pollution problems were during Japan’s rapid industrialization and modernization in the late 20th century. She mentions the power balances between the organizations who have economic power vs. health/wellness/environmental agencies, the economic view point is prioritized.

Particularly interesting from the Ethan’s presentation on the concept of Built Environments was Tokyo’s constant demolition and reconstruction as a new space with retention of the old. Ethan mentioned specific Tokyo neighborhoods that illustrate the idea of Built Spaces, particularly Shinjuku, which were our Airbnb is located. I can’t wait to actually see and experience Tokyo as an international city in which one can feel as if abroad (not in Japan).