This week has been eventful with a Royal wedding in England, yet another fatal school shooting in the USA, much media attention to the forthcoming abortion referendum in Ireland and news of the stepping down of the Chief Executive of the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Meanwhile, all is calm in Yamashina.
Yamashina is a ward of Kyoto city where I am staying for the next 3 weeks. I walked to the Bushamon-do temple and was struck by the serenity of the site. The silence broken only by birdsong, the trickling of water, the gentle scraping of the earth by a monk as he weeded with his bare hands and the rustling of bamboo tree leaves.
[Bishamon-do Temple in Yamashina]
But, as you might guess, all is not ‘slow’ in Japan.
A Japanese train made the news this week as it departed 25 seconds earlier than scheduled. And this was not the first time. In this most recent episode of premature departure, the train operator said that the ‘great inconvenience we placed upon our customers was truly inexcusable’. Passengers who were left behind complained and an official apology followed (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44149791).
‘Punctuality’ was cited as one of the good things about Japan identified by the first year student nurses I met here.
As you know, perspectives on the importance of punctuality vary across cultures. Please do share your experience and perspectives…
How important is punctuality to you? Might it be a deal-breaker in your professional life? What about in your personal life? Do you mind if someone is late for an event? Or if the start time of a journey is delayed? Is punctuality an essential component of professionalism? Are you more or less bothered if friends or family are late for an event as compared with a business associate or colleague?
At the welcome party in the School of Nursing at Kyoto Tachibana University, I asked students if they had heard of the royal wedding. Confusion ensued as they thought I was informing them of the marriage of Harry Potter. Thankfully we cleared this up with the help of an interpreter before news reached JK Rowling.
During my sabbatical, I have been struck by differences in hospitality norms across cultures. In addition to faculty organising a tea ceremony and cakes to welcome me here, the nursing students made a special poster of collage and paper art [see below].
To manage my own uncertainty about hospitality when we receive overseas guests, I now have much positive experience to draw on. I would recommend an excellent book to you on the theme of ‘Hospitality and Islam’ by our Visiting Professor of Islamic Ethics, Mona Siddiqui.
When I asked the student nurses what else was good about Japan they listed: good food, green tea, culture and the practice of taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home.
[One view from Kyoto Tower & willing models in a kimono hire shop]
The students also identified the qualities of a good Japanese nurse as: smiling, observation, good communication and listening to patients’ worries. I was reminded of a research project led by researchers in Japan and China over a decade ago. Researchers, Seiko Izumi, Emiko Konishi and others asked patients to describe a ‘good nurse’ (see https://healthpodcasts.blogspot.com/2011/06/japanese-patients-descriptions-of-good.html ).
A Significant Decision
This coming Friday (25th May 2018) Irish citizens will vote on abortion. The debate has been polarised and divisive and ethicists have had an important role to play in clarifying the arguments. Our Visiting Reader in Feminist Ethics, Joan McCarthy, has had a high profile in the media due to her participation in the Citizens’ Assembly (featured in an earlier blog), in publications (see article just published in the Journal of Medical Ethics) and by contributing to the balanced RTE documentary ‘An Irish Solution’ (see https://www.rte.ie/player/jp/show/would-you-believe-785/10880187/).
Joan emphasised the centrality of autonomy and justice in the debate. We hope that she will be able to join us at our Observatory meeting in June to share her reflections on the referendum (see also https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/abortion-referendum/abortion-facts). As Norway is one of the countries featured in the documentary, we hope also to have the perspective of Visiting Professor, Dagfinn Naden.
Returning to the theme of ethics and elder care, you may be interested to read a recent Nuffield Council on Bioethics blog, I co-authored with Professor Yonghui Ma, in response to the Council’s briefing paper on ‘the search for a treatment for ageing’ (see http://nuffieldbioethics.org/blog/treatment-care-elders-view-china).
To end on a local note, I want to draw your attention to this week’s winner of the Palme d’Or film festival: Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda for his film ‘Shoplifters’. Definitely one to see.
Until next week.