A day in Osaka

There are two things I really love doing – travelling and being an occupational therapist. During my recent dream holiday to Japan for the 2016 Cherry Blossom season I decided to try to combine these two great loves!

I was fortunate enough to attend the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) Congress in Yokohama, Japan. At this conference I met many wonderful therapists and learnt about interesting new areas of practice. In particular I attended a fascinating talk by Professor Yoshimi Yuri from Osaka about a life goal setting tool for well-elderly to enhance engagement in meaningful occupations in retirement she had been developing. After the talk I nervously approached her and asked a few questions and we chatted about her work and talked again at the congress social function. We also met again two years later at the Asia Pacific Occupational therapy congress in Rotorua, New Zealand where she was presenting a poster and I was doing oral presentations and reconnected.
I have remained in contact with Yoshimi via Facebook and when I told her of my plans to visit Osaka on vacation in 2016 I asked if I we could meet and have dinner.  Yoshimi kindly invited me not only to meet for a dinner but to stay in her home with her family, to come and speak at her university to the undergraduate OT class and visit a central city hospital to talk about OT in New Zealand and go on a tour of their facilities. I happily accepted her wonderful invitation!

Rather nervously I prepared a talk about OT in New Zealand, how we train as therapists, shared stories that would show the complexity of work in an acute setting. I anticipated that not all the students or therapists would know where NZ was. I admit there was some bragging on my part about the beauty of New Zealand and the lifestyle that I am able to enjoy when I work close to beautiful west coast beaches and finish work at 4pm each day…

Yoshimi’s work is primarily in goal setting for community dwelling well-elderly (see her article here). I had a wonderful time staying with her and her family and we had many laughs making Takayoki (a traditional dish of Osaka) especially when I tried my hand at the rolling and turning of the lovely balls of yumminess!

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Yoshimi and I outside the University (with lovely Sakura in background!)

Kansai University of Welfare Sciences:
I was fortunate to meet the head of the university and several faculty members as well as a cheerful and respectful group of 43 3rd year OT students. I spoke with Yoshimi interpreting and spoke for about an hour with questions. I like talking to students and find them fun to talk with, and I know they enjoy hearing stories about life as an OT in any setting.  I was presented with a beautiful necklace as a gift for visiting and talking.

Higashi O Osaka Hospital:
I toured the Acute and Rehabilitation wards of this Central Osaka hospital talking to staff via Yoshimi and Yasu (an experienced OT working on the rehab wards). I was able to speak to patients via my informal interpreters as my Japanese language skills are not very advanced – I was gifted a real cherry blossom flower a patient had collected for me on a walk with her OT 🙂 . I was also able to discuss with their OT’s and PT’s the similarities and differences between our respective countries cultures, work cultures and practice styles. We discussed top up vs bottom down approaches, treatment approaches and life in general.

The OT team very kindly gifted me two exquisite origami flowers and the pattern so I could make them back in New Zealand. We talked at length before and after my presentation about the key differences between practice in a New Zealand Acute / Rehabilitation setting and a Japanese one. The key differences seemed to centre around the lifestyle and working hours.
In Japan it is quite common to work long hours, in the hospital I visited the therapists were rostered to work 10 – 11 hour days, 5 days a week (compared to the common 8 hour day / 5 days a week for most OTs in New Zealand). The final therapy session of the day could be completed between 6-7pm at night and a 7 day a week service year round is provided for by the health insurance system. Therapists can work split weeks and therapy is provided 365 days a year.
The occupational based assessments reflected common activities in Japanese culture – modified chop sticks can be used during the cooking or meal time groups, the therapy bathroom looked different to ours and origami and paper crafts were common activities practised in their craft groups.

My day of new experiances did not end after my hospital tour, Yoshimi organised for us to visit Osaka castle for special night viewing of the cherry blossoms illuminated with the majestic castle as an awe-inspiring background – unforgettable!

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