The Body and Health Care in Japan
The course: The Body and Health Care in Japan.
3 credits. Offered by the
of the History of Science and Technology in the Krieger
School of Arts and Sciences.
The instructor: Morris Low, Bo Jung and Soon Young Kim Professor of East Asian Sciences and Technology in the Department of the History of Science and Technology. He is an historian of Japanese science and technology, with a special interest in the history of physics, science and gender, and Japanese visual culture. Before coming to Johns Hopkins, Low taught at various Australian universities, including Monash University in Melbourne, the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. He is a fourth-generation Chinese- Australian and lived and conducted research in Japan for five years.
He is the author of Science and the Building of a New Japan; Building a Modern Japan: Science, Technology and Medicine in the Meiji Era and Beyond; and the soon-to-be released Japan on Display: Photography and the Emperor.
Meeting time: 2 to 4:50 p.m. on Wednesdays fall 2005.
Syllabus: This course explores how the Japanese have viewed the human body and health care from the 18th century to the present day. It examines the influence of Chinese medicine; the introduction of Western medicine; the increasing role that the state has played in Japanese health care since the late 19th century; Social Darwinism and eugenics; the prevalence of abortions; and the controversies surrounding organ transplants.
The course is not only aimed at helping students learn about views of the body and health care throughout Japanese history. It is also designed to help students improve their critical thinking, research, writing and speaking skills, according to Low, who uses traditional lectures, outside reading assignments and the viewing of in-class movies and news programs to spark lively conversation and debate among his students. During one recent session, for instance, students viewed portions of three films by famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and discussed them afterward.
Course work: An end-of-term research paper (on an approved topic) is worth 65 percent of a student's grade. Class participation is worth 15 percent. The remaining 20 percent of a student's grade is made up of an article or book review and research proposal.
Required reading: Students are encouraged to read from an extensive list of 35 articles or book chapters for this course. Low has placed most of these on electronic reserve. They include "Gender, knowledge, and power: Reproductive medicine in Japan, 1690-1930;" "Behind the mask: on sexual demons, sacred mothers, transvestites, gangsters and other Japanese cultural heroes;" "Pandemic Influenza in Japan: 1918-1919;" "Did Emperor Hirohito know?" "Effects of atomic radiation: a half-century of studies from Hiroshima and Nagasaki;" and "Marketing the menacing fetus in Japan."
Overheard in class: "Doctors in Japan don't give
their patients much information about their conditions or
the drugs they prescribe. This is very different from the
way things are done here. When I came to the States early
this year, I felt they might even be going overboard with
the amount of information you get when you visit a doctor
for the first time and pick up a prescription. In Japan,
doctors not only prescribe drugs, their clinics also
dispense them. This helps the physicians in terms of
income, because in Japan, patients just pay a fixed fee
most times. The sale of prescription medications helps
physicians supplement that income, but it also leads to
Students say: "The Body and Health Care in Japan" is
truly unique ... I signed up for Prof. Low's class because
most of the coursework for my major has been done studying
China and Korea. My knowledge of Japanese culture is fairly
limited, and I thought an overview of the health care
system in Japan would be a great way to analyze the growth
of Japan over time. I was also curious to know more about
their health care system, seeing it was so influenced by
the West as well as by traditional Chinese medicine ...
Prof. Low pushes his students to think deeply about many
different concepts pertaining to Japan's health care
system, forcing us to put things in a historical context so
we can better understand its progress. All assignments
allow students to work independently to come up with a
research topic unique to our interests ... I love this
"I love that the class is so personal (only about 20
students in the class.) Although it can be intimidating at
times, it can be particularly helpful in fostering a close
professor-student relationship. Since the class is three
hours long, Prof. Low engages in various educational
methods, including videos, slides, handouts and lectures.
What I especially appreciate about the class is that Prof.
Low seeks to help us mature into better students, better
researchers, beyond the scope of just medical history."
"I signed up for this class because I enjoyed (Prof. Low's)
class on "Japan and the Environment" last semester. I am
also very interested in Japan, and he is one of the very
few professors who teach a course on Japan ... The most
valuable part of the course is that it gives a different
perspective from our usual Western view on the human body
and the health care system. Especially in (a recent class),
when we discussed the damages done by the atomic bomb at
the end of WWII and watched films made in Japan, which
provided a different side of the story. It was moving to
watch a film on the innocent victims of Hiroshima and
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