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High tech heaven in Japan

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 01 April 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:0204122
  1. Philip Alexander, final year medical student1
  1. 1St George's Hospital Medical School, London

Japan is renowned for having an ancient and elegant culture, steeped in tradition and history. It is also a wealthy and busy country with, to the Western eye, some unique quirks. With all of this comes a range of health problems. Philip Alexander finds out how medicine uses electronic gadgetry to care for the population

The land of the rising sun is not a popular destination for elective students despite a rich variety of opportunities for both learning and cultural experience. One reason may be the language barrier: Japanese students learn to read and write English but not to speak it, and very few of us can communicate in Japanese at all. In addition, people seeking electives at the cutting edge of modern medicine seem to look first to the United States or Australia.

Why Japan?

Japan is a wealthy modern country with an ancient history and a culture different from the West, and I wondered whether the ideals central to medicine in the United Kingdom were common to Japan also--for example, the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the application of ethical principles.

Although I expected Japan to have a similar disease profile to other developed countries, I found some variants and diseases that I had not encountered before. Medicopolitically, it was interesting to consider whether Japan, in the middle of an …

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