Off to Japan!

It’s almost time for me to say “sayonara” as I prepare to visit Japan on Wednesday. I have been invited by Novo Nordisk to present a keynote speech to a group of hematologists and nurses at their annual hematological meeting. This is a different audience for me, as I usually speak to patients groups and families. I am looking forward to it!

This will be a culture shock of a different kind. While I feel quite at home in Pakistan, India and Latin America, I have never really been to the far east. I visited Bangkok for one week during the World Federation of Hemophilia, but never got to really mingle with the people or see much of the country. On this trip, I will spend time with the doctors and nurses in Hiroshima, and then journey to Tokyo on the famous “bullet train” to meet with families with hemophilia.

Here’s a snapshot of hemophilia care in Japan: an estimated 4,000 people with hemophilia; nationalized health care so that everyone gets factor, although factor usage is about 70,000 per person (much lower than the US average of 100,000- 150,000). There are four factor VIII and two inhibitor products on the market. There is no homecare service, so families must go to a pharmacy to get their factor. Homecare would be revolutionary there; imagine!

The biggest difference I think is cultural: hemophilia is seen as something to not speak about in public. Parents are not seen as empowered; they are more dependent on the medical system. The message of “be empowered about hemophilia” is not one given in Japan.

I am sure I will learn more about this as I visit. My trip will take me to some special sights in historical Hiroshima, and I hope to blog about them as I travel. If everyone is as nice as those folks from Novo Nordisk and the patient groups I have been in contact with, then I am bound to fall in love with Japan, too, as I have many other countries!

Please tune in by Friday to read about my trip!

Note about Japanese flag: the “mon,” the central red disc, is called Hi-no-maru or sun-disc. The disc is set slightly towards the hoist. White symbolizes honesty and purity. Effective date: 5 August 1854.

1 thought on “Off to Japan!”

  1. Laura,
    what a wonderful experience to travel to Japan. I consider it my second home as I have lived there on two different occasions, I have visited and Japan studies was my major in college. The people are wonderful and gracious and I still have so many fiends from when I lived there the first time over 25 years ago as a 16 year old exchange student.

    Yes the Japanese people are very private. Even to their closest friends and family, they would never speak of an ailment, disease or, God forbid, cancer. Their doctors are highly respected. Many even have their own ‘hospitals.’ It would be rude or unappreciative to question them.
    It will be a different experience from America where we question, question, question and speak our mind.

    My advice to you on this trip is to enjoy every new experience, try new and native foods, don’t be too surprised if you are treated like royality, visit Hiroshima Peace Park (it’s a life changing experience), carry business cards with you everywhere and don’t get too freaked out by all the picture taking.

    Take care (Kyotsukete),
    Marsha M. Moffit McGuire


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