I have finished reading A Song for Nagasaki and recommend the book very highly. There’s lots to write about in the story of Dr Takashi Nagai but here is one idea I thought would be very good for the NHS and other hospitals.
There is a Japanese custom in which a person called a Tsujisoi goes to the hospital with the patient and sits with them, feeding them, keeping them comfortable and bringing water or whatever they need. The Tsujisoi was usually a family member, but if this wasn’t possible a neighbour or elder would take on the role. So when the young Dr. Nagai became very ill and needed hospital treatment an elderly lady came to sit with him as his own family lived a very long way away. When the doctor’s future wife Midori became seriously ill, her mother went with her to the hospital to be her Tsujisoi.
Japanese culture back then was very family oriented. It interested me to see that as Dr Nagai moved from Shinto with it’s elements of Buddhism and Confucian philosophy, through to material scientism and atheism, and finally to Catholicism, the one part of his life that remained solid was the traditional love and respect of family.
If we were to introduce something like this into the British health service we would have to actually train people to treat the sick with kindness and patience. We would have to teach people how to feed a sick person, see to their comfort and ensure they are properly hydrated. Perhaps we could teach these Tsujisoi the Tea Ceremony as well. Then they would learn the importance of a good cuppa, which both the Chinese and Japanese understood to have medicinal uses (Green tea especially). A cup of tea has a relaxing and companionable aspect which must be helpful to the healing process surely.
There is something in the way Fr. Glynn writes that shows his love for the culture of the people he spent more than twenty years living among. His description of their treatment of one another exemplifies a deep understanding of the inherent dignity of the person. This coupled with a deep respect and even worship of ancestors, in Shinto, made their love and care of family deep rooted.
How astonishingly tragic that the militaristic take over of Japan led some of her people to behave in direct contradiction of the deep respect that was rooted in their culture. We too, once had a culture, born out of our Christianity, that had a deep rooted understanding of the importance of family and the inherent dignity of the human person. All that is swept away now as we plunge headlong into a world where strong adults make up rights for themselves and trample the inherent rights of the little ones.
An army of tea making Tsujisoi with their kind words and quick ability to see the needs of their patient, could actually save us all a lot of money as well cared for, properly hydrated and fed people recover much more quickly than those left in distress to starve and dehydrate. We just have to bring back a bit of simple human kindness.