I went to Japan to undertake my student elective, spending three weeks working at the hospital in the town of Sendai. The staff and patients were very kind and patient as my grasp of Japan was non-existent and I needed a translator.
Before returning to the UK, I travelled around Japan, becoming acquainted with the country. I spent some time with a friend who lives in Tokyo and she showed me round and introduced me to the culture.
Some of the aspects of Japanese life I value most are their manners, their belief in cleanliness and their religious observance. Buddhism and Shintoism exist side by side. I believe that Shintoism was the religion which most Japanese followed until Buddhism was introduced in the sixth century.
Rather than go through the kind of bloody wars that dominated British and European history, the two religions began to co-exist. Nowadays you will find that Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are spread around the country. I believe that wedding ceremonies are in the Shinto religion but funerals are conducted in a Buddhist temple.
The Japanese are known for being a nation of digital innovators. But by the same token they value their traditions. Young Japanese people believe enjoy dressing up in traditional costumes to visit a temple or shrine and kimono hire is booming business there.
Cleanliness is also important to the Japanese. I really appreciated the emphasis they place on handing round small towels before a meal. And I very much enjoyed their Onsen. These are large pools, usually filled with spring water and the Japanese will soak in them, often before going to bed. Unlike having a hot bath here, the Japanese cleanse under a shower before they soak in the Onsen.
I started to think about Japan because a friend and colleague is coming to the UK in September. Professor Toru Inami is a speaker at the British Orthodontic Conference. He is on the programme in the lingual session and I am looking forward to seeing him, not least because time spent in his company brings back that wonderful era in the 1990s when I spent nearly six weeks in Japan. I can recommend it.