‘Family care of mentally ill patients in Iwakura, Kyoto, Japan’

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Prof Osamu Nakamura

Philosophy, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan

‘Family care of mentally ill patients in Iwakura, Kyoto, Japan’

(Introduced by: Dr Yolanda Eraso, Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University)

[18min; 34 slides]


Paper presented to the International Research Symposium:

"Therapy and Empowerment – Coercion and Punishment:

Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Labour and Occupational Therapy"

26–27 June 2013,  St Anne’s College, Oxford


Abstract: Iwakura is located 7 km northeast of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, and had been famous for receiving mentally ill patients in inns and farmhouses without any attendant family member since the end of 18th century.

As Japanese Government wished to revise unequal treaties that were concluded with western countries in 1854, it tried to show that Japan had caught up with western standard in every respect.  Under such circumstances, Kyoto Mental Hospital, the first public Mental Hospital in Japan, was founded to show that mentally ill patients were medically treated in due places such as Nanzenji-Temple, and inns and farmhouses in Iwakura were prohibited to receive them in 1875.  Kyoto Mental Hospital, however, was closed in 1882 due to heavy deficit and they returned to Iwakura again.  They spent their lives, helping the owners of the inns and farmers with carrying water, washing, wood-chopping, farming etc.  It is quite questionable whether they were recompensed properly for their labour, but they had a chance to feel they were needed in some degree.

Japanese Government still wanted to catch up with western countries and increased the number of beds for mentally ill patients.  It prohibited the inns and farmhouses to receive them in 1950 and sent them to hospitals.  Thus, their connection with society was reduced.  Besides, as mechanization of farming and household duties proceeded, it has become more and more difficult to find suitable jobs for mentally ill patients, and has become difficult for them to feel they are needed.

This paper is an attempt to make clear the relation of inoccupation and isolation of the mentally ill patients with the policy of Japanese Government and with the mechanization of farming and household duties.



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