The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter



I`m still here just so busy with family and work and other things that I haven`t actually done a lot to write about. I will let you know as soon as something blogable happens. Is blogable a real word?

The picture above is my son, Sola, looking dis-interested in the whole photo process after a short photo session for some facial expression stock shots. It`s great having live-in models or is that living with models is great? One of those at any rate is really good I hear.

I love the look on his face here though, he has such a joy of life that capturing his outward expressions of such is a a photo job I could never tire of.

One thing did catch my eye this week about that subject.

Joy in life or sense of well being is something the Japanese call ikigai. Now, in one of those chuckle inducing bits of proud science news you read occasionally in the Japanese papers, I came across this gem from the hallowed academia of Tohoku University`s graduate school of medicine. Apparently, according to seven years of intense research, it has been discovered that those people that have no sense of joy in life are 90 percent more likely to die of “external causes” including suicide. 

Now when I say chuckle I don`t mean to suggest that suicide is a funny thing, far from it, but the shocking news that sad people commit suicide more than happy people is not exactly…well…shocking news is it? Indeed I`d be more interested in studying why it is ten percent of supposedly happy people apparently commit suicide, which even adjusted downwards for genuine accidents that resemble suicides: like falling under a train, off a bridge, or getting tangled in an inconveniently placed noose, must still leave some people who for no known reason what so ever kill themselves.

You have to love the medical profession in Japan don`t you?

No actually you don`t. Because this is typical of the waste of time and money they are all about: breaking the world down into percentages making sweeping generalizations about happiness and health as if they were syptoms of a cold. Please! Happiness is a transitory thing at the best of times (so is a cold actually!); sometimes I`m happy, sometimes I`m sad. Ikagai itself is an abstract notion: the proverbial meaning of, if not exactly life per se, your life at least and cannot be measured scientifically.

Meanwhile a true percentage for you: eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed and effective drugs on the planet are unavailable in Japan due to political and industrial protectionism and patients are suffering at the hands of doctors that think more about their bank balances than bedside manner. Of course I am now making a sweeping generalization (naughty naughty Damon) and I am sure there are good, caring, compassionate doctors in Japan. I know one in fact but, unfortunately, he treats only children. Yet even his hands would have been tied if I could have gone to him last week with a slightly swollen elbow from a mosquito bite or some other scratch and didn`t want to have antibiotics administered by Intravenous Drip twice a day for a week. Really that`s how they do it here. Quaint yes?

Unless that is you don`t fancy needles being but into your arm for half an hour each time then it does kind of lose its charm. So when I questioned the doctor at the hospital I`d visited as to why I couldn`t just get some anti-biotics in pill form for this small, trifling infection he went into some wounded-rhino rant about how long he`d studied to be a doctor and who was I to question his judgement and how much he didn`t care about the methods in the west; that this was Japan and I lived here now so had to follow Japanese ways and how he couldn`t give me pills because Japanese stomachs are more sensitive than western ones and can`t handle the them so that`s why they don`t have them; and how, in the end, after waiting and waiting and then talking and talking with nurses and receptionists and other missionaries of pre-historic medicine and future gore and doom (if I didn`t have the treatment apparently I was likely to get worse and I could even die) and then more waiting and waiting we went back to see him and when I said I still prefered the pills he declared my wife was not a good Japanese woman because she hadn`t been able to change my mind. That one did it for me, my wife was in tears and my elbow still hurt and this tosser was trying to lord is intellectual superiority over me and bully me into an agreement by insulting myself and my wife. I mean I`d already kept my mouth tight shut at the two completely un-needed X-rays I`d just had on my elbow. I mean what`s an unnecessary dose of radiation if it helps to grease the wheels of cross-cultural relationships?. Shit man, he`s a doctor, of course I respect that but…I also know that having needles stuck in my arms twice a day for week is dangerous. And it doesn`t work either, I know because I`ve undergone the treatment once before after a simliar bullying in another hospital and it took two months to get better. Everyday of those two months I was thinking that if I were in England I`d have had some anti-biotics by now that would have easily and painlessly cured me.

So I got angry, also a transitory thing, and growled at him to give me the pills, which he gave to me grudgingly and on the understanding that if I got sicker, as he predicted, he didn`t care and wouldn`t treat me. Not that I have any intention of ever going back to that hospital. If it was England I`d have thrown my “hospital registration card” (I guess that`s the word for it)  across the table at him and told him to go fuck himself and his hospital loudly. But this being Japan I didn`t, I took my pills; paid for the consulation and unwanted X-rays and left without saying goodbye. I threw my card in the bin at home.

Oh and I wrote this, when I had time, to get it all off my chest. Now I feel better which is what this post was all about really.

My elbow still hurts by the way!

Sho-go nii

Talk soon.



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