Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kyoto to Hiroshima

Plus a FULL day and a half with Junko Asahina, local "independent midwife."  Junko and her husband, Lee, and their midwife friend, Okazaki, quoted Marsden Wagner, Michel Odent, and have personally shared time with Ina May, our own beloved midwife.  The amount of information Junko shared cannot be summarized here.  Luckily she is working on a book.

The short story is this:  Junko Asahina, 69 years old, does home and "her home" births.  She has about 2 clients a month.  She is able to stay in practice because her husband, Lee, (a brilliant and kindly man) is a physician, who has a "one bed hospital," which "accepts her" as a midwife.  The most shocking thing I heard from Junko is that a year or 2 ago, Japan made a law stipulating that Japanese midwives must have a contract with an accepting hospital.  And many hospitals don't want to work with these "independent" midwives.  So, while 57 years ago there were 55,000 indpendent midwives and hospital
midwives now there are about 26,000 (hospital midwives) and 300 independent midwives in Japan.
(Junko was particularly saddened and repeated this to me several times. "ONLY 300!!! In a country of many million!  I've watched my friends disappear from midwifery, and there's no one to replace them.")  Part of this decrease can also be attributed, she told me, to the aging population of these independent midwives.  The young, hospital-trained nurse midwives (the only legal midwifery route in Japan is nurse-midwifery), in addition to being discouraged by the difficulty in obtaining a hospital contract, are fearful of independent practice and so very rarely venture into it.

We shared many amazing meals thanks to Junko and Lee, toured a forested mountain and its hot spring, and had so much fun talking with the Crunchy Mamas Junko works with and nurtures.  She encourages her mothers to get together once a week, in her home, for support.  The women knew each other well, and told me, with a wink, "she thinks it's once a week, but we get together here twice a week!"  Junko also encourages the women to walk up a 764 step mountain-temple route every day in pregnancy.  And when they reach the top?  "Squat.  100 times." Junko had me do this too.  She counted.  :)
Midwife Junko Asahina, Lee, Kayti, Lukas, Okazaki Midwife
Doula Talk w Crunchy Mama and Midwife

Dinner at Junko's "Neighborhood Pub"
Kyoto Boar

Kyoto Train Station Ad

Kyoto Food Market

The Golden Temple

Yu No Yama Onsen (hot springs)

Okazaki bought us ice creams.  :)


Junko's Birth Instruments (all of them)

Junko's Poster

kids said "HALLO!" to Kayti in Hiroshima

Kimono Fashion Show in Kyoto

Mama on the train

Junko and local hospital midwife

Talking birth with crunchy mamas

It was like being with "my people."

Noodles- finally!!!

Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake)
Post Partum Room at Junko's House
Same Post Partum Room at Junko's

(Lukas just came back from the hotel Laundry Room, exclaiming, "They have beer up there!"  We're having such a good time discovering the little joys of Japan.)


  1. am enjoying the beginning of your journey and anticipating my own coming up quickly. i suppose i will have to jump through all kinds of hoops with the military to "allow" me to have a home birth with a japanese independent midwife. luckily i'm full of all kinds of sass and am willing to put up a fight to make it work. maybe you can connect me and junko - i will be in iwakuni which isn't too far from that where you are with her?

  2. oh - this is sarah nannen, i always forget it doesn't publish my name, just my blog title. :)

  3. So cool! I'm loving the food pictures :)

    when do you get started working with patients?

  4. This is sooooo awesome!! You can't imagine how jealous I am! The experience, the food, everything!!

  5. Wow, been so busy I hadn't realised you've been blogging so much, this is wonderful! Looks like you're really having a great time! xx