In the company of tour leader Dame Cathy Warwick, examine the history of midwifery in Japan as well as contemporary developments in both rural and urban areas. Experience the magnificent culture and history of Japan alongside its contemporary culture. See Japan’s most famous traditional art form, woodblock printing, wander through traditional gardens, visit Japan’s great castles, and explore Hiroshima and its still-reverberating history. Throughout the tour enjoy a delicious range of Japanese cuisine.
Midwives have always been revered in Japan. In ancient times, they were simply known as “the grannies who delivered life.” From the middle of the Edo period, about 250 years ago, they were known as granny midwives and were exempt from the edict prohibiting anyone from crossing the procession of a feudal lord and his vassals, a crime punishable by death.
After the Meiji Period when Japan opened to the West, new systems of education, medicine, urban planning, etc., began to be imported from various Western countries, and granny midwives’ practices came under governmental regulation. Official training was introduced for the new ‘modern midwife’, who were considered vital messengers of public hygiene. Thus began the professionalisation of midwifery and its intermingling with nursing.
The first national association of midwives was established in 1927 and included both medical and granny midwives. Midwifery was considered a desirable, respectable, well-paid, female profession and was very popular among women entering the work force.
Midwives are required to have a practice agreement with an obstetrician if they want to open their own independent clinic. Recent changes in the guidelines reduce midwives’ autonomy even further by requiring all decisions regarding women’s eligibility for midwifery care to be made in collaboration with (or in actuality, with the de facto permission of) an obstetrician.
In 1955, 95% of births were attended by midwives at home. The switch from homebirth with midwives to hospital birth with doctors occurred relatively recently and within a matter of only a few years. By the end of 1965, 95% of births occurred in hospitals under the supervision of obstetricians. Despite the historical reverence for midwives and the relatively recent move to obstetric care, midwives have lost autonomy in past decades.
The title of “advanced midwife” was established more recently, in 2015 - these women do not work under physicians, but rather independently and in harmony with the doctors.
Dame Cathy Warwick was Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives for 9 years and now works independently. Cathy is also Honorary Professor of Midwifery and an Honorary Professor of Midwifery at Kings College London. In 2006 she was awarded a CBE for services to Midwifery and Healthcare and in 2017 was made a Dame. Cathy lectures, writes and advises on midwifery issues with a particular interest in the organisation of care and the promotion of choice for women. Cathy has travelled widely both on her own and with her family, visiting midwifery units in America, Sri Lanka and South Africa and has previously led successful midwifery study tours to China, India, South Africa, Nepal and Cuba.
* For those who do not wish to visit Hiroshima, we recommend a visit to Naoshima 'Art Island' on the inland sea near to Okayama.