Report: Ageing in Japan – Domestic healthcare technologies


Japan is a frontrunner in technology. This simple suggestion is prevalent in Western media coverage of the country’s innovation industry. In elderly care robots are taking care of menial chores, caring both for a patient and simultaneously releasing the burden on care workers. As a technologically advanced nation, Japan is an ideal other states should be striving towards. There is but one simple question that still needs to be answered before the technological rat race between nations can start: is it true that Japanese elderly care is so technologically advanced?

To answer this question LeidenAsiaCentre initiated the ‘Aging in Japan’ research project under the capable guidance of Prof. Katarzyna Cwiertka. Investigating how technology is framed in Japan both from a domestic and international perspective, the results of this project have shown that there are still significant hurdles between widespread implementation and innovative technology in Japan. Despite the increasing need for more care workers, the promise of technology does not match up with real conditions in the care industry.

Supplemented by a variety of case studies conducted by the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo (DIJ), this research investigates how technology is both deployed and experienced in Japan. It is clear that there is a significant gap between rhetoric and effect.

On 24 April 2018 the preliminary conclusions of this project were presented to the public at a closing conference in Leiden, the Netherlands. Enjoying the views of experts in the field, the conference included a presentation about robotics, care technology, and Japan, by leading scholar Prof. Jennifer Robertson of the University of Michigan. In addition, Dr. Michel Bleijlevens of Maatricht University presented his views on innovation in technology in Dutch care, juxtaposing his conclusions with the project’s main findings, which were presented by LeidenAsiaCentre’s postgraduate researcher Anoma van der Veere. Closed off with a lively discussion that included care workers, members of industry, government, and academia, the conference was well received and contributed to LeidenAsiaCentre’s growing contribution to international knowledge valorization.

The complete study can now be found in two parts on the website. The first part is the study conducted at LeidenAsiaCentre, and the second part contains the case studies conducted by the DIJ under the supervision of Dr. Susanne Brucksch, financed by the LeidenAsiaCentre. The studies are open source and freely available, offering an insight into technology and elderly care in Japan. And more importantly, the study offers an insight into what we can expect the role of technology will be in the ever-growing issue of elderly care in general.

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Published On: September, 2018