There is a very well known maternity clinic for natural birth in
Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan. It is “Yoshimura Clinic”, the
private clinic run by obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Tadashi Yoshimura. The
clinic receives a lot of visitors including many from abroad. The renowned
natural birth advocate, Dr. Michel Odent and social anthropologist, Ms. Sheila
Kitzinger are amongst them.
Yoshimura Clinic is unique in many ways compared to hospitals
and other modern institutions where most women have babies in Japan. One main
feature is the traditional Japanese wooden house built within the compounds of
the clinic where woman give birth completely naturally on futons laid out on
tatami-floored rooms, just like in the old days. At Yoshimura’s clinic, the rate
of Caesarean births are about 5 percent and vacuum assisted deliveries are a
mere 0.3 percent. These numbers are amazingly low compared with world standards.
The clinic is relatively small with about twenty-five deliveries a month.
There are eight midwives and one doctor. The obstetric system in Japan is quite
different to that of the western countries in that half of the childbirths take
place not in hospitals but in smaller institutions called “clinics”. There are
two types of clinics; those run by an obstetrician and gynecologist, and those
run by a midwife. It is interesting that most of these clinics are actually set
up at the doctor’s or midwife’s home.
Yoshimura Clinic which is also set up
at his home, consists of several buildings where a total of twenty people work
including midwives, cooks and other staff.
Dr. Yoshimura’s ideal on
childbirth is very clear. He believes that it is not just about the
technicalities of allowing women to give natural birth but that in the basis
lies the Japanese culture and the respect for women’s natural
Another unique feature at Yoshimura’s clinic is the prenatal
exercises. A traditional Japanese house which is three-hundred-and-fifty years
old has been reconstructed on the premises and expectant mothers are encouraged
to split firewood, perform sawing and water drawing just like in the old days.
By performing these traditional practices, the women can acquire both physical
and mental strength, thus preparing themselves for a natural birth.
be said that the secret in natural birth at Yoshimura’s clinic lies in the
preventive medicine during pregnancy. Dr. Yoshimura pays close attention to
outpatients, spending about fifteen to thirty minutes with each patient.
Supplying mental care as a doctor in this way is another factor which increases
the impact of preventive medicine.
Dr. Yoshimura takes a critical stance
towards modern obstetrics. He argues that the definitions of protracted labour
and adaptation of Caesarean sections written in obstetric medical books are set
far too early. He claims that the general medical justification that delivery
should not be more than twelve hours is wrong. The reason why the rate of
Caesarean births is low at his clinic is because in the cases of protracted
labour, breech babies or women who have had a previous Caesarean, he observes
the development carefully and sometimes waits for as long as five
By taking the time and care that would be unthinkable in modern
obstetrics, Yoshimura Clinic has been able to offer obstetric care with the
lowest rate of Caesarean births in the world.
Over forty years have passed like a flash whilst I was emersed
in my job attending, night and day, over 20,000 child births. These years were
not about impersonal things like medical studies, clinical experiences or
hospital management but as I look back there were times that were hard and there
were other times that were like an ascetic training which I enjoyed pretty much.
People say I am a little strange but through what I call my ascetic trainings I
have been completely transformed and that is why my attitude as a doctor and how
I view birth is totally different from mainstream practices. If you look at
things from a scientific point of view, you can only see what is visible. Modern
childbirth deliveries in hospitals only pursue medical safety and most doctors
can end their lives in attending childbirth as a mere business practice,
following only the professional guidelines set by medical societies without the
chance to consider the deep cultural significances that lay behind the physical
phenomenon of childbirth. The women giving birth are also mind-controlled by
modern culture and there are too many women who lose themselves under the
superficial powers of medical services, submit to the supervision of doctors and
give birth according to the manual imposed upon them. As a result, most of them
do not have the chance to actively experience birth as a culture and instead of
feeling the deep joy of birth they become weary and are left feeling empty.
Natural childbirth in which the women use their own abilities, makes them feel
amazingly happy with a deep love towards the newborn baby and with a strange
feeling of wanting to have more babies, they can hold their babies tightly and
be ecstatic with the true happiness of giving birth. Having attended this kind
of childbirth all these years, I myself have felt happy and find it hard to
leave my job even at this age. I am devoted to my work and it has made me live a
truly happy life. Everyday is so fulfilled, I will not feel any regrets if I had
to die today. This book is not a manual on childbirth. It is about the the
philosophy and aesthetics of childbirth and furthermore about women’s way of
life. Having seen many women’s ways of life and having lived through life with
enthusiasm, I cannot help but feel a spiritual and absolute power in women who
live on producing the continuous chain of life. Men can only kneel down before