By Emma Sunderland and Elise Morley
In July we had the privilege of representing Manchester Dental School on a student exchange trip in Japan where we were hosted by Nippon Dental University. The university is spread across two campus’, one in Tokyo and one in Niigata. Our time in Japan was inspiring, fascinating and definitely an eye-opener.
Neither of us had visited Japan before and as soon as we got off the plane we were both in awe. The culture in Japan differs greatly from that of the UK. We were astounded at the technological advancements, cleanliness and generosity that we experienced from day one.
During our time at the Tokyo campus we were given a full tour of the facilities, including meeting a Simroid, of which we were both very excited for. The students in Tokyo are able to practice their clinical skills on these very realistic life size robots. The experience the students gain from this prior to treating patients is invaluable.
We were able to observe surgical treatments under general anaesthetics from viewing galleries. We were amazed to discover that the students graduating in Japan are able to perform general anaesthesia straight after graduation from Dental school.
Like at Manchester Dental School, students in Tokyo also have the opportunity to attend outreach clinics as part of their course. These outreach clinics were specialised clinics and one of which we visited was especially for dysphagia and speech therapy.
It was fascinating to observe patients undergoing different specialised investigations such as videofluroscopy, something neither of us had witnessed before the trip.
During our stay in Tokyo it wasn’t all studying however, we also visited Disneyland, were taken out for Karaoke sessions, and even dined at a restaurant where we had to catch our own fish for dinner.
The kindness of all the students and staff was second to none, and this really made our trip one we will never forget. The students took us to their favourite restaurants, karaoke spots and bars. This allowed us to mix with the locals and experience the authentic Tokyo. We also made sure not to miss out on the historical culture of Tokyo, visiting the Imperial Palace as well and many beautiful temples, and famous gardens.
For the second half of our trip we got the bullet train across to Niigata. Niigata was completely different to Tokyo. It was much more rural, located alongside the beach with a lot less tourism. In Niigata we had a go at using some of the basic Japanese language we had picked up during our time Tokyo, as many of the locals did not speak English and it made it more challenging to communicate.
The dental hospital in Niigata, like Tokyo incorporated inpatient care. This is very different to Manchester and was interesting to see how the dental hospital is able to facilitate this and for which cases.
Again, we were able to watch some oral surgery being carried out whilst at the hospital, however the Japanese tutors were shocked to discover that Manchester dental students performed extractions as part of our undergraduate course, as the students in Japan must complete their 6 years of study before they are able to move on to undertaking extractions.
In Niigata we went on a day excursion to the mountains where we took hike to the top, allowing us to absorb the incredible views. On our way back we were taken for a traditional Japanese meal and experienced a natural Japanese Onsen. The food here was incredible and like nothing either of us had eaten before. We really were overwhelmed by the constant generosity of everyone at Nippon Dental University.
One of the highlights of our time away was having the privilege of participating in the Niigata festival, which was a bonus to fall during our trip. We dressed in the traditional Japanese Yukata and were taught how to bon bon dance which we able to perform alongside the students and staff members of Niigata dental hospital. This was a unique experience and we were grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend and participate.
The students in Niigata also threw a BBQ beach party for us and some students from The University of British Columbia Dental School who were also on exchange in Japan whilst we were. We had fresh fish on the BBQ , played games on the beach and went swimming in the sea before enjoying some fireworks as it got dark.
We both absolutely loved our time in Japan and have been left intrigued and excited to visit more of the country if were fortunate enough to go back in the future. Comparing the different aspects our university with the Nippon Dental University was very interesting and has taught us a lot going forward with the rest of our studies and careers.
We were grateful to the staff and students for immersing us in true Japanese culture and introducing us to the incredible foods of Japan.