A Report on a Naikan Conference in Japan

This blog post will be of special interest to those who are Naikan Practitioners. With thanks to Clark Chilson.

 From July 7 to 9, 2017, I attended a joint conference of the Japan Naikan Association (JNA) and the Japan Naikan Medical Association (JNMA) held in Okayama Prefecture, Japan. It was the 40th general conference for the JNA and the 20th for the JNMA. The theme of the conference was “Finding New Ways to Develop and Spread Naikan.” There were about 150 people present, most of whom were medical professionals, psychotherapists, scholars of Naikan, or directors of Naikan Training Centers.

 

The conference started on a Friday night with a panel on establishing a certificate in Naikan for healthcare professionals. The panelists consisted of two psychiatrists, a psychologist, and a Naikan scholar. The panel presentations were followed by a general discussion on the importance of creating a certificate, the problem in Naikan of “transference” (in the psychoanalytical sense of the term), and what training should be required to certify healthcare professionals in Naikan.

The creation of a certificate program is an important development because the founder of Naikan, Yoshimoto Ishin, was skeptical about professionalizing the practice. Accordingly, many Japanese Naikan advocates were reluctant to create certificate programs. But I suspect that support for the creation of certificate programs has increased because certain professional medical boards have recently expressed concern over the use of Naikan by people who are not properly trained in it and because there are now numerous people using something they call Naikan that is different from the traditional Naikan of Yoshimoto.

During the next two days of the conference there were over 25 academic presentations on Naikan. These included studies on the use of Naikan in hospitals as part of programs to treat alcohol use disorders and eating disorders. There were also presentations on Naikan for corporate training, Naikan at hospitals in China, Naikan as it relates to human relations, and Naikan in the context of Buddhist thought and practice.

After I gave a presentation at the conference on how Naikan relates to Buddhist meditation, I met psychologists who were using Naikan in combination with mindfulness. Among these were Dr. Chieko Fujisaki (a psychologist with a medical degree) and Professor Miho Takahashi (University of Tokyo) who has published a study comparing Naikan and mindfulness.

I was also able to speak with a nurse named Daisuke Taniguchi who works at a mental hospital in Kyushu. When I met Mr. Taniguchi in the summer of 2016 we spoke about mindfulness as a possible way of preparing patients to do daily Naikan. In October 2016 he began a study in which he led patients in about 10 minutes of mindful breathing before having them do Naikan.   While some patients reported that inclusion of mindfulness led to an increase in distracting thoughts and to irritability, a much greater percentage gave a positive response. Some reported that it helped them get into Naikan quicker, that they had fewer distracting thoughts, that they felt more relaxed, and that their memories were more vivid when doing the mindfulness breathing before starting 30 minutes of Naikan.

An overall impression I got from the conference is that younger Naikan practitioners were finding new ways to offer Naikan. Notable among this new generation of practitioners are Toshiyuki Hashimoto and Shin’ya Nukui, who together recently revived “The Association for Self-Discovery” (Jiko Hakken no Kai), which promotes Naikan, primarily as a self-cultivation practice. They have a website that publishes information about Naikan activities in Japan and articles by Naikan practitioners on their understandings of and experiences with Naikan.

The first generation of Naikan advocates in attendance at the conference included Dr. Takahiro Takemoto and Professor Yoshihiko Miki, who together co-founded the Japan Naikan Association in 1978. Also present were longtime scholars of Naikan such as Nobuo Tatsumi and Kayoko Murase. Among them I noticed no dissatisfaction with finding new ways to offer Naikan.  I thus suspect that over the next ten years Naikan practitioners will formulate diverse and creative ways for engaging people in Naikan.    Clark Chilson