Yumiko Sato Music Therapy

Journey Into Wholeness

Music Therapy in Japan


Since I returned to Japan about a year and a half ago, I’ve been writing and speaking about music therapy – what it is, what it is not, and how it’s used in hospice & palliative care, the area of my specialty.

I’ve learned that music therapy is not well recognized in Japan (although I had known this, it was still shocking), and that it is often misunderstood.  Yet there is great need for the service with the increasing aging population and those who are still recovering from the massive disaster that struck the country in 2011.

Over the past year I’ve received many interesting questions from people here, especially from the health care professionals:

“We’ve been inviting musicians to our hospital for a concert.  That is not music therapy?!”

“In our facility we play recorded music all day, and the residents can not turn it down. Do you think that is good?”

“We have a music therapist who visits our facility every weekend, and she does it for free.  In fact she does music therapy as a volunteer at several local facilities.  Isn’t that what you do, too?”

Actually, these questions sound familiar to me, because I was asked the same sort of questions even in the U.S where music therapy is better recognized than it is in Japan.  This reminds me of what my former music therapy professor once said:

“~maybe one of the hardest things for any music therapist is helping people understand what music therapy is.” (From “An Interview with Jim Borling”)

Next month I’m offering a seminar at various locations in Tokyo, speaking to the general public and the health care professionals about the overview of music therapy as well as the use of music in end-of-life care.  My hope is to get people interested in music therapy and expand their ideas about its possibility.

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4 comments on “Music Therapy in Japan

  1. Kristen
    October 28, 2014

    I recently authored a chapter on MT in pediatric EOL care for a Japanese medical music therapy text (Toshin Go, editor). The book covered a wide range of MT populations. I’d love to hear if the translation is any good! Hopefully this book will be helpful in expanding the work in Japan.

  2. Yumi
    October 28, 2014

    Hi Kristen, Thank you for your comment. That’s great to hear about the book. Do you happen to know the title in Japanese?

  3. Tania Balil
    June 8, 2017

    Hi, there
    I’m a music therapist from Brisbane, Australia. I’ll be coming to the world congress of Music therapy happening in July, and am planning to run a workshop for which we need musical instruments (mostly percussion, drums, bells, shakers…). We have tried to get those through the irganisubg committee but they are not able to supply them. I’m writing to see if you were intending to be there and if so, if there may be a way of borrowing some instruments from you or other fellow music therapists in Japan as bringing the instruments and art materials we need for the workshop is a bit of a problem coming from Brisbane.
    If you are not able, would you be willing to put us in contact with someone that may be able to help us?
    Looking forward to hearing from you and best of luck with making music therapy better understood and supported in Japan.
    All the best. Tania

    • Yumi
      June 9, 2017

      Hi Tania, I won’t be attending the Congress. Let me see if I can find someone who can help you. If I do, I’ll email you.

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2014 by in End-of-Life Music Therapy, Music Therapy and tagged .
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