Hazuki Saishō, an author who with broad experience writing on science and technology, focuses in this work on the human psyche. Her objective is to examine developments in psychiatric medicine and clinical psychology in Japan following World War II by reporting on some of the people who were directly involved in that history. To that end, she examines two authorities in particular and the groundbreaking therapies they promoted in Japan.
One is Hayao Kawai (1928?2007), known for his contribution to sandplay therapy. Kawai was the first Japanese person to study at the Jung Institut Zuerich and gain certification as a Jungian analyst. He contributed greatly to the advancement of analytical psychology in Japan, and later served as director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. The other is the psychiatrist Hisao Nakai (1934?), who originated the “landscape montage technique” of art therapy. Nakai is known for the active role he played in the emotional and psychological care of the victims of the Great Hanshin (Kōbe) Earthquake in 1995.
It bears special mention that Saishō’s approach is not merely that of a reporter looking in on the field from outside; she also offers herself up as a test subject for purposes of participant observation. While enrolled in a highly rigorous master’s degree program in clinical psychology, she elects to undergo therapy with Nakai as his client, and turns the tables as well, taking the therapist’s role with Nakai as her client. The book includes a record of these sessions.
As therapists, both Kawai and Nakai used silent observation as a key element of their practice. Until a client begins speaking, creating a sandtray, or drawing, the therapist simply waits. And once the client has begun to speak or act, the therapist continues to listen and observe quietly. Through both her reporting and her first-hand experience as a participant in such therapy, Saishō reflects on her experience and finds much to affirm in this approach.
A psychologist trained by Kawai had advised Saishō, “If you really want to know more about this field, you’ll need to learn more about yourself.” Indeed, as the author is less interested in what makes people sick than in what enables them to recover, her proactive response to this assertion leaves the reader with a real sense of catharsis upon finishing the book.