Research Experience in Japan

Dr. Iza Kavedzija recalls spending 14 months in Japan for her doctoral research and how this experience gained her close relationship with a group of older people from Japan.

Nick: So you spent quite a few years in total in Japan, doing research and interviewing the elderly. So how much time in total would you say you spent in Japan specifically doing that?

Iza: For the research that you mentioned, that was my doctoral research, I've spent 14 months with the same group of people. So I was lucky enough to find a community cafe in the south of Osaka.

So first, I thought maybe I would find some older Japanese who live in their own homes, whether with their families, or independently. I was very interested in working with older people, but not those who are necessarily in an institutionalised context.

I wanted to do work with people in their own homes and then I realised that of course, entering homes isn't a simple matter. So I found this fantastic local NGO, and they were kind enough to allow me to volunteer there. 

So that meant that I've spent over a year coming to the same place; almost daily, almost weekly, and established a very close contact over the year with a group of older people who frequented it, some came there more regularly, and some came only once a week.

Of course, I also went to several other places while I was there, and I went to another such NGO in a different part of the city. But this was my core field side. This was my home when I was in Osaka for the first time in 2009.

And ever since whenever I come back to Japan, I always go there. So I think there's been kind of an ongoing relationship for quite a few years now.

Nick: I didn't realise it was such a long time with the same people, so I imagine they became dear friends and you became a dear friend to them.

Iza: I think there was a sense of closeness, they got quite used to me. There were some nice situations of this, I was rather young at the time. 

But sometimes they would forget, and they wouldn't pay attention to that so if they were sharing some heat packs for lower back pain or something like that they might offer me some and then another person would say "It's okay, she doesn't need it". So it was rather nice. It was a very kind of close relationship.