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“That’s the reason for my being”

Professor of Oral Bacteriology, Tsurumi University School of Dental Medicine
Nobuko Maeda

 

Shoot! I’ve entered a cherry orchard!

It was the only women’s dental school in Japan, for the holding university itself was a women’s university (Tsurumi Women’s University School of Dentistry). The dental school alone started coeducation in 1973, and so the girls’ classes had existed for just 3 years, from 1970 when I was admitted as a first-year student to 1973 when the third-year students entered.

 
 
As I was in a coeducation environment at elementary, junior high and high school, I felt out of place with the single-sex environment. In the beginning, after enrollment, I regretted it, thought that I had made a wrong choice and wavered over when to leave the school. It was probably because I also had a sense of failure. I had failed an entrance exam for medical school. When I began going to a prep school, so that I could challenge again in the following year, my father advised me to go in for an exam at the Tsurumi University, for which an approval for the newly-built dental school had been delayed. After all, not carrying out my original intention of becoming a medical doctor, I entered dental school. However, as they say that custom reconciles us to everything, by the time the first summer holiday came, I was steeped in the women-only environment and was enjoying the easiness because I didn’t have to care about men’s eyes there.
Not fond of clinical training

Now that all the first, second and third-year female students are over 50-years old, I hesitate to call them “three maiden sisters” (generally means in Japan top three girls of good reputation in a group), but they seemed to have characteristics of the three maiden sisters in those student days: We, the first-year students (quasi-oldest daughters), were diligent but a little tactless, looked surefooted but were boobs once in a while; the second-year students (quasi-second daughters) were unusual, did things at their own pace and subordinated the passions to reason; the third-year students (quasi-youngest daughters) had a preppy disposition and knew how to get what they wanted like the baby of a family. It shows that personality can be developed by the environment. At all events we were carefully treated like pet daughters in the newly-established dental school. Especially the first-year students seemed to be covered with excessive attachments about being both first years and female students. We haven’t much thought of profits and losses of being a woman, but we may have gotten something out of it by receiving special treatments for being students of the only women’s dental school.

As the grade in school advanced, the number of specialized subjects increased. My biggest problem was that I didn’t like laboratory training for clinical subjects. I didn’t like to grind plastic teeth, to prepare artificial teeth, crowns, bridges using models, to bend orthodontic wire, etc. Needless to say and regardless of what I like or dislike, I managed to clear those clinical assignments in order to catch up with the procedures for graduating school and obtaining a dentist’s license, but I began thinking that at that rate it might be difficult for me to become a clinical dentist.

 
Fascinated by Oral bacteriology

Although I didn’t like clinical subjects, I was fascinated by all the primary subjects, in particular, oral bacteriology. Actions of indigenous oral bacterial flora recalled a miniature version of a human society, and that made me want to work to find out relations among them. Without hesitation, I decided to go to graduate school to study more advanced oral bacteriology. My father went into practice as a dentist to contribute to the family income soon after graduating from a dental academy (former Osaka Dental University), who himself had probably wanted to further study if circumstances permitting. He totally backed up my desire for advancing to a graduate school of fundamental study. He told me later in life that he had been asked by his fellow dentists why it was necessary to give further education to a girl who will marry after all and that I would become an old maid if I went to graduate school, etc., etc. Whether thanks to my father or not, I haven’t thought about the so-called marriageable age, have remained unmarried and done what I wanted till now.
I went on to the graduate school of Tokyo Medical and Dental University because there wasn’t one at Tsurumi University at that time. For the first time when I launched out into the new environment, I was aware that I had received irreplaceable affection and consideration from the teachers at my old school. As there were few women at graduate school, I couldn’t be relaxed and missed the easy all-women atmosphere. However, was it the ordinary course of things or was it characteristic of me to get accustomed within 3 months to whatever circumstances? After feeling uncomfortable for a while with the new environment of fewer women, I felt myself being cherished there.

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Copyright (C) 2009 Nobuko Maeda. All Rights Reserved.