Hello. Konnichiwa. WPC2019 | 1

When Life Gives You Parkinson’s

Hello. Konnichiwa. WPC2019 | 1

In June, I will be traveling to Kyoto, Japan for the 5th World Parkinson Congress (WPC). WPC is a global Parkinson's event that opens its doors to all members of…
February 27, 2019

Hello. Konnichiwa. WPC2019 | 1

In June, I will be traveling to Kyoto, Japan for the 5th World Parkinson Congress (WPC). WPC is a global Parkinson’s event that opens its doors to all members of the Parkinson’s community, from neurologists and researchers to those living with the disease.  Since my diagnosis in August 2017, I’ve launched the podcast When Life Gives You Parkinson’s. As an extension of that podcast, I have teamed up with the World Parkinson Coalition to help preview WPC2019. 


In this episode, Jill Ames-Carson, the co-chair of the ambassadors program, can’t say enough good things about the congress, “The World Parkinson Congress changed my whole life and how I live with Parkinson’s. It gets everybody ‘Parkinsons’ in the same room together. Which is an absolutely amazing feeling, because you know you’re not alone.” She suggests those planning to attend review the program online or download it, before landing in Kyoto. The thermometer next to each session indicates the level of scientific discussion. The other symbols let you know whether it’s a basic science, clinical science, or comprehensive care “As a person with Parkinson’s I would really advise you to attend things you’re interested in.”


Dr. A Jon Stoessl, the co-chair of WPC2019, agrees noting some of the presentations will be very scientific, “It’s important for the meeting to be a top-notch scientific meeting and we truly believe that it is and so there are sessions that are targeted really only towards scientists.”  This year, among the world renowned researchers and neurologists there will be a Nobel Prize winner.


In our discussion, Dr. Stoessl mentioned the Pre-Congress Courses. These are full day courses that take place Tuesday, June 4. You can see what is being offered by visiting this page on website.

Both, Dr. Stoessl and Ms. Ames-Carson talked about pacing yourself. There is a lot to do, but if you have Parkinson’s, you will want to build in down time. If you need a break from sitting through educational sessions, the WPC has a variety of spaces where you can recharge or get some exercise. You can learn more about that on the wellness page of the website

As you prepare for your trip, Ames-Carson suggests you pack a pen, a pad of paper, and some small gifts from your home country to offer to new friends you’ll meet. The WPC offers other tips in its online Travel Tool Kit.


Each episode of the WPC2019 Podcast, I’m going to check in with James Heron, the Executive Director of the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre to teach us a new word or phrase and help us better understand the culture so we can avoid embarrassing ourselves or offending our hosts. This week we start with a simple hello. But, it’s not so simple. Depending on the time of day, the Japanese have three different greetings.


In the morning until around 11a, the full formal greeting is Ohayô gozaimasu. Informally you can also use Ohayô. In the midday from about 10a-5p, the appropriate greeting is Konnichiwa. In the evening, Konbanwa, is the greeting that is most invoked.


Pronunciations can listened to if you google these phrases online. A key thing to keep in mind when saying phrases in Japanese is to be sincere, speak slowly, and be polite. Simply making the attempt to speak Japanese will be appreciated.


Heron also notes that silence is an important part of the communication approach. The Japanese have a saying that goes, “words separate and silence unifies.” Citing studies by other linguists, Heron cautions us that North Americans are less comfortable with the amount of silence we allow to pass in conversation before feeling a need to fill the void. In Japan, the acceptable amount of silence is over four seconds, but for North Americans after three-quarters of a second we begin to feel a sense that the communication is dying and we need to say something. If we fill those silences too quickly, we muddy the communication waters.



Follow me, Larry Gifford 

Twitter: @ParkinsonsPod


Instagram: @parkinsonspod

For more info on the World Parkinson Congress head to


Twitter: @WorldPDCongress

YouTube: WorldPDcongress

Instagram: @worldpdcongress

Thank you to:

Jill Ames Carson, co-chair of World Parkinson Congress Ambassador’s Program 2019

Dr. A. Jon Stoessl, co-chair of World Parkinson Congress 2019   

James Heron, Executive Director of Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre  


Dila Velazquez – Story Producer

Rob Johnston – Senior Audio Producer

John O’Dowd – Content Producer

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