Life in Japan

7 Things You Should Know About Japanese Hospitals and Medical Care

Since moving to Japan many years ago, I’ve been to a lot of Japanese hospitals and visited various doctors.
I know that there are lucky people out there who managed to live in Japan without ever having to go, but I have a certain condition that requires me to visit the hospital at least every 3 months. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too dramatic! ^-^;
Thus I have a lot of experience with Japanese hospitals and doctors that I wanted to share with everyone.

Please bear in mind that I can only compare Japan with Germany as I have no experience with the medical care in other countries.
Also, this article is completely based on my personal experience, so don’t take everything I say here as a fact.


1. Medical Care in Japan:

First of all, health care in Japan seems so expensive to me! smilie
The interesting thing about this is that most Americans I met say that health care in Japan is so cheap! So, I really guess it all depends on your home country.

For somebody like me who has to visit Japanese hospitals quite often, it is expensive. PERIOD.
There are different kinds of health insurances – just like in any other country. I don’t want to go into details.
Probably the most common (also among foreigners) is the “kokumin kenko hoken” (国民健康保険), the “National Health Insurance“, which will cover 70% of (most) of your medical bills.
For me that means that I have to pay 30% of the bill every single time I go and see a doctor – and if it’s only to get a prescription.

In Germany your health insurance will usually cover 100% of everything (as long as it’s something that is really necessary from a medical point of view).

For my usual blood check, prescription and medicine I had to pay between 3000-10.000 yen whereas in Germany I would have gotten all of that for about 500 yen. Can you see the huge difference?


2. Japanese Hospitals:

When you are sick – and even if it’s just a cold, you usually go to a hospital.
Yes, there are a few smaller clinics, but it’s very common to go to a hospital. That was very weird for me at first as in Germany we only go to the hospital for “bigger” examinations or if we’re REALLY sick!

The hospitals usually have a general reception (総受付) from where you’ll be sent to whichever section you need to go, e.g.:

If you visit a Japanese hospital for the first time, you often have to pay more than usually (“introduction fee“) and fill out a lot of documents.
Apart from your name and address you also have to fill out details about your health.
Depending on which section you want to visit, you’ll get another document to fill out some related health information (e.g. about your period, pregnancy etc. if you want to go to the gynecologist).

After all the paper work you’ll receive a “patient card” that most of the time looks like a credit card with your name and patient number on it.
In many hospitals there are ATM-like machines where you can put your card in and it will print out the information you need, so you won’t have to go to the reception anymore.

Next, you just sit and wait …. and wait ….. AND WAIT! smilie
Many hospitals have the policy that first-time visitors cannot make a previous reservation, so you end up waiting for many hours.
Especially in smaller cities, the hospitals are always very busy so that you might have long waiting times despite your appointment.

Once your examination is over, you’ll get the prescription (if any) and the bill.
With that you have to go to the “cashier” (会計) and wait again until they call your name and you can pay.
Some Japanese hospitals also give out medicine, so you hand in your prescription and wait A.G.A.I.N.


In smaller clinics there’s no “cashier”. You just go back to the waiting room and wait until they call your name. You’ll receive your bill, prescription and pay.
Usually you’ll have to get your medicine elsewhere, but a lot of clinics have pharmacies nearby!
All hospitals I’ve been to so far had a LOT of people waiting. They’re always busy!
I’ve had waiting times of 3 hours. It’s really inconvenient for people who have to work every day.
If you get sick during the weekend and need help immediately, you have to go to an emergency clinic (I did once).

All Japanese hospitals I’ve been to had vending machines, but some even had convenience stores inside the building! Almost all hospitals have huge flat screen TVs, so the patients can watch TV while waiting.


3. Doctors in Japan:

Just like in any other country there are good and bad doctors, so I shouldn’t generalize too much, I guess.
However, I’ve been to a lot of different doctors and I think I have yet to find a good one.
The problem with Japanese doctors is that they let you do all the talking!
If you don’t tell them what you want, what you think you have and what kind of examination you want, they won’t do anything.
In Germany (and I’m sure in most Western countries) you go to the doctor, tell them what is wrong with you and they will take care of the rest.
I mean, THEY are the ones who studied medicine in university after all, right?? Not us!!!

In Japan, they leave it up to us patients who don’t know anything about medicine.
Even some Japanese people I talked to about this topic said they don’t like that about the Japanese medical system.

I had skin doctors look at my skin problems from far away, literally throwing some random medicine at me without ever checking properly what was wrong.
At first I thought it might be because I’m a foreigner (e.g. that they don’t want to touch me), but I heard that they treat Japanese people exactly the same way.
With some doctors you have to be really persistent and tell them exactly what you want them to do.
If you have no clue what’s wrong with you, that’s a difficult task, though. smilie

Well, if you have just a cold, it probably doesn’t matter, but if you’re really sick, it can become dangerous!

And I’m not the only one who thinks so: “How NOT to get a diagnosis at the doctor


4. Nurses in Japan:

One thing that is also different from my home country is that you’re never alone with the doctor!
There are always a few nurses around as well. Even when at the gyno, there are a lot of other spectators (aka nurses) around. I hate that!! smilie
You definitely have much less privacy in Japanese hospitals or clinics than what you’re probably used from back home.
The nurses also approach you while you’re in the waiting room and ask you questions about your health that you definitely don’t want everybody else to hear (but they will)!

Apparently there have been issues in the past of gynos taking videos secretly.
You wonder how that is possible? In Japan they use a stupid curtain between the patient and the gynecologist, so they can’t see each other.
I usually open that curtain because I find it rather ridiculous.
However, Japanese seem to be so ashamed, that they don’t want to see the face of the doctor while being examined.
With nurses around the risk of secret videos is lower, I guess.


5. Dentists in Japan:

Dentists are yet a different story and maybe an experience you don’t necessarily want to make.
I go to the dentist at least once a year for a general check-up.
Again I can only compare it to dentist clinics back home, but I can’t imagine that things are so different in other Western countries.
In Germany there’s one room with one chair for the patient. You are alone with the doctor and one assistant and they’re solely concentrating on you until everything is finished.

In Japan, on the other hand, there are many chairs in one room. You can look into the mouth of other patients while passing by. smilie
The doctor jumps from one patient to another quickly, so I really doubt it’s all as disinfected as it should be ….
You can not only hear, but see what happens to other patients … and they can also watch you while you sit there with your mouth wide open.

My teeth are still in good condition, but I have the feeling they need special care ever since I moved to Japan.
Japanese sink water has (almost?) no fluoride and there aren’t that many toothpastes with fluoride either! I also noticed that my teeth get stains more easily here in Japan.


6. Japanese Medicine:

Prescribed medicine often comes in small paper bags with your name on it and the basic necessary information (how much you have to take / how many times a day).
In Germany you’ll just buy the whole package of pills – no matter if you actually need all of them or not.
In Japan they will give you only the amount of medicine you really need. smilie
So, if the doctor decided that your cold will be cured in 5 days, you’ll get medicine for about 5 days and that’s it.
It’s a very economic system – at first sight!
They often have each and every pill (or powder) wrapped individually which causes more garbage than necessary.
With the medicine you usually get a printout with a photo of the medicine and a description (side effects, what kind of medicine it is and what it’s for etc.)

Japanese hospital and Japanese medicine


7. Language:

Apparently you’ll find some foreign and thus English speaking doctors in bigger cities, but I wouldn’t know any details as I’ve never been to a foreign doctor in Japan.
From the start I’ve only visited Japanese doctors who could speak Japanese only!
At first it was difficult, of course. Before going I always made a list with necessary vocabulary.
Some doctors I met even spoke a little bit of German!
Do you know why you’ll find (esp. among older doctors) so many who can speak / understand medical terms in German?
That’s because Japan got a lot of their medical knowledge from German doctors!
Well, that’s another topic, but that’s why you’ll find so many katakana terms in Japanese hospitals that you won’t understand unless you’re German (or Japanese, of course).
Many Japanese people don’t even know that those are German and not English words!

レントゲン – Roentgen – x-ray
カルテ – (Kranken)Karte – patient’s card
メス – Messer (Skalpell) – scalpel

It seems that a lot of doctors used to write in German when taking their notes so that the patients wouldn’t know what was being written.
Apparently psychiatrists used to do that often. I doubt it’s still very common nowadays. I see my doctors write in ugly characters that look like they could be Japanese – and I guess their secret is that their handwriting is so bad that the patient won’t be able to read it! smilie



As you can probably tell I’m not really a fan of the Japanese medical system.
The German system is far from being perfect and it seems to change for the worse continuously, but I still prefer that to the Japanese one.
Actually the medical system in Japan is one reason why I decided not to stay in Japan forever.
When I grow older and might have more severe health issues, I really wouldn’t feel that I’m “in good hands” here in Japan. smilies

Also, since moving from the countryside to a place that’s even more out in the boonies, I’ve had problems getting my medicine.
It’s really annoying, costs a lot of time and money!
If you have any kind of sickness or have to visit the hospital often, then I highly recommend that you don’t move to a smaller city!
At least make sure that you have a bigger city with some big hospitals nearby!

Again, please bear in mind that this is only my own experience.
You don’t have to worry about your health care. Japan is a highly developed country.
I’m well aware that there are many countries that could only dream of a health care like this!

I’d love to know if living in a big city (e.g. Tokyo, Osaka) and visiting REALLY big hospitals is a different thing.
Anybody cares to share their experience?
I’d love to hear about other people’s experience with hospitals and doctors in Japan!

P.S.: I actually wrote this article while sitting in a Japanese hospital! *g*
Somehow you need to spend all that waiting time in a useful way, right?


  • Thanks for linking to my post! I agree in the sense I’ve certainly had my fair share of poor/rude/etc. doctors here in Japan, although I have had a handful of decent/nice ones as well. It just seems difficult to find one that will work with you and not get all egotistical if you question anything they say. But I’ve had doctors like that in the US as well. But you’re saying that the doctors you’ve seen don’t really do anything? I guess I’ve had the opposite in most cases. They hardly listen to me or let me talk at all, unless they ask me questions and then tell me what (they think) the problem is and what I’ll do (take medicine/etc.) I find it difficult to get any words in at most of the appointments I’ve been to, unless they actually ask if I have questions.

    I know you say it’s expensive for you to get care here, but does that really mean it’s expensive? I suppose for anyone who has to visit hospitals and doctors a lot healthcare can be expensive, but in the US there are plenty of people who have zero insurance (I was one of those) so you had to pay US$60-100 for a regular doctor appointment, if not more for bloodwork or anything else. Forget x-rays or anything like that, then you owe hundreds or thousands of dollars without insurance. It’s ridiculous. I would say maybe medicine is a bit closer to compare cost-wise, but again, depends on the medicine. It’s nice getting my nasal spray here for only a third of what it costs in the US. Obviously the care here isn’t necessarily free here, at least not all the time, but it isn’t expensive. Then again if it takes 10 tries to find a doctor you like… that can add up…

    I know most people go to the hospital, but I think more and more people are going to local internal medicine clinics. At least that’s where I usually go first. So people don’t have to go to the hospital unless it’s something that can only be dealt with there because of the specialists they have.

    As for the dentist, I think it depends on the clinic. I’ve been to some that are more private type rooms, or at least separated by a wall, and others are open. But in the US it’s the same. It depends on the clinic. (And believe me, I’ve been to the dentist numerous times here… I have problematic teeth). But most toothpaste does have fluoride in it, it’s only some (maybe a third or so of the brands you’ll find at a regular drug store) don’t. Natural kinds usually don’t also. But I don’t think it’s an issue to find toothpaste with fluoride. But yeah the water isn’t fluoridated here in Japan like it is in some other countries (it is in the US, but I’m not sure about other places). Sigh, I’m overdue for a dentist appointment now… Have to find a new one in our new city…

    Anyway, I can’t disagree though that the medical system here certainly does have problems. But yeah, finding a nice doctor is one of the hardest things (for me). Or sometimes, like you were saying, finding places in larger cities that are a little more modern and doctors that stay up on changes/developments in medicine. I’m sure doctors in smaller towns do that as well, but I haven’t yet met one! (Oh, speaking of foreign doctors, there was an English-speaking foreign doctor in my former city, which was on the smaller side, so I think they might be scattered around. Depends.)

    Here’s hoping things will improve here, though, right? Probably a bit of stretch at the moment, but never know!

    • Ashley, you are very welcome! ^_^

      It totally depends on the doctor. I guess I have been rather unlucky thus far.
      And once you find a good doctor, you move and you can start searching yet again.
      That is what happened to me recently and I’m currently really struggling.

      Being used to the German health system, the Japanese one seems super expensive to me.
      It’s so annoying that I have to pay all this money when I only want to get a prescription.
      See? That would be a major reason for me NOT to move to the USA.
      I can’t even imagine to have no health insurance or to have to pay sooooooo damn much. :(

      Clinic vs. hospital:
      I guess it really depends where you live and what’s more convenient and closer.
      I used to have a big hospital right next to my apartment, but because of long waiting time I always went to a smaller clinic that was far away.
      Now, I have a small clinic nearby, but I really don’t like the doctor there, so whenever I can I drive to the next bigger hospital.

      Yeah, we can only hope that it’ll improve some day. :hum:

  • Good article. Well done. I feel your pain with hospitals and waiting. I had to have a small surgery earlier this year (at a large hospital) and was pretty shocked at first at the lack of privacy for examinations and talks with the doctor. Before the surgery even, I was basically sat in a chair in the corner of a big room and they pulled a curtain around me. I had to change in there and then waited for much too long for them to come get me. Meanwhile other patients were walking back and forth in front of the curtain and having their own exams/discussions while I listened in on them. The followup exams/check ups were also way more than I thought necessary. Naturally, you end up spending half the day waiting even if you have an appointment. I had to take off those half days from work because it was just too much of a problem. As an American though I thought it was very inexpensive, but the loss of salary and/or vacation days hurt.

    • Hi Eric!

      Yes, the lack of privacy is something I really don’t like very much.
      I can’t just take days off, so I have to do it on my working days.
      I have to give them credit, though, as they try to squeeze you in if you tell them that you have to be back at work at a certain time.
      There are so many old people waiting who have nothing else to do, so sometimes they agree to let you in before them.

      Still I came late to work a few times already because of the long waiting times.
      Very annoying….

  • Aloha
    Thanks for the great article. I was always curious about Japan’s health care system. I watched NHK World TV and they had a documentary about medical care in Japan too and it seems pretty scary if you don’t have money. They also had a documentary about the elderly and disabled that is also scary.
    But I was impressed by the nursing home care that my grandmother got there in Okinawa but maybe it is because she may have had money? She received better care there and our elderly do here. She did receive USA social security check since she lived and worked here for a while and could pay plus she owned property there too. I think the cost of health care in Japan is cheaper than in USA. In fact, one of my students got sick in Japan (I was a chaperone) and he had to be hospitalized for 2 days. I heard from his parent that the cost was very reasonable. A lot of it was also reimbursed by their medical insurance. Luckily one parent worked for the State so their health insurance paid most expenses by 100% and only a few items were 80% so their share was very minimal. In USA it all depends on your private insurance coverage. I had friends who worked for private sector and upon retiring from the company had to pay over $1,600 a month for health insurance premium and their coverage was not as good as mine. Of course they could afford to pay that amount but many people cant.
    I think USA’s health care system may be better than Japan. But I think Germany and Canada and maybe some other European countries have universal health care and is even better than in USA. I am lucky because I retired from working for the government here in Hawaii and we have pretty good health care coverage. With medicare and my private health insurance it helps too. But we still have to pay a premium for this insurance for both so we don’t have universal coverage. Some people have a hard time paying their health insurance premium. I’m not so sure whether or not I personally will benefit from Obama’s health care program but I am sure those who couldn’t afford it would benefit so I am really happy about that. I still think we should have universal care like Germany or Canada. Don’t know which one is better.
    Thank you again for writing about this topic…very interesting.

    • Hey Julie! ^-^

      Sorry, I don’t know anything about elderly care in Japan.
      I suppose the system is well developed considering how many super old people live here, but I really don’t know.
      I guess it really depends on how much money you have, just like in any other country, too :(
      Good for your grandma, though! ^-^

      Yes, Japan is definitely a lot cheaper than America in terms of health care, but seems super expensive for some Europeans like me. ^-^;

  • I’ve also had a fair bit of experience with doctors and hospitals here, as you know from my site. (Thanks for your comments there!) I guess the big difference is that you’re from Germany, while I’m from the U.S., so our reference points are different.

    I recently stayed overnight in the hospital, and it cost me just under 10,000 yen, which is less than some motels in the U.S. That’s a great deal! Also, the big difference is that Japan HAS national health care. In the U.S., at least when I left, if you weren’t not covered by an employer, you were out of luck–it was absurdly expensive to have insurance. (There have been some changes under the Obama administration, but I’m not sure of the details). Last year in Japan, I didn’t work a full-time job for most of the year, and my monthly premiums were about twenty bucks. That would have cost me at least $300 per month in the U.S.

    As you noted, the national insurance only pays 70%, so many people here opt for an additional insurance to cover the 30%. You should look into that.

    • Kochira koso! ^-^;

      I get to talk a lot to Americans about the health system back in their country and then here in Japan, but I still can only compare it to what I’m used to and compared to that it sucks quite a bit – most of the time.

      Well, maybe you know that Germany has ridiculously high taxes.
      And on top of that everybody has to have health insurance. Even when I was a poor university student I had to pay around 125€ every month, but at least I didn’t have to worry about health care.
      Despite all that I still prefer the German health system.
      I totally prefer Japan when it comes to tax handling, though! ;)

      Thanks for mentioning private health insurance. I guess I would get one if I decided to stay longer in Japan, but for now it’s ok (yet not ideal) the way it is.

  • What “Ken Seeroi” says is correct. Well,, you wouldn’t like the American system.

    Medical insurance is either through your company or private insurance. It is very costly, and you still have to pay a variable percentage of the bill. And you would not believe what hospitals charge! A stay in a hospital is a big expense.The medication [you get it at a pharmacy] is also dispensed only in the prescribed amount. And a nurse is always there when the doctor is a man [and very often if its a woman], though you can speak to the doctor privately in his/her office.

    I find odd to go to a hospital for things not of an emergency nature. However, waiting in a hospital is par for the course here, and for that matter, you often have to wait quite a while at your doctor’s.

    But why go to the hospital for a cold? Surely over the counter medicines will take care of it. A cold is not curable by a doctor. All you need is some rest, cough suppressant, and lots of tissues!

    • “But why go to the hospital for a cold?” Simone brings up a good point. It’s definitely a “Japanese thing.” People here go to the hospital whenever they feel sick, even though it’s obvious that time and rest are what’s really needed. Worst of all, should you be sick enough that you need to call in sick, your employer will insist on you going to the hospital, which means you’ll have to muster your energy to get out of bed and go sit in some waiting room. Not a great system, really.

    • No, I know that I wouldn’t!
      I heard so much about it. But I don’t live in America, I live in Japan.
      So I don’t really care much about the system over there, obviously.
      I envy the countries with really awesome health care, e.g. the U.K.

      Nowadays I don’t go to the hospital when I just have a cold, but when I first came here, I was dragged along by my manager.
      We didn’t get any paid sick leave and if one of us was sick, it would cause a lot of trouble.
      Also, when I first came here a normal cold felt like a severe influenza to me. My body was not used to the Asian virus types and bacteria, I guess ^-^; …..

      I remember that a few years back everybody would run to the hospital to make sure they didn’t catch the flu … it was crazy!
      You were forced to wear a mask (not too bad) and had to pay for one if you didn’t bring your own.

  • My experiences with the Japanese Health Care system have been alright so far. I didn’t have to visit a full blown hospital yet (and I hope I won’t have to), but waiting times haven’t been considerably longer than in Austria (doesn’t matter if it’s a specialist or a hospital).

    My experiences so far: a nurse (probably) at University that gave me cold medicine when I had a cold and fever. It was some white powder that worked remarkably fast.

    An ear doctor (what do you call that in English?) when I had a ringing noise in my ears after a concert. He was really old fashioned with his tools (he was quite old as well), but very kind and he gave me the correct medicine as well. I.e. he gave me the recipe and I got it at the pharmacy, once again exactly the amount I needed for my treatment. Cost: 3000 Yen plus medicine.

    A small clinic out in the Japanese alps when my mother got sick suddenly. They did an x-ray, checked her lung capacity, took her temperature, checked blood pressure and heart/breathing sounds etc. The whole check-through. She was border-line pneumonia, so she got the medicine necessary with advice to rest at least three days (and stop smoking because they new right away from her lung capacity she was smoking). I got a temperature sheet and a letter with all results as we were headed back to Tokyo that day in case we needed to visit another doctor if she did not get better. All of that cost 7000 Yen (incl. the medicine).

    A small clinic on a VERY remote island. I had been puking since the middle of the night and felt terrible so I drove to the clinic first thing in the morning. A nice young doctor checked me through, asked me the regular questions, told me that a stomach flu is currently going around and prescribed me the necessary medicine. I got it all counted out for the length of a treatment including a description with pictures. I don’t remember what I paid, something like 3000 Yen probably, might have been up to 5000 Yen but not more.

    Waiting time in the last three cases was between 30-60 minutes, not longer. It feels longer when you’re sick of course. Last three cases without insurance (I could have gotten it back through the travel insurance, but it did not really seem worth all the trouble).

    I should add that I speak decent Japanese and medical terms where sufficiently explained to me so I did not need any special vocabulary. I’d suggest having a Japanese speaker with you if you don’t speak Japanese.

    About the German speaking doctors: Japanese students still have German on their study plans as far as I’m informed. While in Japan I was asked to come to a class for medicine students to do some conversations with them. That was 10 years ago, but the explanation I got back than was that Japan had gotten most of it’s starting knowledge of medicine from German doctors so a lot of the vocabulary is German so they still teach it. I assume the same way you have to learn Latin to study medicine in Austria.

    All in all my experience with the Japanese Health System were quite positive so far.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
      It’s nice to see that there are also pleasant doctor visits!
      There ARE good doctors around, but the trick is to find them.

      As you can probably read in the comments, a lot of us had some rather unpleasant experiences.

      Consider yourself lucky! :shiawase:

      Considering the waiting time, it really depends on a lot of factors!
      In my previous hospital I couldn’t go at all on Mondays, because that was “old peoples’ day” ….
      It seemed like all the elderly came at once and you had to wait FOREVER!
      If you always go to the same place you’ll eventually figure out what the best times for visiting are. Whether you can make time to go exactly THEN is another story, though …

      P.S.: In Germany it used to be the same. I also studied Latin in school.
      And I think it might be the same even now. Doctors need Latin.

      • There is a famous manga called Black Jack by Tezuka Osamu and a “tribute” called “Black Jack ni yoroshiku”. I read the later one (there’s also a j-drama) and it gives you an excellent idea of the insides of the Japanese system. Might explain some things you see in the hospitals. It’s a great read.

  • One additional comment about doctors not doing much personal examination: that subject has been touched on in recent “hospital” dramas. So there is definitely room for improvement. I will add that in the US, you do find doctors who barely listen to you and try to dismiss you as fast as possible. So it is up to you to speak up, or look for another.

    Speaking of “hospital dramas”, I notice how long some patients seem to stay in hospitals in Japan. In the US they get you out just as fast as they can, to liberate the beds. The costs are sky high anyway. A relative needed an emergency operation, was in intensive car for several days. Total, one week stay. Cost: $18,000 [!!!]. And that was several years ago. Luckily, the insurance paid for it.

    • It really totally depends. I had my share of “stupid” doctors in Germany as well.
      I takes time and effort to find the good ones :/

      *faints* That’s just too much money to even imagine!! Horrible! :(

  • I have always found the smaller clinics better than the bigger hospitals in Japan. I was lucky to find one just around the corner from my apartment and it was a lot more convenient and saved a lot of time as opposed to waiting in a bigger hospital. It was easier to get to know the doctors, nurses and staff after a few visits and definitely a lot friendlier.

    • I miss my old clinic.
      As I have to go on a regular basis we all got to know each other really well and the nurses were super nice. Some of the doctors there weren’t too bad.
      Now, I still struggle to find good doctors.
      I go to a clinic nearby, just because it’s convenient, but I don’t like the doctor there very much.
      Well, for smaller issues this will do.

  • Hi

    This is an interesting post! Do you always go to big hospitals? I don’t. I usually go to local clinics that I think good. Most doctors who run local clinics in Japan have enough experiences working in big hospitals. Generally, big hospitals in Japan do more tests some of which must be unnecessary and you have to wait for hours there. I HATE big ones. I don’t think that really good doctors are always in big hospitals. I admit that in some cases, it would be better to go to big hospitals, though.

    I read your fabulous Tashirojima posts!! I really enjoyed them. Your photos are GREAT! Thank you so much for posting them!!!

    • Hello Sapphire!
      Thank you very much! :sparkling:

      No, usually I don’t, but since I moved it has gotten a bit more complicated.
      There is a small clinic nearby, but I really don’t like the doctor there.
      Well, for tiny issues that’s ok, but they won’t give me my medicine for the time frame I’m supposed to get it. Never had problems prior to moving.
      For that I need to go to bigger hospitals … and also for health check-ups and special sections such as the gyno.

      I doubt finding good doctors is related to the size of a hospital.
      I wish it was easier to find good ones, though :/

      Thank you so much. Glad you enjoyed it! ^___^

  • I remember when I got a huge cut on my head in Japan, I was bleeding a lot but I still had to wait in line for these old people to get their check up. I think their priorities are kind of dumb -x- really never was found of medical and dental matters in japan D:

    • Really??
      Did you tell them that it hurts a lot and that you feel dizzy or something like that?
      Although all the blood should have done the trick. I’ve seen that emergencies will have priority, but I’m not sure what exactly they consider as emergency.

      Once I waited for 5h in a hospital and when I told them that I just called work as I’m going to be late now, they tried to squeeze me in and asked another person if it was ok if I go in first.

      Still waiting times are ridiculous, especially in big hospitals :(

      Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience! :shock:

  • When there’s something small like the cold you mentioned, I’ll just go to a normal doctor instead of a hospital because the waiting time is way lower. One of my doctors still writes some stuff in German, and whenever I mention that I’m German to a doctor they tell me about their German studies when they were in university. One however thought my name sounded Italian and tried speaking Italian with me, even though I told him I’m not…
    So far, whenever I’ve been to a hospital, they did all kinds of tests and far too many x-rays. I don’t even want to know how often I have been x-rayed this year. In the end it mostly just turns into a huge bill, I barely get any real solutions, but I’m used to that from German doctors. :stressed:
    Still, even my husband doesn’t have much faith in Japanese doctors, and if anything serious were to happen (having a baby was an example he mentioned) he’d ask his uncle, who works in the field, for a trustworthy doctor. Seems there was a woman who died during childbirth inside an ambulance, because no hospital would take her. A woman. Giving birth. Priorities, people! :hum:
    What I think they really don’t do thoroughly are the 健康診断 health checks. It’s always quite ridiculous.

    • The case you’re talking about wasn’t about priorities it was about being severely understaffed and probably also about not being up to it (some clinics only have one doctor up for night duty, usually someone quite down the chain = i.e. a young doctor). I heard it’s best to take a taxi and show up at the clinics doorstep as they can’t turn you away, whereas an ambulance has to ask if they accept the patient.

  • “there are many countries that could only dream of a health care like this!”

    Include the USA in that list. It can NEVER be overstated how awful and evil the profit-based American healthcare system is. Probably the poorest 1/3 or more of the US would be better off with Cuban healthcare.

    • While health insurance might be quite bad, I think America has one of the highest medical standards in the world.
      People who have a severe sickness are often sent to America because chances are higher for a cure or good medical treatment.
      At least that’s the image I have of America! ^__^;

  • bin gerade dabei deinen kompletten blog durchzulesen, da ich im sommer auch für ein jahr work and travel in japan machen möchte :) du hast es geschafft so interessant, mitreißend und humorvoll zu schreiben, dass es mich vom lernen fürs abi abhält :D Ich hab auch schon viel nützliches gefunden und deshalb danke für die vielen informationen.
    mit dem kommentar, dass sich das system in deutschland immer weiter verschlechtert, musste ich an die praxisgebühren denken, du weißt, was ich meine, oder? aber unsere politiker haben ja gott sei danke erkannt, dass das ganze schwachsinn ist und seinen eigentlichen zweck nicht erfüllt, weshalb sie ab diesem jahr wieder aufgehoben sind ^-^

    ich wünsche dir ein schönes neues jahr

    • Hallo! ^___^

      Vielen lieben Dank für den netten Kommentar! Es freut mich, dass dir mein Blog gefällt! :D
      Ich hoffe, dir wird dein Work and Travel in Japan gefallen! Ich bin mir sicher, dass du viel erleben wirst und viel Spaß haben wirst! ^-^

      Wirklich? Keine Praxisgebühren mehr? Juchuu! Danke für diese Info, das wusste ich bisher gar nicht! Tolle Neuigkeiten! :)

      Nachträglich ein FROHES NEUES JAHR!

  • I found this article very interesting.
    My family own/run a small community hospital in Kanagawa-ken for generations and I witnessed a lot of changes in Japanese medical care systems from insider point of view. Interestingly though, you are also pointing out these still existing old styles are there probably because they established the style based on Japanese culture.

    Last year, I had a very interesting experience in Tokyo while I was assigned to work there for while. When I became very sick and ended to visit an emergency room at near by large hospital and received very updated care. It was almost as same as visiting any ER in north america. Except the ridiculous fees and charges. Currently I am living in Canada, and I am not covered by any Japanese medical care; so that, I had to pay at first and claimed it to travel insurance later. The most annoying thing was they didn’t take any credit card! I admit that I was spoiled that I have never had to pay for visiting doctors at admission in my life before. (not even while I was living in San Francisco before because of the insurance I had cover everything during that time.) But, 21,000 yen (around 250 CAD) was not the kind of money I feel safe to have in my pocket even in Tokyo.

    By the way, my family’s hospital is first established as a gynecology clinic, so I know the stupid certain (or even older style that you may never seen) you mentioned in this article. Eventually, we removed the certain, and used choice of plain light pink or baby blue bath towels by request. And, I thought it became mandate to have an authorized nurse while physician is examining the patient after an unfortunate incidents happened.

    About discussing health issues in waiting area, even a small community hospitals like my family’s hospital, staffs are told not to discuss health issues at waiting room unless it is necessary. However, it seemed grannies and grandpas in waiting room wanted to talk about it rather loudly than wait until they are called.

    • Hello Masa!

      I’m really glad you commented. It’s very interesting to hear the opinion of someone who is involved! :D

      In Germany you are usually alone with the doctor, also the gyno. I admit it can be dangerous and I think there have been incidents in the past, but I’m not sure if patients would accept if another person is in the room as well especially in a gynecological clinic. :/

  • This is really long… but interesting read. I always wondered what’s like in Japan (and your blog is the best place for it!).

    I would start off to say that I’m from Singapore, and there’s a lot of things I can relate to, whether to what it was like back in your home country, or Japan!

    Going to the hospital when you have a common cold? That’s definitely unusual! I usually go to the clinic. I would never ever go to the hospital unless it is something major because hospital bills are expensive and they are generally, a very scary place, lol. Actually even going to clinics are expensive (for someone like me who don’t earn much). I don’t know much about blood check, but a normal visit due to a cold for example, about 2000yen – minimum I pay, even just for consultation. I go private because for public clinics, I have to wait for hours! A old friend of mine goes to the public clinic every time she’s ill, and there are countless times the doctors there (most of them inexperienced because they were fresh out of university) gave the wrong diagnosis and she ended up in the emergency ward TWICE.. for nothing. She had to pay ~78000 yen each time that happened (sorry, no such thing as subsidized healthcare for us). And every single time I told her to just to go to a private clinic, they solved your problem right away. I mean, yes, the consultation fee is a little bit more expensive than what the public clinics charge you, but hey, you save yourself that 78000 yen that you paid for nothing! Bleah, she’s stubborn.

    Moving on, the situation you describe about the dentist is scary. I would never want anyone to look into my mouth, although I used to do that when I was a kid. lol~ I wondered if the dentist ever made any mistakes then, since he had to tend to many patients at one go.

    Point number 6. It works the same way here too. Really. Whether at the dentist, or the doctor, they just assume that a few days to a week should be more than enough (the medicine). But more often than not, it’s definitely NOT enough! I always finish my meds and still feeling sick. There are many times I give up on the meds and switch to traditional Chinese meds instead. I only go to the doctors these days just so I can get an MC.. even though I’m reluctant to leave the house in such a sickly condition.

    • Hi Lisali!

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. The medical system in Singapore as you describe it doesn’t sound too good, either.
      Actually, I think I prefer the Japanese one instead.
      I always thought the German one is not very good, but after hearing about the medical system in other countries, I have to reconsider. ^__^;;

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