One thing to note is that in Japan, a regular doctor’s clinic is often also referred to as a hospital. So if you do get sick, and feel like people are blowing it out of proportion by telling you to go to the hospital, remember they are just advising you to get some medical attention.
On the flip side, if you have some kind of emergency or serious illness, be sure to communicate to your supervisor the extent of the problem so that you go to a ‘real’ hospital. It’s good to ask your supervisor and around your school to get advice about which hospital or clinic is best to go (the school nurse is a valuable asset).
Local doctor’s clinics are easy to find across Saga and almost every small town will have at least one. Keep in mind that they are often classified under either ‘internal medicine’ (naika 内科) – for illnesses and internal medical conditions, or ‘orthopedic surgery’ (geka 外科) – for injuries.
Hospitals are generally close by and, while the language barrier can be difficult, it can be overcome with a good dictionary and patience. Most doctors are required to study English at university, and some will have completed a period of study or practice abroad, so it is common for at least a basic level of English to be understood. Be sure to do research about where you go, just in case.
Check out our links to English-speaking medical professionals and assistance here.
Visiting a Hospital/Clinic
- Talk to your supervisor, DR, or colleagues to find a doctor or hospital in your area
- If you don’t feel comfortable going alone, ask someone to come with you (e.g. a SPIRA medical interpreter, a friend with good Japanese)
- Call the clinic or hospital to check for consultation hours, that your insurance is acceptable, and that they have the medical department for your ailment
- Make sure you have your health insurance card
- Confirm with your supervisor if you need a doctor’s note (shindansho – 診断書)
- Take your shoes off (if there are slippers)
- Go to reception and give them your health insurance card
- You might be asked about your symptoms at reception before seeing your doctor. It is OK to give a broad description if you’re not comfortable sharing this information
- If it’s your first time you’ll need to fill out an application form (shinsatsu moshikomisho – 診察申込書)
- You will receive a patient’s card (shinsatsu ken – 診察券), and a chart will be prepared for you (you will need to bring the shinsatsu ken with you on any subsequent visit)
- Wait to be called
- Before seeing the doctor your vitals will be taken
- If you need it, ask for a doctors note
- See the doctor for your consultation
- Return to the waiting room and wait to be called to pay (remember to keep all your receipts for insurance) and receive your doctor’s note
A few other points
- Because Japan has a different mindset when it come to privacy, if you want more anonymity with your more sensitive issues, it might be a good idea to seek medical treament in a clinic or hospital outside of your town or even Saga (e.g. in Fukuoka)
- You will often be prescribed a number of different medications
- If you’ve explained things to your doctor any medication should be just as effective as any from your home country
- Remember that Japanese doses are generally not as strong medication you might receive in your home country so check out the doses you have been prescribed
- Some medicine (like antibiotics) cannot be prescribed for more than two weeks at a time, and you may therefore need successive visits until you have recovered
- Most hospitals/clinics have an in-house pharmacy or there will one nearby
- You can buy ibuprofen (イブプロフェン) over the counter from most pharmacies in large quantities for a small price. EVE is a common brand name for the drug.
- Japanese-English medication name database