Experience Japan like a local

Avoiding Emergency Health Disasters

Japan is known for it’s safety and while the risk of being attacked by a wild animal or being infected with a life threatening disease is highly unlikely, you do not want to be caught unprepared like my friend was when a medical situation occurs. Let’s call her Samantha.

kyoto tori

Like most first time visitors of Japan, Samantha had excitedly prepared a list of to-dos to accomplish in her one week stay in Japan. Ranging from easily achievable like visiting the Shibuya Crossing, to the grueling 3 hour hike through the famous thousand tori gates in Kyoto, she thought she was ready for adventure. She had planned where she wanted to eat, which hotel she’d stay at, and and which pose she’d use for her selfies, but she had not planned for disaster.

On the third day of her stay in Japan, Samantha was on board the Shinkansen to Kyoto. She had with her a bunch of tips on which shrine to see and which traditional Kyoto souvenir to bring back with her, but no one told her to spray some mosquito repellent and the hot, humid summers was not welcoming to long sleeves or bottoms that go past her knees. Funny how such simple prevention can be so easily ignored. She soon arrived in Kyoto, full of energy for her hike through the beautiful tori gates she had only seen in movies. It was more beautiful than she had ever imagined and nothing, not even the mild itch on her left ankle could put a damper on this magical site. But then, the mild itch became more itchy as the day turned to night.

“Oh well, just a stupid mosquito bite,” Samantha proclaimed as she downed some frosty beers at the local izakaya. Poor Samantha continued to ignore this growing problem until she returned to Tokyo and the bite grew to the size of a golf ball. Even then she only consulted the friends she was staying with instead of heading straight to the doctor’s office. Soon, Samantha’s dread made her do something crazy. Did she head to the nearest hospital for treatment?

Nope. She went to the drugstore, bought some rubbing alcohol, a sewing needle, and several packs of gauze and begged her friends to lance the dreaded boil rapidly expanding in size.

Her loyal friends lanced the boil with great care and applied antiseptic to the now drained wound. Samantha was in pain, but the relief of seeing her ankle in its original shape was immeasurable. Now, her ankle healed fully and all that remains is a small scar, but the stress and worry had ruined the remainder of her trip.

Don’t be like Samantha and be prepared for emergencies. There are many services available so don’t be afraid to use them.

japan healthcare info

For those planning on staying as a long term residence and do not have private health insurance, enrollment into the National Health insurance system is mandatory. If you have National Health Insurance (Kenkō-Hoken), you can receive medical care for any healthcare provider that accepts National Health Insurance and most public clinics and hospitals will. With National Health Insurance, you can receive health care for 10% to 30% of  the cost. If you are in need of immediate medical help, please dial 119.

If you are planning on staying in Japan for a short visit and need an English speaking doctor, there are many hotlines you can call to request the information. Japan Healthcare Info( is a nonprofit organization that provides many services to support your needs. Japan Healthcare Info provides information about medical care in Japan, translations of common phrases that may be used by your doctor or pharmacist, as well as services to support foreigners. They have a free service of helping you locate a doctor or specialist that meet your needs (including language and location preferences).

Other services include appointment setups (for a ¥1000 fee), interpreter services on the phone, and in-person interpreter (please refer to Japan Healthcare Info site for more information).

You can also call  the AMDA International Medical Information Center (Phone: 03-5285-8088) for information on medical services offered in English.

There are many services available so don’t let your exciting trip be ruined by an unsightly boil, and remember to pack your bug spray.

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