One of the most difficult things to deal with while traveling overseas is when you have to go to a local hospital for a sudden injury or illness. Fortunately, Japan’s medical system is very well organized and the treatment techniques are among the best in the world, but there is one major problem: the language barrier.
Not all hospitals, even in famous tourist spots, offer foreign language services, and even fewer are do in rural areas. Therefore, in this article, I will introduce how to find hospitals that support English and other languages. Additionally information you should know about hospitals in Japan so that you might utilize them without panicking in cases of sudden problems.
The easiest way is to go to the hotel where you are staying or the nearest Tourist Information Center* and ask for a referral to an appropriate hospital. Both of them can provide you with accurate information and may even make hospital appointments for you.
*Tourist Information Center >>> https://tic.jnto.go.jp
If Tourist Information Center is not open during business hours, or if you cannot find useful information at your hotel, the following two search databases are recommended. Both of these sites are provided by the Japanese government for foreign visitors to Japan, and allow you to easily search for hospitals that offer multilingual services.
The first option to find an appropriate hospital is to use Search Medical Institutions. The features are as follows.
– Searchable for foreign language hospitals throughout Japan
– Searchable by language type, medical subject, hospitals that accept card payments, JMIP* certified hospitals, and emergency hospitals
The features of this site is that you can search for hospitals not only in big cities but also in regional cities and you can search for hospitals that are accredited for foreign patients (JMIP).
*JMIP is an abbreviation for Japan Medical Service Accreditation for International Patients. This is a system to certify medical institutions that have a system in place that allows foreigners to receive Japanese medical services safely and with peace of mind, such as multilingual medical information and accommodations for different cultures and religions.
The second option is Himawari. Here are some features as below.
– Only foreign language hospitals in Tokyo can be found.
– Searchable for hospitals near your address or the nearest train station
– Searchable for available days and detailed medical subjects
Not only large hospitals but also private clinics in towns are registered, so the level of language support may vary, but if there is no JMIP hospital nearby or you need to get to a hospital in a hurry, you may be able to find the nearest one.
There is a language bar at the top right of the web site that switches between English, Chinese, and Korean.
Even in foreign-language hospitals, the language level of the hospital, staff, and doctors may vary, so be prepared to provide the following information immediately so that you can correctly report your symptoms and injuries under any circumstances.
The Japan Tourism Agency has also prepared a “Pointing Sheet for Explaining Symptoms and Medical Conditions” that allows you to easily communicate your symptoms by simply pointing to the illustrations. These can be found in Guidebook for when you are feeling ill prepared by the Environment Agency for foreign travelers.
In Japan, foreign tourists are required to pay for all medical treatment. If you don’t take any precautions, you will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of yen in medical expenses for a single treatment, so it is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance in your home country before coming to Japan.
Depending on the type of overseas insurance, some insurances will pay the patient’s bills in advance, while others will pay the medical institution directly.
If you happen to come to Japan without travel insurance, you can buy it at the airport, or you can purchase it online from the following two companies introduced by the Japan Tourism Agency.
Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. >>> https://tokiomarinenichido.jp/
– Procedures must be completed within 5 days including the day of entry into Japan.
– The number of days of insurance coverage can be selected in one-day increments.
Sompo Japan Insurance Inc. >>> http://travelins.sjnk.jp/?code=99012
– Enrollment is possible at any time within 30 days of entry into Japan.
– The number of subscription days are in 10 day increments.
All of these insurance policies support cashless medical treatment, and they also provide support desks and referrals to affiliated hospitals and JMIP hospitals, which is very convenient.
In addition to overseas travel insurance, there are also travel insurance policies that come with credit cards, but they may only cover you if you pay your travel expenses with a credit card, or you may have to pay for your medical expenses yourself.
If you are in a serious accident or sick and cannot go to the hospital on your own, do not hesitate to call an ambulance. In Japan, ambulances can be used free of charge*. However, it is not advisable to call them unnecessarily except in an emergency.
*There is a charge for treatment at the hospital where you are taken.
To call for an ambulance, simply dial “119”. When the operator answers, the first thing you should say is “medical emergency” (English is available). “119” is for both fire and medical emergencies, so tell them which one you need. Then, tell the operator your current symptoms, location (as much as you know), and your name.
In recent years, the number of operators who can speak multiple languages has increased, but if it is difficult to communicate because it is an emergency, ask a Japanese person around you for help in interpreting.
If you are unable to make a phone call, show the text in the red box below to the Japanese people around you and ask them to call an ambulance. It is recommended that you save a capture of the text on your cell phone so that you can show it to others immediately.
(Source: The Environment Agency for foreign travelers)
If you are unable to call from your own cell phone for communication reasons, look for a nearby public phone (green phone). They are usually located at train stations, convenience stores, and police stations. You can also dial 119 from a public phone for free, so don’t insert any coins, just lift the receiver and dial 119.
For more information, I recommend you check “Guide for Ambulance Services”.
Suddenly, getting injured or sick in a strange country can make you feel even more scared and anxious than usual, but it is important to always keep in mind that the more prepared you are, the better.
In order to avoid panic in case of emergency, make sure you have the information and documents in this article organized and ready. I hope this article will serve as a good luck charm for your stay in Japan.