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Japan – Healthcare

In Tokyo, there are a variety of English-speaking doctors and clinics/hospitals, however, the receptionists or nurses might not speak English that well. Though many doctors speak English to some extent, one might want to call to see if they can actually speak English. It is highly recommended to ask Japanese colleagues to assist in calling them before visiting and, if possible, asking for accompaniment to the clinics/hospitals.

Japanese health care is very high quality, however, there are not many doctors in general practice. One usually needs to see the specialist at the clinic to help deal with one’s ailment.  For example, one sees a dermatologist for a rash, or a doctor of internal medicine for a stomach ache.

Clinics and hospitals are all different in terms of the size and specialization. Hospitals offer a wide range of specializations, and there is usually more than one doctor in any particular field.  While clinics more often offer only a single specialization, and may be run by only one doctor. People usually visit clinics first, and if necessary, they may be referred to see doctors at larger hospitals. International clinics play a major role in directing and introducing their patients to English-speaking Japanese specialists in other clinics or hospitals.

There are many clinics in most of the neighborhood. Some of the types of clinics are;

Internal Medicine (Naika)

Obstetrics & Gynecology (Fujinka/Sanfujinnka)

Pediatrics (Shonika)

Dermatology (Hifuka)

Orthopedics (Seikeigeka)

Ophthalmology (Ganka)

Otolaryngology (Jibika)

Dentists (Shika)

At the clinic, you will need to first speak with the receptionist and fill out a form, and then you will be directed to your doctor’s area. Patients are generally seen on a first-come, first-served basis, and appointments are not required. However, many dental practices are appointment only.


To call an ambulance anywhere in Japan, dial 119. Usually there is someone on duty who can speak some English, however, it is best to enlist the aid of a Japanese speaker in placing the call if possible. If by some chance they cannot understand you, do not hang up until the operator hangs up. The line is traced and your address will be determined. You will be asked if you want a fire truck or an ambulance. Ambulance is kyukyusha in Japanese. Emergency is kyukyu. Fire truck is shobosha in Japanese.

An ambulance will be dispatched after you call 119. Tokyo Fire Department ambulances operate free of charge. Unless you or your doctor have confirmed admittance to a specific hospital, the ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital with emergency facilities and space available, not to the specific hospital you request.


It is required by law for citizens and long term residents to have health insurance. There are two medical insurance systems: “Social Insurance System” for those working at a company and “National Health Insurance” for those uncovered by the Social Insurance System. Premiums for “National Health Insurance” are determined based on the previous year’s income and the number of family members. Social insurance premiums are deducted from one’s salary. For National Health Insurance, invoices are sent to insurance holders. If you are covered by one of these insurances, you and your immediate family will only need to pay 30% of your medical fee when you receive a medical treatment. (20% for infants aged 0 to 2 and the elderly aged 70 years or older)  Some medical treatments are not covered by insurance.

If you do not have Japanese National Health Insurance, you will be asked to pay in cash at the time of the visit. Your insurance company can then reimburse you.