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Hospital System and Being Sick in Japan


March 16, 2018

Getting sick during your holiday is never fun, but we hope that this little guide to Japanese hospitals and being sick in Japan will be useful in case you need it during your trip.

First of all, the definition of hospital is slightly different in Japan than in western cultures. In Europe or the US, a hospital is a place we usually only go to for bigger injuries, emergencies etc. Here in Japan it’s quite normal to visit a hospital for a small check-up, so don’t be surprised if someone proposes to go to a hospital when you’ve caught a cold. Of course, there are big, state-owned hospitals, but there are also many smaller, local, privately owned hospitals. Important to know is that those are likely to be closed on national holidays etc., so it’s best to call them before you make a visit. Depending on where you are from, medical services in Japan might be a bit expensive, so I definitely recommend getting a travel insurance before you come to Japan. Usually you need to pay on the spot and send the receipt to your insurance afterwards, so make sure to take enough money with you and keep the receipt to get a refund by your insurance later.

In case you only need some medicine without a prescription, you can also visit the next pharmacy, the staff usually will give you a variety of options and is really patient and helpful. Sometimes you can also buy medicine at bigger supermarkets like Aeon, Cosmos, Don Quijote etc. It might be that no English-speaking staff is available so it’s best to download a dictionary application for your phone (There are many good options to download for free, like imiwa? for IPhone users and Takeboto or Makimono for Android users to name a few). However, it might prove useful to remember these few phrases:

Please take me to the closest hospital/ pharmacy. – ichiban chikai byouin/ yakkyoku made tsurete itte kudasai.
Where is the next hospital/pharmacy? – ichiban chikai byouin/ yakkyoku wa doko desu ka?
I would like to buy medicine. – kusuri o kaitai (desu).
This is where it hurts. – koko ga itai (desu).
My… hurts. – … ga itai (desu).
I have a fever – netsu ga arimasu.
I have an upset stomach (also used for diarrhea). – onaka o kowashita.
I feel sick. – kibun ga warui / mune ga warui.

We hope that this article will help you if you get sick during your trip in Japan but most of all, that you will not have to use it. Safe travels, stay healthy and enjoy your stay in Miyazaki and all the other beautiful places in Japan!