Hospital In Japan – World Of Japanese Kanji

Nobody plans to become sick or ill, but sometimes it still happens no matter if you maybe currently live in Japan or just visit the North Eastern side of Asia as a short time tourist.

It doesn’t need to be a an earthquake or tsunami in Japan. Not even a nuclear meltdown.

You can end up in hospital by simply hiking on a steep Japanese volcano and suddenly loose your balance by slipping on the wet grass beneath your feet. That’s what I did. :roll:

When? Of course right away only a few days after arriving to Japan. A sudden accident. This leads to the topic of hospitals in Japan. The world famous Japanese health care.

Japan Health Care – Not Your Ordinary Tokyo Hospital

No, this not a story about those cool hospital robots doing people’s boring work tasks, but rather about you as a foreigner visiting or living in Japan and suddenly getting ill.

Because of my volcano adventure – I got an early Japan crisis by flipping on the slope.

So how do you do when you must visit a Japanese hospital being the injured patient?

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I had only experience of the Swedish socialistic system hospitals in Northern Europe. Now I got an insight of the Japanese capitalistic high quality and fast service clinics.

Japanense Furigana – Hiragana Or Katakana Translation

By only being less than a week in Japan it wasn’t possible learn all useful Kanji symbols. Japanese Kanji is the first obstacle you meet when entering a Japanese medical clinic.

Not only do you need to bring your typical pink color medical insurance paper with you which you of course have fixed right away at the city office in the town you live in Japan.

The hospital receptionists only speak Japanese, so your English or in my case five other languages than Japanese do not work here in Japan. Speak Japanese or get in trouble.

Let’s say you don’t know any Japanese. At least you can give your insurance card to them and then sign your name on a paper. Of course it has to be written in Japanese.

You notice all the Kanji names on that paper. Names of other arrived hospital patients. Since you are a foreigner – you don’t write your name in Kanji. Not in Hiragana either.

Instead you are expected to write your name using only Japanese Katakana symbols, beginning with your family name first…and first name last. In my case Akinaga Marko.

Since my name is partly foreign and partly Japanese, then my Japanese family name needs to be written in Kanji while my first name Marko has to be written in Katakana.

After signing your name you may feel that it was an easy task, but that was nothing.

As a thanks for signing your name in Japanese – you’re now given a whole A4 size large paper with medical Kanji symbols. You know it, right?! No English anywhere. Good luck!

You are kindly told in Japanese to go and sit down and wait for your turn (which usually only takes a few short minutes according to my experience) while you fill in the blanks in that damage report and medical history background question paper. Many Kanji symbols.

Sometimes you need to write your name the ordinary way (as explained above), but also complement it by writing it in Furigana. You may wonder what in the world is Furigana?

Furigana is a way in Japan to translate Japanese Kanji symbols to either Hiragana or Katakana. This is a common situation where newbies and foreigners in Japan do wrong.

Please listen up! If the text field saying Furigana is already written in Hiragana – then you need to use Hiragana to translate your name into.

If the text field label on the other hand says Furigana but written using Katakana system syllables – then you need to use Katakana instead.

Do not fill in your name using Hiragana characters if the Furigana label itself is written in Katakana – and the opposite…meaning if the Furigana text is written in Katakana then don’t write your name in Hiragana. Japanese are strict about their rules. Fill it in correct.

That is meant for Japanese people, but you as a foreigner need to follow instructions too.

Forget using Western Roman characters. You need to write with real Japanese symbols.

Doctors Speak English? Communicate Only In Japanese!

Ok, those were the receptionists. Doctors have a higher eduction so they know English? It’s just to communicate in English with the doctor, right? No – forget that! Not in Japan.

I have lived in Japan for a few years now and I have yet not met a doctor nor a nurse who can speak English to communicate with their patient. Only Japanese has worked.

Suddenly you as a foreigner have ended up in an awkward situation if you don’t know your Japanese, not being able to properly describe to the doctor what is wrong – that it even hurts (if you haven’t learned the Japanese word itai to express pain), to ask what to do next or understand where the doctor wants to send you next (maybe to a specialist)?

Tricky situation! Welcome to the real Japan and the society outside of the tourist zones!

Maybe now you understand why I prefer to not go to visit a doctor in Japan unless I really need to…until I know more Japanese. Luckily I have had Japanese relatives helping me out with translation, but it’s not easy to get access to people when they are busy working.

And that was just half of the trouble. The other half comes as soon as you leave the hospital and head out to the nearby pharmacy or drugstore. The neighbor building.

Japanese Drugstore Located On Kyushu Island In Japan

There it starts all over again. Fill in papers full of hard to understand Kanji symbols. Translation into English? Forget that. There is no such. It’s all in Japanese or nothing.

It’s like an IQ test in Japanese for somebody who hasn’t learned all the necessary Kanji. For me to visit medical centers in Japan as a patient is like a difficult language skill test.

Every time I get the same motivating thought – I really MUST learn more Japanese!

How About The Bill? Are Japanese Hospitals Expensive?

First of all – you ought to have a medical insurance in Japan. That is very useful to have.

If you for example need to stay in a hospital for couple of days to get some kind of treatment then you are going to get a hefty bill to pay…before you leave the building.

Luckily for you if you have a Japanese medical insurance then you get back about 70% of the money from the city office once you go there with the receipt of the paid bill.

First you pay the hospital – even though it may be a large sum of money – and then you get your money back from city office by bringing your insurance card and the paid bill.

That way you get back about 70% of the hospital cost. Your Japanese medical card is great to have unless you are very rich and can afford to pay everything without discount.

Japanese hospitals are known for their ultra modern high tech medical equipment as well as competent doctors and specialists. Of course smaller hospitals have less of it, but if your damage or illness needs it – it’s all there for you. Service and treatment right away.

You are taken care of as a premium patient (compared to Sweden), but in order for you to get the most out of your medical visit it is in your best interest to learn the Japanese language. At least if you live in real Japan outside of the main tourist areas…like I do.

It’s a language challenge to end up in a Japanese hospital, but they make sure you heal!

Filed under: Japan Facts

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