There are several types of medical treatment facilities available in Japan in case of illness or injury. To prepare yourself for unexpected health issues, it is a good idea to know in advance what types of medical facilities are available in your neighborhood.
Medical treatment facilities in Japan are largely divided into two categories: small-scale facilities such as clinics and doctor's offices that may be called iin, shinryojo, or kurinikku; and large-scale general hospitals or sogo byoin that comprehensively cover multiple specialized departments. Either category of facility may be referred to as byoin in Japanese.
Iin, Shinryojo, Kurinikku (Clinic)
Many are operated by privately-practicing doctors and can cover limited specialty areas. You should go to these private clinics when your symptoms and/or conditions are rather mild, such as when you just have a cold or a slight injury. Doctors are also available to see you and answer your questions when you have concerns regarding your health.
Sogo Byoin (General Hospital)
Sogo Byoin are healthcare facilities that cover multiple specialty areas and are equipped to conduct various examinations and care for inpatients. You should go to the general hospital when you are seriously ill or injured and need an operation or hospital treatment.
To see a doctor at the sogo byoin, patients are often required to obtain a referral from a clinic or another smaller healthcare facility. Therefore, when you have a medical concern, you should first go to a local clinic or doctor's office and ask for a referral if the doctor believes you need to receive more specialized care at a larger medical institute. It is important that you find a doctor in the community who you can trust and consult with your question and concerns.
You may search for an appropriate medical facility over the phone or on the Internet based on the location, areas of specialties, and available languages. You may also want to ask your neighborhood friends to see if they can recommend any local clinics.
Support by phone is available in foreign languages. In addition to information about medical facilities with foreign language speaking staff, advisors can also answer your questions regarding the health care system in Japan.
|Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Medical Information Center
Foreign Language Assistance
|03-5285-8181||English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish||Daily
|AMDA International Medical Information Center||03-5285-8088||English, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish||Daily
|Portugese||Mon., Wed., fri.
|SHARE (Service for the Health in Asian & African Regions)||050-3424-0195
(Consultation about health or AIDS)
University Hospital Medical Information Network
The following websites list university hospitals whose doctors and/or staff speak English and/or other foreign languages.
※In case emergency illness during nighttime or holidays
Please refer to the following webpage for information on what to do in case of sudden illness or injury and how to find hospitals and clinics that are open during the nighttime or holidays.
Most medical facilities in Japan take patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Some institutes may require an appointment. Make sure to call the hospital/clinic you are visiting in advance to inquire about their office schedule, as some general hospitals are often open only in the morning.
What to bring to a hospital/clinic
- Health insurance card: You will be responsible for all the cost of treatment if you cannot present it upon your visit.
- ID: You may be asked to show your ID such as your resident card or passport.
- Medications you are currently taking: You may bring a document describing the medications instead.
- Cash: Payment can be made only in cash at most medical facilities.
When you see a doctor
[ On the first visit ]① Present your health insurance card at the reception and tell them that this is your first visit to the office.
② You will be asked to fill out an interview sheet to provide information regarding your current conditions and medical history.
③ Wait for your turn in the waiting room.
④ When your name is called, enter the examination room. After examining your condition, your doctor may conduct a test and/or apply treatment as needed.
⑤ When the examination is finished, go back to and wait in the waiting room.
⑥ When your name is called, go to the reception and receive your health insurance card, patient registration card, and prescription. You will make payment at this point. Make sure to save a receipt.
[ Returning to the Hospital ]
You only need to bring your patient card when returning to the hospital. However, you may be asked to show your health insurance card again upon the first visit in a new calendar month.
How to obtain medications
① Go to a nearby pharmacy and present the prescription you received at the hospital/clinic.
② When your name is called, receive the medications and make payment.
You may be directed to receive your medications at a pharmacy located within the medical facilities.
- How doctors examine and treat their patients vary among different countries and cultures. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to ask your doctor.
- If you have special conditions, such as food and/or drug allergies or religious beliefs that require certain limits in your daily life and/or choice of medical treatment, you should make the receptionist or nurses aware of it before the examination.
- Having good communication with the doctor is the key to receiving an accurate examination and diagnosis. If you are not confident in your Japanese, it is always better to have someone who speaks Japanese come with you.
You may obtain a medical questionnaire form in foreign languages, which should be helpful in describing conditions of your illness or injury to the doctor.