What To Do When You Are Sick In Japan
You are finally in Japan! You are traveling around the country and enjoying your experience.
Suddenly, you don’t feel too well. A headache that will not go away. A stomachache that makes eating difficult. Or perhaps you had a fall or accident and have injured yourself.
Falling sick or getting hurt in a foreign country can be scary. To ease your worries about your trip, here is some information for you about what to do when you are sick in Japan.
For A Real Emergency
If you are staying in a hotel, you should be able to get help from the hotel staff. They will most likely call 119 for you.
If you are on a train or in a station, you should be able to get help from the station or train staff. Most trains and stations have an automated external defibrillator (AED) in case of a heart attack.
A good idea is to write down a list of medications you are taking and the health conditions you have. You can keep it in your wallet or with your passport. You could also give a copy to your traveling companion as a backup. This will help if the doctors and medical staff need to know something important about your health. If you have an allergy to any medicines, it is also important to make a note of that as well.
A 119 call will send an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital or treatment center. A travel companion may accompany you.
At the hospital, you will be treated in the emergency department. Depending on the diagnosis and treatment, you may be admitted to the hospital or transferred to another facility that can treat you.
Travel Health Insurance
A good idea before traveling abroad is to purchase some travel health insurance.
Japan has a national health insurance system. As it only applies to residents of Japan, you will have to pay all charges for your health care. Payment is generally cash or credit card only.
If you have private insurance that covers outside country travel, then it is important to contact the provider to see what is included and what is not included.
If you do not have such coverage, then there are lots of options available for health insurance when you travel.
Most travel insurance packages cover healthcare and trip cancellation costs. Below is a list of different providers for travel health insurance. This information is subject to change.
Visiting from the USA
AIG Travel Guard (https://www.travelguard.com/travel-insurance/plans)
Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (https://www.bhtp.com)
AXA Travel Insurance (https://www.axa-travel-insurance.com/travel-insurance-stores/travel-insurance-US)
Your existing health insurance and/or credit card may have travel coverage.
Visiting from the UK
Allianz Assistance (https://www.allianz-assistance.co.uk)
Aviva Travel Insurance (https://www.aviva.co.uk/insurance/travel-insurance/)
Visiting from Canada
TD Insurance (https://www.tdinsurance.com/products-services/travel-medical-insurance)
RBC Travel Medical Insurance (https://www.rbcinsurance.com/travel-insurance/travel-medical-insurance.html)
Manulife CoverMe (https://www.coverme.com/?province=ON&agecode=0)
Your provincial health insurance may have coverage for travel outside Canada. It is important to check with each program.
Visiting from Australia
Medibank Travel Insurance (https://www.medibank.com.au/travel-insurance/)
Allianz Travel Insurance (https://www.allianz.com.au/travel-insurance/)
Hospitals and Clinics in Tokyo
As the largest city in Japan, Tokyo has a lot of hospitals and clinics, ranging from small size single-doctor offices to campus-type university hospital centers.
If you are not in a medical emergency – something life threatening – but still feel unwell or unable to move about as you were previously, the following clinics and hospitals have English-speaking staff and/or internationally-trained doctors who can help you.
Sendagaya International Clinic
Station(s): Sendagaya (JR Chuo-Sobu Line), Kokuritsu-Kyogijo (Oedo Line
Website for information can be found here: https://www.sendagaya-ic.com/en/
Note: Many western brand hotels recommend this clinic as it is convenient to Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi.
International Health Care Clinic
Station(s): Shimbashi (JR Yamanote Line, Asakusa Line, Ginza Line, Yurikamome Line)
Website for information can be found here: https://www.ihc-clinic.jp/en/
Note: This clinic works a lot with hotels as it very close to major train lines.
St. Luke’s International Hospital
Email Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Station(s): Tsukiji (Hibiya Line), Shintomicho (Yurakucho Line)
Website for information can be found here: https://hospital.luke.ac.jp/eng/
Note: They have all medical departments and English-speaking volunteers/guides. Hospital signage is bilingual.
Keio University Hospital
Station(s): Shinanomachi (JR Chuo-Sobu Line), Kokuritsu-Kyogijo (Oedo Line)Website for information can be found here: http://www.hosp.keio.ac.jp/en/
Note: They have all medical departments and many English-speaking staff. Some signage is bilingual.
Tokyo International Dental Clinic Roppongi
Station(s): Azabu-Juban (Oedo Line and Namboku Line)
Website for information can be found here: https://tids.jp/english/
Hospitals and Clinics in Osaka and Kyoto
If you are visiting Osaka and Kyoto – Japan’s popular destination cities -, there are several hospitals that you can receive treatment in both an emergency and non-emergency situation.
Osaka Lee Clinic (Osaka)
Station(s): Nazakicho (Tanimachi Line)
Website for information can be found here: https://goleeclinic.com/en/#Access
Yodogawa Christian Hospital (Osaka)
Station(s): Hankyu Kunijima (Hankyu Line), Sozenji (Sakaisuji Line)
Website for information can be found here: http://www.ych.or.jp/en/
Sakabe International Clinic (Kyoto)
Station(s): Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae (Tozai Line)
Website for information can be found here: http://www.sakabeclinic.com/english/
Kyoto University Hospital (Kyoto)
Station(s): Kyoto-kawaramachi (Hankyu Line), Higashiyama (Tozai Line), Jingu-Marutamachi (Keihan Line)
Website for information can be found here: https://www.kuhp.kyoto-u.ac.jp/english/index.html
Getting Medicine at a Pharmacy
If you are in need of medications or over the counter medicines, there are a lot of pharmacies in most cities.
At a hospital, you can get your medication at the in-house pharmacy. This is ideal as it saves you time and the cost will be included in the total you pay when you leave.
If you are going to a small clinic, chances are the clinic will have several pharmacies nearby that they work with.
For example, Sendagaya International Clinic will often recommend a pharmacy round the corner from the office. The staff speak English there as well.
You will be given a prescription slip with the medications and your information on it. Make sure that it has a red stamp on it. This is to show that the prescription is a genuine one.
For over the counter medicines, chain stores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi and Sun Drug are all around the country. Some stores are only pharmacies that dispense prescription medicines. Others have food, household products, beauty care products and OTCs in addition to pharmacists.
You can get aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen/nurofen at every drug store. There are also OTC stomach, medicines if you need them.
In general, medications and OTCs are available in much smaller doses. This is due to government regulations; it will be harder to get higher dosages of some medicines in some cases.
Things to consider before coming to Japan
Unexpected things can occur any time in life. If you have any medical issues, it is important to consider what can happen on your trip in Japan. Here are some things to remember before starting your trip.
If you have prescription medications, make sure that you have enough supply before you come to Japan. If you run out of the medication, you would have to need to get a doctor’s prescription for it, and it could either cost you more money out of pocket, or the medicine cannot be sold in Japan.
Some medications are not allowed in Japan at all. This includes any medication with amphetamines in it, marijuana and CBD, pain, depression and ADHD medicines, whether prescribed or over the counter. If you are caught with these medications, you may face arrest, even if the prescription is valid in your home country.
If you will be in Japan for an extended time or your medication is critical for your health, you can obtain permission to bring it into the country. Please check with your country’s Japanese embassy for details.
If you have a prior health condition, it is important to check with a doctor before starting your trip in Japan. A good idea is to write down your health conditions and your medications, and have it on you at all times so it can be easily given to someone in the event of a health emergency.
Having a Safe Trip
For you, Japan might be a once in a lifetime trip. It is important to be prepared just in case something happens, especially if you have any prior health problems.
Making sure you have your medicines that you need with you will help you avoid going to a hospital or simply coping and getting by until you go home.
Getting enough exercise is also important. For most people, Japan is a long flight away – anywhere from 7 hours to 15 hours away! Standing up, walking around and stretching on the airplane will help you avoid getting economy class syndrome, something you don’t want to deal with during your Japan trip.
Tokyo and other Japanese cities require a bit of walking. It is great to stay healthy, but for some people, it might be too much to walk. A good idea is to book a hotel closer to a train station. That way you do not have to walk far.
Japan has all 4 seasons, so it is important to be prepared for the weather. In winter, it can be cold and dry, but trains and shops can be very warm, so layering your clothes will help you avoid being too cold or too hot. You can get heated drinks at vending machines to ward off chills.
Japanese summers are hot and humid, so lighter clothing is good, though you might want to bring a sweater if you are going to be inside long as the air conditioning sometimes gets cold as well. When it is hot, it is important to drink lots of water, and there are enough vending machines around Japanese cities where you can get something you like.
If you run into health trouble of any kind, there are treatment options available for you.
We want your trip to Japan to be fun-filled, memorable and above all, safe for you.