With the Covid restrictions gradually being lifted, many of you may be planning to travel or stay longer in Japan. Japan is basically a safe country and highly recommended for travelers with children, but there may be times when you find yourself in trouble, not knowing how to handle the situation.
Let's talk about one of the biggest concern when you are taking your child with you: "What do I do when my child is sick? What should I say?"
My child is not feeling well! What should I do??
Children tend to get sick easily when the environment changes or if they are tired. It would make both you and your child impatient when they become ill in a foreign country. Medical systems differ from country to country, so it is necessary to simulate the situation beforehand. Allow me to first introduce the process of a typical medical examination in Japan.
Where should I go?
There are many small hospitals in every town in Japan. You don't usually need an appointment and you can go to see a doctor even if it is your first time in town. Hospitals have various specialities, such as internal medicine and surgery, but if your child is unwell, see a "paediatrician" (Shōnika) first.
What do you need?
・ID (passport, etc.)
・"Insurance card", "medical ID" (if you have one)
Japan has a universal health insurance system and all foreigners, including long-term residents in Japan, have an "insurance card". If you have an insurance card, you can receive treatment at 30% of the medical costs.
In addition, children (generally up to junior high school age) are issued with a "medical certification" and subsidised, although the amount varies from town to town.
In many cases, treatment costs for medical consultations for travellers without a Japanese "insurance card" will be paid once in full and returned later by the home country's insurance system. Check the insurance conditions for receiving medical treatment abroad before leaving your country.
What's the process?
When you enter the hospital, first explain your situation at reception. It is rare for English-speaking staff to be available at hospitals in local towns, so it is useful to prepare a Japanese translation beforehand.
Follow the instructions of the staff and fill in a form with your symptoms and other information needed for the examination. Note that some hospitals have long waiting times.
Wait in the waiting room until your name and reception number are called. Then you can see the doctor.
After the examination, return to the waiting room and pay the bill at the reception. When you pay, you will be issued with a "prescription", which you will need in order to pick up your medication.
Note that in Japan, the medicine is usually received at a "prescription pharmacy", and not at the hospital itself. Pharmacies are usually located near hospitals. The process is complete once you have submitted your prescription at the pharmacy's reception desk and received your medicine. If you have any questions, be sure to ask each time.
Japanese hospitals do not often explain consultation fees in advance, so it is advisable to ask the receptionist for an approximate amount before the consultation.
Japanese expressions for use during medical examinations
Netsu ga arimasu. I have a fever, She/He has a fever
This term is used when a person has a fever. In Japan, the standard for fever is 37.5°C or higher, but Westerners generally have a higher normal temperature than Japanese, so it is advisable to inform them of your normal temperature as well. (In many cases, due to covid, a visit to a 'fever outpatient clinic' is required, so please call in advance to confirm).
Atama ga itai desu. I have a headache. She/He has a headache.
Used when you have a headache.
Seki ga demasu. I have a cough. She/He has a cough.
Used when you have a cough.
Hanamizu ga demasu. I have a runny nose. She/He has a runny nose.
Use when you're having a runny nose.
Nodo ga itai desu. I have a sore throat. She/He has a sore throat
Used when you have a sore throat.
Onaka ga itai desu. I have a stomachache. She/He has a stomachache.
Used when you have abdominal pain.
Geri gimi desu. I have diarrhea. She/He has diarrhea.
Used when there are symptoms of diarrhoea.
Benpi Gimi desu. I have constipation. She/He has constipation.
"Gimi" gives the nuance of I feel like. Diarrhoea and constipation can feel like dirty words, so adding "Gimi" gives a slightly lighter impression, but it is also fine to just say Geri desu. Benpi desu.
Hakike ga shimasu. I feel nauseous. She/He feels nauseous.
Used when you feel nauseous.
( - do) Haite shimaimashita. I/She/He threw uｐ （- times）
Say this if you have already vomited.
In addition to the current symptoms, you will also be asked, "How long have you had these symptoms?", so it is important to remember words that describe the time of the symptoms.
今日 / 昨日 / 昨夜 / 二日前からです。
Kyou / Kinou / Sakuya / 2 ka mae… kara desu.
From Today/ Yesterday / Last night / Two days ago
In Japan, there are clinics all over the place, even in small towns, so it is a good idea to check them out. Symptoms can be conveyed by words alone, so it is important to remember some of them.
However, if you are worried about not being able to use English with the Japanese staff in an emergency... you can use the following websites.
YOLO This website provides pre-translated medical questionnaires in any language you need.
All Japan Relocation -English Speaking Hospitals
This is a list of English-speaking hospitals in various cities in Japan.
It's always best to stay healthy, but by all means be prepared to deal with any kind of emergencies!