Useful Notes

The health system in Japan, though not as efficient and helpful as in the U.S., is in some ways better than in India. We usually have had a good experience interacting with the Medical Care Providers in Japan. Language is a problem. But we think it is not too much of a problem. Most of the time, there will be somebody available who can communicate in functional English. And the person whom you are interacting with, will get hold of such a person.

Here are some idiosyncracies of the Japanese Health System. (As with other information on this site, this is from an Indian perspective).


  • Doctors usually give very mild medication.
    (Compare this to the Indian scenario where doctors believe in giving as strong and as many medicines as possible !)
  • Doctors inform the patient of the worst case scenario.
    (Compare this to the Indian scenario where doctors generally try to cheer you up and tell you that by the grace of God, you will get well)
  • There is no appointment system. So, you end up spending a lot of time in a hospital.
    Even if you get an appointment, it will be for a slot of time and there will be many guys in the slot. And so you will again end up spending a lot of time in the hospital.
  • Most hospitals are closed on weekends.
    You can still avail of the emergency facilities, but you cannot plan to go on a weekend.

Here is some information which you may find useful :



Calling an Ambulance

Ambulance service is efficient and free of cost. The only minor problem is that atleast initially, you have to talk in Japanese. But it is said that if you can order a pizza in Japanese, you can also call an ambulance. Here are a few ways of calling an ambulance :


Method 1 (you need to talk in Japanese) : 
Dail 119
This is a common number for both the Fire Brigade abd the Ambulance. So, first you need to specify that you want an ambulance.
Say – “Kyukyusha Onegaishimasu”.
Then, whatever the person on the other side says, you go ahead and specify your address.
Say – “Zusho wa” and then slowly speak out your address in a Japanese accent.
Method 2 :
Call the Japan Helpline at 03-3435-8017.
They speak english. They will help you get an ambulance.
Method 3 : 
Dial 119
Do Nothing. Do not disconnect the phone. The people at the other side will trace the call and send an ambulance. Please do not use this method under normal circumstances. This is mentioned here so that you can use this in times of emergency. Or, it may be used by a relative (in times of emergency) who neither speaks English nor Japanese.

Usually the ambulance arrives within 5 minutes.
If you have already been to some nearby hospital and have a card for that hospital, take it with you. If you have a medical insurance card, take it with you.


List of Useful Phone Numbers


Phone Timings Language Purpose
119 24 hours only japanese Calling the Ambulance
03-5285-8181 9-5 weekdays english ok Medical Information – hospitals, medical system in Japan
(Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Medical Information Center)
03-5285-8088 9-5 weekdays english ok Medical Information – hospitals, medical system in Japan
(AMDA Medical Information Service)
03-5285-8185 5pm – 10pm weekdays
9pm – 10pm weekends
english ok Emergency Translation Service – if you need translation while visitng a hospital
03-5774-0992 9am – 4pm
7pm – 11pm
english ok Tokyo English Life Line
03-3435-8017 24 hours english ok Japan HelpLine


List of Useful Medical Terms

Here we will list some medical terms and their Japanese Translations. We are not being exhaustive — mainly because of resource constraints. For terms not listed here, you can check any English-Japanese dictionary. One good online English-Japanese dictionary is here.


General Conditions

English Japanese
Pain Itami
Cold Futsuu no kaze
Pain Itami
Cough Seki
Fever Netsu
Diarreoha Geri
Constipation Benpi
Nausea Hakike
Vomiting Ooto
Allergy Arerugi
Asthma Zensoku
Poisoning Chudoku
Sprain Nenza
Fracture Kossetsu
Pregnancy Ninshin
Physical Exam ; Checkup Kensa
Itchiness Kayumi
Stiff Shoulder Katakori
Injury Fusho
Burn Yakedo
Eczema Shisshin
Bleeding Shukketsu


Body Parts

English Japanese
Head Atama
Eye May
Ear Mimi
Nose Hana
Throat Nodo
Tongue Shita
Tooth Ha
Neck Kubi
Shoulder Kata
Chest Mune
Back Se
Stomach Hara
Hands Te
Legs Ashi



English Japanese
Analgesic (Pain Killer) Chintsu-Zai
Antipyretic (for Fever) Genetsu-Zai
Laxative Gezai



English Japanese
Othopedics Seiki Geka
Gynecology Fujinka
Pregnancy & Birth Sanka
Pediatrics Shonika
Allergies & Skin Diseases Arerugi to Hifubyo



General Terms

English Japanese
Doctor Ishi
Nurse Kangofu
Payment Shiharai
Insurance Hoken
X-Ray Ekkusu sen
Medicine Kusuri
Injection Chuusha



Over The Counter Drugs

Another idiosyncracy which we find in hospitals in Japan is that the drugs which we get in the hospitals do not always have their names and the information regarding the salts printed on them. So, it is not easy to buy more of the same medicine from the medical shops. In general, the medical shops are pretty strict about not giving out prescription-only drugs without prescriptions. The Medical Stores of course have nearly all medicines with labels only in Japanese.

One place where we can get drugs with English lables is in the American Pharmacy. It is close to the JR Tokyo Station. It is in the B1 floor of the Marunouchi building.



Other Sources of Information

The most comprehensive source of information on Health in Japan is the Japan Health Handbook.
It is for 2400 yen and is available in most bookstores which keep English Books (MaruzenKinokunia, …) You can order it from too.

There is another very useful booklet. Unfortunately we do not know the name (the copy we have has the cover missing !). It is not for sale. The back cover says that it can be had from the following address. (we have not tried ordering though …)


Alpha Service Pte. Ltd. Co., 301 Conpo-Mushashi Building, 7-21-9 Nishikasai, Edogawa-Ku, Tokyo. Phone : 03-3869-2071

The AMDA website provides a lot of useful information. This includes documents on the Medical Insurance System in Japan. The link is here.
They also publish booklets. But these seem to be very expensive (over 5000 yen for an 8 page booklet !)