Aug 7, 2019
In Japan there are basically two kinds of hospitals -- big hospitals that treat all kinds of conditions and small clinics that focus on a certain speciality.
In Japan you cannot just walk into a big hospital when you feel sick. Well theoretically you could but in most hospitals you will not be accepted without a letter of introduction from a smaller clinic. I once went to one big hospital here in Japan without a letter and without doing much prior research and was sent back home.
Even if the hospital accepts you the initial fees will be much higher without a letter of introduction . Therefore unless it is an emergency it is usually better to find a local clinic first and get a letter of introduction from them. Without a letter of introduction, the hospital will charge you a fee between 3,000 to 10,000 yen for initial acceptance. The fee for issuing a letter of introduction is only 750 yen with regular health insurance.
As for smaller clinics in Japan, you are basically free to choose which one you would like to go. In Germany, for example, in most cases, you will have to go to a general practitioner first that will then send you to a specialist if they can't deal with your condition. In Japan that is not necessary. If, for example, you already know that there is an issue with your thyroid you can go to an endocrinologist straight away. It is also possible to visit a clinic for psychosomatic medicine without consulting any other doctor beforehand. In my experience, most don't do any tests to rule out physical causes for your condition and just prescribe medication, so one should be careful with that.
If you are unsure which kind of clinic in Japan is right for you, you should visit a 内科, (naika) a clinic for internal medicine. Naika clinics can do general tests and point you in the right direction or if necessary, issue an introduction letter for a bigger hospital.
There is also this website where you can search for hospitals and clinics in Tokyo based on condition, location, language availability etc. The English version is only a machine translation so have that in mind.
If you are able to read Japanese and would like to have some opinions of former patients you can check Google Maps. A lot of clinics and hospitals have entries there with some people writing reviews.
What is your experience with finding clinics and hospitals in Japan?
Hi, I’m Eli. I’m from Germany and moved to Japan a few years ago. I am a typical nerd and like collecting Pokémon merchandise.Follow me on twitter (@hannari_eri) for the latest nerd News from Tokyo. I also write a blog in German over here. https://lifeinjapanisstrange.wordpress.com/