Apr 18, 2016

Healthcare for foreigners in Japan

A recent but prolonged illness forced me to cancel much of my plans to travel and study in Japan and remain in Australia for the foreseeable future.  Between the surgical consultations and medication, my savings and holiday leave evaporated requiring me to start over again.

Perhaps it was fortunate that this occurred in Australia where my wife could drive me to hospital in the middle of the night and explain the situation as I was in no condition to communicate.  I would hate to attempt to describe my condition with my limited Japanese, especially trying to mime the symptoms, when I was almost delirious.

In Australia, much of our healthcare is publicly funded by the taxpayer – although private health insurance is encouraged by our government's obsession with cost cutting.  Due to the tight budget, the consequence with both the emergency department and the hospital stay itself is the approach of “treat 'em then street 'em” - deal with the immediate problem and then as soon as the patient is out of danger, handball them back to their General Practitioner.

Should I have fallen ill in Japan, I find myself wondering what the situation would have been.  I've known people who visited America and fell ill or were injured during their stay, only to have doctors refuse to treat them because they didn't have the right kind of insurance.   Having injured their back, one was required to pay cash upfront for treatment, the other had to administer their own treatment – the family she was staying with were all doctors but couldn't help her, but did show her how to inject herself.

Previous study trips I have taken have been to places where comprehensive coverage was available for a modest annual fee with a local hospital, or covered by my own travel insurance for shorter stays – the arrangement being that once I was out of danger, I would be flown back to Australia for the remainder of the treatment required.  These have typically been “tourist destinations” and often operated by Australian businesses.

I would be interested in learning other people's experiences with healthcare in Japan – how much was covered by different insurance schemes versus how much they were out of pocket, what difficulties they encountered both in communication and if they encountered any discrimination.  Even differences in treatment between cities and rural areas.



Endeavouring to find a way to combine my fascination with Japan with my Christian faith and my multi-media artistic pursuits.


  • SalarymanJim

    on Apr 18

    During my teaching days in Japan, for most of that time I was on some kind of private insurance at about 10,000 yen a month. I never called on it, actually. Almost everyone told me it was worthless and wouldn't be accepted. On the occasions when I did need treatment, I would always just pay for it upfront without even bothering to try and explain what insurance I had. It was only minor stuff anyway. All that being said though, I have been to a clinic in Tokyo that wouldn't accept national health insurance. As someone who wears contact lenses/glasses, national insurance here covers some of that, which is great, as basic eye treatment/checks up are not covered where I come from.

  • Babei1096

    on Nov 18

    I have a little knowledge about healthcare in japan since I used it everytime I got hospitalized. If you are paying there kokumin hoken (government insurance ) or shakai Hoken( private insurance) Then you are entitled for 30% if you are only used it for check up ,but if you are hospitalized, you will be given a bracket of how much will you only pay for a month. It depends on how much you pay to the healthcare. In my case I undergone surgery and I was admitted for 10 days and my bill is only 70,000 yen. And I was also being chemotherapy and I only pay 20,000 yen for every session. And one thing they also pay my leave of absences 60% of my salary. your company will do it for you they will just give you the application form and you give it the hospital for medical certificate.

  • Tomuu

    on Jan 16

    I'm similar to others here. Early on during my time in Japan, I just wouldn't go to the doctor as I was unsure about the coverage I had. I'm on 'national insurance' now though, so I just pay for 30% of the bill, if I go that is.