Oct 21, 2014

Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan: Eyes Wide Open! Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan

Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan: Eyes Wide Open!
Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan photo

Getting your eyes checked, buying glasses, and stocking up on contacts are the kind of tasks that back home can be a bit of an irritation.  Transplant yourself to a foreign land, swap your native tongue for something else, and such banal chores can turn into a full blown, Right, I’ve had enough of this country!, hassle.

It needn’t be thus.  So, if those shop signs have started going blurry at the edges, or your arm no longer offers the extension you need to read a book, it’s time to get your peepers sorted.  And there are plenty enough places to do this.


Those with tighter budgets should head for Zoff, Megane Ichiba or JINS.  These nationwide stores are pretty ubiquitous, easy and simple.  At Zoff, prices start as low as 3,000 yen.  Megane Ichiba stocks famous brands with prices from 15,000 yen.  JINS have English language information on their website  To get your eyes tested, no appointment is needed, and you’ll be walking away with a pair of glasses within a couple of hours.  The test process is pretty spartan and quite how tailored lenses are to your needs, is unclear, so if you’re condition is more complex, go to an eye clinic first (眼科/ganka).  Testing is done using either the Landolt C chart or katakana alphabet.  If you have a prescription from back home, bring it along by all means, but you’ll still need to get a check-up in the store.  

Glasses are not covered by state insurance policies.  However, if you buy frames and lenses in the above stores, your eyes are checked for free.

Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan: Eyes Wide Open!
Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan photo


Getting contacts will require a visit to the eye clinic (no appointment needed in many), and a prescription.  If you’re on a state insurance policy, this will be covered (a basic check-up costing around 500 yen, 3,000 yen without cover).  If it’s your first time visiting, bring along your residence card and be prepared to write some personal details; name, address, D.O.B, phone number.  You’ll be given a ‘members’ card from the clinic which will save you from any form filling the next time you go.  As with the glasses, you’ll be required to read from a Landolt C chart.  Once the initial checks have been completed, someone will take you through your contact lens options.  For first timers, there will be a bit of a tutorial about how to put them in, as well as some practice at doing so.  The final stage is a brief once over from the actual optician, then its back to reception to wait for your papers.

Great!  You have a prescription!  You’re now free to get some contacts.  Well, free to a certain degree.  That eye clinic you went to will either encourage you to buy lenses from their ‘in-house’ selection, or they will have a relationship with a store nearby and try and push you in that direction.  You’re free to buy from any establishment you chose.  However, once you hand over your prescription, it will not be returned and you’ll be committed to using the same store until your next eye test.

At the store, you’ll be given another members card to lose.  A member of staff will confirm your choice of lenses and ask you how many months worth you wish to buy (if you’re on disposables).  Most stores have plans which mean the more you buy in one go, the cheaper the overall price.  Confirm your order, and the lenses will be brought out promptly.  A pack of 30, no-frills daily disposable lenses starts from around 3,000 yen.  Cheap, permanent lenses can be found for under 10,000 yen (per lens).

There is no limit to how many lenses you can buy in one go.  There is, however, a limit to the validity of your prescription, and after that date has passed (after 6 months) the next time you need contact lenses, you’ll have to have your eyes checked again.

This writer has heard good things about Ace Contact and Eye City, although there is no English on the website.

A quick internet search will reveal a selection of eye clinics that have an English language service.

Experienced lens wearers who are looking to stick with lenses they used back home, often choose to shop online.  The links below are popular.



http://www.lensmode.com/ (Japanese only).

Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan: Eyes Wide Open!
Getting Your Eyes Checked in Japan photo

Key Phrases

I’d like to have my eyes checked. - 目の検査をお願いします- (mei no kensa wo onegaishimasu.)

I’m short sighted. - 近視です- (kinshi desu.)

I’m long sighted. - 遠視です - (enshi desu.)

I have distorted vision. - 乱視です - (ranshi desu.)

It feels uncomfortable. (When trying contact lenses.) - いわかんがあります- (iwakan ga arimasu.)

One day (disposable lens). - 1日用 - (ichi nichi yo.)

2 week lens. - 2週間用 - (ni shukan yo.)

Monthly lens. - 1ヶ月用 - (ikagetsu yo.)

My eyes are dry. - ドライアイです - (dorai ai desu.)

I have a prescription from my home country. - 自分の国の処方せんをもっています。- (jibun no kuni no shohousen wo moteimasu.)



Traveler, surfer, and scribe. Based in Tokyo for six years.