Seeing a doctor in Japan


I thought I might as well post something that may be of use to anyone new to Japan and the medical system over here.

Although I've only been here for just over a month, I've already been to see a doctor twice! Once for my son, and once for me when I got the flu last week.

Firstly, going to see a doctor in Japan, is not like Australia. In Australia, you make an appointment before you arrive, turn up to the doctors at that time and (if you're lucky and they are running to time), you will see the doctor for your allotted 15 minutes, pay, and then leave.

The process over here is much much more laborious.

Firstly, I needed to take my son to the doctor to get the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine and a Tuberculosis skin test so that he would be allowed to start at his kinder. In order to be able to see a doctor, we first needed to go to the local village office so they could give us a "form" that basically outlined the vaccination we needed to get, and once we had that, we were able to go to the clinic クリニック. We were advised that the clinic opened at 9am, so arrived on time, however soon found out that we were actually number 21 in line to see a doctor with an estimated wait of 2 hours! I've now realised, that the doctor starts seeing patients at 9am, however, the reception counter is open much earlier....
The process involved a nurse first of all, checking my son's weight, temperature and medical history, then a further wait until we were called in to see a doctor for the first vaccination, then being sent to wait in the waiting area again, before my son could receive the second (more traumatic) TB skin test needle. All in all we were at the clinic for 2 and a half hours.

The process I went through to see a doctor when I had the flu was very similar. It involved being checked by a nurse, then being seen by a doctor to have the flu test, then more waiting around, seeing the doctor again for the flu test result (I never knew they could diagnose flu by testing your snot!) and getting a prescription for Tamiflu (wonder drug!). It all sounds relatively simple, however again this took over 2 hours, when all I wanted to do was take my fever of 39 and go back to bed and sleep.

I was lucky in that the clinic near me has english speaking staff, and therefore can explain things quite easily, however if not, I would recommend getting a Japanese friend or colleague to help with making an appointment for you if you need one.

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