Be Smart and Plan Ahead for Medical Emergency


In a foreign country, being sick can be quite frightening and often it happen at the worst time, like late at night or on a weekend. It will save you both time, money and most of all worry if you plan a bit ahead so that when you need medical help, you know where to go.

Finding a Doctor!

  • Identify the needs of your family.
  • If someone in your family has a chronic condition you need to find a specialist.
  • If your family is basically healthy the best choice would be to find a user-friendly clinic in the neighborhood for simple illnesses, such as a cold. If the need for a specialist arises, your doctor can then make a referral to a hospital.
  • In many countries you would go to what is called a GP (General practitioner), here in Japan an internist "naika-i (内科医)" is closest to this.
  • Finding a doctor who specialized in pediatrics should of course also be a priority if you are accompanied by children.
  • Ask friends and coworkers to recommend a clinic. Word of mouth is often your best reliable sources.
  • Many local City offices have a list of foreigner-friendly clinics and hospitals.
  • AMDA international medical information center has an extensive list of doctors nationwide.
  • Help lines, like TELL (Tokyo Life Line) have a list of doctors/clinics/hospitals and support groups as well.

Finding a clinic/doctor that you feel comfortable with will require some time and legwork. But you will be glad you did.

Public Health Centers

  • Public health centers provide a variety of preventive health care services that foreigners too are eligible for.
  • General health checks, women's health checks, children's health checks and vaccinations are usually available. They are quick, thorough and cheap, often even free. If needed , you will be referred for further checks/treatment to a specialist/hospital.
  • The public health center is also a good place to start asking questions if you have a family member/child that requires special care.
  • Check with your local city office for details.

Plan for Emergency

  • Know where the nearest 24 hour emergency hospital is.
  • Have phone numbers of hospital and clinics near the phone.
  • Place health insurance card and patient ID cards in a special folder in a place that your family knows about.
  • Prepare a First Aid kit.
  • If you are single, tell a friend or coworker where you keep insurance and health records.
  • Always take your insurance card with you when traveling.
  • Make sure all the family members know the number for calling the ambulance.
  • The number to call in an emergency is 119!
    This will bring either an ambulance or fire engine or both to your home. Be sure to ask for an ambulance "kyukyusha (救急車)". If you can’t speak, leave the phone of the hook and your call will be traced.
  • The Japanese word for fire is "kaji (火事)".
119Fire Department telephone number
110Police telephone number

Have a look at this Anna Hotline for more on emergency procedures.

Each culture has its own thinking and traditions about what is proper medical care.
When comparing Japan and your home country, you don't have to decide that one is right and the other is wrong. Just bear in mind that they are different and that they offer you new alternatives that you might not have thought about before.

Also, you are always welcome to contact JISTEC for advice. Useful Telephone Numbers are Here !