Nobody likes to be sick, especially in a foreign country! However, you shouldn’t let the language barrier keep you from visiting the doctor and taking care of your body in Japan. Japanese doctors are very professional and willing to help, even when communication is difficult. Also, thanks to health insurance in Japan, a trip to the doctor is affordable. Generally insurance will pay for 70% of the cost. Let’s learn some simply vocabulary and sentences you will use when visiting the doctor to reduce anxiety. Especially if you are working as a caregiver, it is important to stay healthy at all times. Learn how to work in Japan as a caregiver here!
In Japanese, “hospital” is 病院 (byouin). If you need help finding the nearest hospital or clinic, you can ask using this phrase:
ichiban chikai byouin wa dok desu ka?
Where is the nearest hospital?
There are many small clinics in Japan, so you should be familiar with the one nearest you. Japanese people often go to these clinics for even minor illnesses like the common cold, so don’t hesitate to go see the doctor even if you are experiencing discomfort.
Important Vocabulary for Visiting a Japanese Hospital
When you first walk into the clinic or hospital in Japan, you will need to present your health insurance card, or 保険証(hokenshou), to the front desk. Depending on your situation, you may have health insurance issued by your company called 社会保険 (shakai hoken) or 国民健康保険 (kokumin kenko hoken), which is issued by the Japanese government.
When you arrive, you may hear the question “初めてですか (Hajimete desu ka)” in Japanese, which means “Is this your first time?”
If it is your first time, or 初診 (shoshin), reply saying “はい。初めてです。(Hai. Hajimete desu.)”
You will be asked to fill out a form. Usually this form requires you to write your name, address, reason for visit, allergies, and general medical history.
After all of your paperwork is finished, and it is your turn, you will be called into the examination room or 診察室 (shinsatsu shitsu). The doctor or nurse will be waiting for you and ready to hear about your symptoms. They will likely use the phrase “今日はどうされました (kyou wa dou sare mashita)？” which means “What brings you here today?”.
Health issues can be divided into two categories: minor illnesses (軽い病気 karui byouki) and serious illnesses (重い病気 omoi byouki). Here is a list of common symptoms that bring people to the hospital.
- Fever: Netsu (熱 / ねつ)
- Flu: Influenza: (インフルエンザ)
- Diarrhea: Geri (下痢 / げり)
- Constipation: Benpi (便秘 / べんぴ)
- Common cold: Kaze (風邪 / かぜ)
- Cough: Seki (咳 / せき)
- Food poisoning: Shokuchuudoku (食中毒 / しょくちゅうどく)
- Runny nose: Hanamizu (鼻水が出る / はなみずがでる)
- Norovirus: Norouirusu (ノロウイルス)
- Hay fever: Kafunsho (花粉症 / かふんしょ)
- Bronchitis: Kikanshien (気管支炎 / きかんしえん)
- Vomit: Haku (はく)
- Dizziness: Memai (めまい)
Another important Japanese word to remember is 痛い (itai), which means “hurts” or “is painful”. You can add this word to any vocabulary that refers to a body part to express pain in that area. For example:
atama ga itai.
I have a headache.
Here are some important body parts to remember in Japanese. Have a look at the Japanese vocabulary list below.
Head: Atama(頭 / あたま)
For or Leg: Ashi (足 / あし)
Nose: Hana (鼻 / はな)
Finger: Yubi (指 / ゆび)
Arm: Ude (腕 / うで)
Hand: Te (手 / て)
Ear: Mimi (耳 / みみ)
Eye: Me (目 / め)
Chest: Mune (胸 / むね)
Stomach: Onaka (お腹 / おなか)
Body: Karada (体 / からだ)
Throat: Nodo (喉 / のど)
In case of an emergency, the number in Japanese is 119. Use the phrase 緊急です！(kinkyuu desu!) to declare an emergency. To call an ambulance in Japanese, use the word 救急車 (kyuukyuusha). English speakers are not always available on the emergency lines, so be prepared to describe your location in Japanese or ask for help from someone around you.
Staying healthy is very important when living abroad in Japan. The extra stress of working in a foreign country can make you especially vulnerable to illness. Take care of yourself!
For more information on how to stay safe during the novel coronavirus outbreak in Japan, please read here.