Feeling ill in Tokyo: what to do   医者

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Call 119 for emergencies.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Worst case scenario: you fall ill, or suffer an injury which can't be healed with the simple travel medical kit you've packed. If that happens, you'll need to try and seek treatment in Japan.

First, rest assured care in Japan is usually of very good quality, and clinics, doctors and hospitals abound, possibly to the point of causing confusion! Japan, however, operates with its own particular medical system.

Medical costs are expensive, and it is imperative to have insurance, so check that your insurance includes treatment abroad, otherwise the bills may be steep. If you are insured, you will generally be reimbursed two-thirds of your expenses, the remaining amount will have to come out of your own pocket. This rate can vary depending on the insurance you have.

But to get these rebates you must file the doctor's invoice and his prescription with the ad hoc services, if possible in English (even though insurance generally covers translation). The refund will take a while but will eventually arrive. Please note that if you get treatment in a hospital you will receive two bills, one from the hospital and one from the doctor who saw you.

But more important than all of this, the real problem lies in how to get treatment in Japan when you can't describe your symptoms, and the doctor doesn't understand English.

Fortunately, The Japan National Tourism Organization has a guide that literally saves lives: Guide for when you are feeling ill. This website lists all practitioners who speak a foreign language. You can select the language, specialty and neighborhood. The site gives you all the details and directions to the practice.

In the event that you cannot make your own way there, bear in mind that Japanese doctors rarely make home visits. It's better to call an ambulance (tel: 119, free of charge) by saying the following sentence: "Kyukyusha wo onegai shimasu," followed by your address.

Finally, know that seeking treatment in Tokyo should not be a problem, especially considering the legendary helpfulness of the Japanese. Feel free to ask hotel staff, and they will do their best to assist you.

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