What to do when you get sick or injured in Japan

Aug 02, 2020

Getting sick or injured is the least thing you want while traveling in Japan, but it still does happen sometimes and getting proper help and health care can be difficult if you’re not fluent in Japanese.

The differences in language and culture are the most common issues you’ll deal with if you get sick or injured in Japan, but still, there’s no need to panic as today we introduce everything you need to know and do when dealing with sickness and injuries in Japan.

See a doctor if you’re sick

If you’re sick and need to see a doctor or go to a hospital while in Japan, the first thing you can do is to call the travel insurance company and ask the affiliated medical institutions nearby your accommodations.

If there are no affiliated clinics or hospitals nearby you, check the “Search Medical Institutions” site by the Japan Tourism Agency, or ask the hotel desks and tourist information centers for information about medical institutions nearby you.

Bring notes about your medical information and history

Not all hospitals have in-house interpreters or staff that speak English. If you’re pregnant or have a particular medical condition, it’s always a good idea to prepare notes about your medical information and history in English.

Make sure to have these notes with you all the time, as they can help to make your experience in Japanese medical institutions a lot smoother, or to work as a written explanation when you’re caught in an accident, or in a condition that leaves you unable to talk.

Important medical information to include is name, blood type, any illnesses currently being treated, any medicines you are taking, allergies, medical history, your religion, emergency contact information, and address of your accommodation in Japan.

What to do if you’re caught in an accident or incident

Accident or incident is something that is avoidable, but sometimes it still does happen out of your expectation.

The first thing to do if you get caught in an accident or incident is to call the Japan’s emergency number 119.

The emergency number will send the ambulance and rescue team to your location, and if you need to get assistance from the police officers, make sure to call the police officer hotline on 110.

Prescriptions and non-OTC medicines in Japan

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines won’t help much if you’re super sick.

You’ll need non-OTC medicines, and the only way to get them is to see a doctor. Small clinics usually have a drug dispensary, but in most cases, you’ll get the prescription and you have to get the medicines at a pharmacy by yourself.

Big hospitals have pharmacies inside their facility, so simply just give the cashier your prescription and you’ll get your medicines.

If you can’t find a pharmacy nearby, you need to find a “prescription pharmacy” or drugstores nearby, featuring the characters 処方箋薬局 (shohosen yakkyoku).

Purchasing OTC medicines in Japan

If the symptoms of your illness are not that severe, you might want to purchase over-the-counter medicines from the nearest drugstores.

Major drugstore chains like Matsumoto Kiyoshi and Kusuri no Fukutaro can be found at major train stations, and you can read our guide on OTC medicines before deciding which medicines to purchase from the drugstore.