Healthcare and Medical Services
An Insider’s Guide to Living in Tokyo
This guide has been designed with the explicit intention to provide expats and travellers with all they need to know about moving to Tokyo.
This exciting chapter covers Healthcare.
Your health is something you have to take good care of. If you don’t look after yourself then you can’t enjoy your new surrounding or job in the city of Tokyo.
Health law and policy is, as expected, different from what you may be used to. If you’ve grown comfortable with a National Health Service then you’re going to sailing into new territory.
But don’t worry, this chapter will bring you up to speed on the healthcare system.
4.1 Health Insurance
In Japan, all residents are required by law to have health insurance. This is part of their universal healthcare system that ensures everyone has access to healthcare. How the healthcare system in Japan works is quite interesting.
For example, citizens of Japan only pay 30% of their medical bills while the government pays for the other 70%. How great is that? If you’re from the US, then you’ll find that quite impressive. However, Brits will find that quite bitter considering they have free healthcare.
If you’re staying in Japan for over a year (why not?) then you’ll be able to get sufficient access to this system. If you’re here for the short term then it may not be worth it for you, but you can still sign up for National Health Insurance (NHI).
When you come to Japan, there are a few health insurance programmes available:
Social Health Insurance (SHI)
If you’re employed full-time by a medium to large company then this is the health insurance you’ll have. OK, there are some different variations but the benefits are all the same (covering operations, checks ups, blood tests, etc). You and your employer both contribute 5% of your salary to this programme.
National Health Insurance (NHI)
If you’re employed by a smaller company or happen to be a student or freelancer then this is the health insurance you’ll have. Most foreigners use this so it may be best that you do. You have to sign up for this at your local authority, and continue to sign up each time you move. The contribution that you have to make is based on your yearly income. You may find that you pay a bit more than what you would on SHI, but the coverage is very similar.
With one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world, you’ll be in the best of hands when you stay in Tokyo.
International Health Insurance
If you choose to use International Health Insurance then you have to be aware that most hospitals in Japan will not accept it. This means that will have to pay your fees to them and then claim back later.
At times like this it is best to check what your International Health Insurance plan covers you for.
Choosing your Plan
When you stay in Tokyo for the long term, you’ll have greater ease of access to their universal healthcare system. If you are staying for an extended period of time then you’ll benefit from one of the insurance plans we’ve already covered; Social Health Insurance and National Health Insurance. Read up on those again if you want to.
Again, with International Health Insurance, you can try and find a plan with your insurer before you leave but it probably won’t be accepted in Japanese hospitals.
4.2 Finding your Hospital
In Tokyo, finding hospitals isn’t that difficult as there are many that you can choose from in a variety of neighbourhoods.
Patients like yourself will be receiving some of the most professional and efficient healthcare that the nation has to offer. You’ll soon find out why Japan has one of the highest life expectancies on the planet (83.3 years).
Below are a list of recommended hospitals:
Kitahara International Hospital
1-7-23 Owadamachi, Hachioji-shi
National Center for Global Health and Medicine
1-21-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku
NTT Medical Center Tokyo
5-9-22 Higashi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku
St. Luke’s International Hospital
9-1 Akashi-cho, Chuo-ku
Tokyo Takanawa Hospital
3-10-11 Takanawa, Minato-ku
Hiroo International Clinic
7F Barbizon34, 4-14-6 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku
Kameda Kyobashi Clinic
4F Tokyo Square Garden, 3-1-1 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku
Nakamura Azabujuban Clinic
2F Azabu-Juban Square, 2-2-10 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku
This isn’t the end of the list though (well, it is for now) as there are still many other hospitals, specific clinics and centres around the city that are more than worth choosing for your healthcare.
4.3 Registering with a Doctor
There are no General Practitioners in Japan, only specialists at clinics and hospitals. This means that you have to make do with those doctors in specific fields. Bear in mind that your local clinic could well be the best option for you rather than a huge hospital.