Health Care in Japan

by Jose Marc Castro on August 8, 2009

healthcareFRANCEThe health and the welfare system of Japan are important factors to consider before moving into this fast-growing nation. The general health care in Japan is not only provided free for every Japanese citizen but also for foreigners. Below are some essential and helpful facts and details about the health care in Japan, providing you anything and everything you need to know about the general health issues in Japan.

Japan is an East Asian island country that lies in the east of Korea, China, and Russia. On its north is the Sea of Okhotsk and the East China Sea on the south. Japan’s name means “sun-origin”, which explains why it is called the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan is composed of more than three thousand islands, most of which are mountainous.

General Health Issues of Japan

Japan offers wide varieties of options when you need medical help. Although there are numerous public and private hospitals as well as clinics, there are no ‘family-doctor’ systems. The public health system covers up to 70% of the cost of care and medication for the prescribed drug. Most foreigners have less than better impressions on Japanese medical practitioners. Studying medicine is very much expensive and the rewards it brings are truly rewarding. A lot of Japanese are more focused on their family business so it is normal to see smaller numbers of Japanese doctors. Additionally, medical ethics and bedside manners are not taught in Japan.

Health Insurance in Japan

Japan has one structure of universal health coverage but on how it exactly applies on a person generally depend on different factors: whether you are visiting, working, studying, your age, and some other vital factors. Health insurance is mandated for those who would be staying in Japan for at least a year. Within this requirement, there are two different Japanese health insurance systems and applies also to foreigners in Japan.

Medical insurance is divided into broader categories: the Employees’ Health Insurance and the National Health Insurance that is a community-based system. Membership in any of the scheme is a must. The monthly premiums are calculated differently but are generally based on salaries. Additionally, the coverage for the medical costs varies on the schemes.

The Employees’ Health Insurance are subdivided into different categories but generally applies to people who are working in private schools, in the national and the local government, and medium or large companies. The employers are the ones that provide the health insurance certificates to its employees. The premiums are basically calculated based from the monthly salary of the insured person.

The National Health Insurance in Japan

Anyone staying in Japan for more than a year and is not covered with the Employees’ insurance, you are obliged to apply for the National Health Insurance and also to produce the Alien Registration Card. You are also required to do the same if you will be joining for an employees’ insurance scheme, going back to the country you belong, moving to another town or city, or when you are changing your address or your name.

Health Care in Japan

The Japanese health care system generally provides free screening examinations on some particular diseases, infectious disease control, and prenatal care. This health care system is generally provided both the local and the national local governments. Payments for those personal medical services are offered thru an insurance system called the universal health care. This system provides equality of access, along with fees that are set by a particular government committee.

Although Japan is an industrialized country, it is very notable to see that only very few Japanese practice the medical profession because most of them are focused in the world of technology. In spite of this, Japan still has the best hospitals and clinics, along with the latest equipments in the medical profession.

For foreigners who are planning to stay in Japan, health care is one major factor that should properly be discussed. Perhaps one concern is finding hospitals in Japan that have English-speaking medical staffs. As more and more foreigners are starting to emigrate in Japan, the Japanese government in turn, took its part in providing quality health care for these expatriates. Much to the relief of the emigrants, Japanese hospitals today have a staff of English-speaking medical professionals.

Most of the medical surgeons and specialists in Japan today obtained their diplomas in western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, thus making their techniques reliable and safe. When it comes to medical equipments, emigrants should not be alarmed about this since Japan, being the world’s leading country in technology, provides highly-technical and the latest inventions of equipments designed for medicine.

As with other Asian countries, Japan also has problems of delinquent medical practitioners who over-prescribed. Although the only do this for minor ailments like cough, fever, or colds, these are still very much alarming. These are very common among posh and exclusive estates where the rich and the famous reside. Records show that because these patients can afford, they can easily buy off the medical practitioners to provide them with prescriptive drugs with just a few bucks from their pockets. These concerns have alarmed the Japanese government. Although this problem has greatly minimized this day, there are still some that continue this illegal act.

Planning to Emigrate in Japan?

Once you have learned about the health care issues of Japan, carefully go over them and see the pros and the cons. As much as possible, ask your friends who are already in this highly-industrialized as to the real status of Japan because they are they ones that have lived in Japan.

The Internet is also a possible way to find the right facts about Japan, especially their health care system. Take time to study them. Remember that health is a big issue especially if you are an emigrant to a particular place. You are not used to the normal lifestyle of a place you are new and chances are, you will be having a hard time adjusting.

Japan is a place where industry is fast growing and the life is fast-paced. Spend enough time to review what you need to know about this country so that you will not end up staying in a place you are not comfortable in.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 12, 2009 at 1:46 pm

The above is not true. I live in Tokyo and this does not describe the medical system accurately. There are few drs. that speak English, and even then, they generally do not have western bedside manners. They are not always up to date on the latest medical technology and offer fewer prescription drugs at much lower dosages than western countries. If you have a serious medical condition, you should seriously consider whether or not you want to move to Japan. Even in a cosmopolitan area like Tokyo, you will be very disappointed.


Thane Coxon March 24, 2010 at 4:59 am

I would like to add an extra complaint about this article.

“Studying medicine is very much expensive and the rewards it brings are truly rewarding.”

I don’t know what the rewards are. The government price controls are so strict that Japanese doctors are getting ripped off for their services. This is why there are so few doctors in Japan.

I would love to see all doctors in Japan go on strike until the government lifts price controls.


inChofu May 20, 2010 at 4:09 am

Also you're wrong about it being mandated to join the health care system. It was a proposal that all foreigners would be forced to join the Japanese system as of April 2010 but that was removed:

"Although Immigration will encourage enrollment in Japan’s social
system by distributing brochures, individual offices and officers are
forbidden to pressure anyone to join."

For more info see:


Andrew Grimes June 10, 2010 at 2:28 pm

There is so much that is wrong in this article that it is hard to know which errir to start with. Well how about the obvious lie that, "Most of the medical surgeons and specialists in Japan today obtained their diplomas in western countries " Nope. There are over 270,000 doctors throughout Japan who are licensed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. They are all licensed M.D.s and the vast majority were educated, trained and graduated from Japanese University Teaching Hospitals. Some doctors have also received training in other countries it is true, but they are not the majority and and most of them graduated and were licensed in Japan before going abroad to study. I wonder if this 'article' was computer generated or just hacked.


guest July 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

yeah, this isn't reliable information at all. go to japan, go see a doctor – you will see that the claims of this article are anything but right. try being taken for operation without being told the particulars – like on what, or why – because nobody speaks english. last thing i saw before the surgery was looking down a syringe (for an eye operation under general anaesthetic) before my sight blacked out. at that time, realising it was my eye being operated on but knowing nothing else. oh, and given medication with no dosage information. and this was not a backwater town, this was in tokyo. and btw, my eye required reoperation when i repatriated back home to australia.


guest February 9, 2011 at 2:31 am

Regretful that Japanese health insurance system and service are not so good. Just Backward ! They have only some machine, nothing else. Pity.


guest May 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm

The worst experience a normal western person may have. Often the patient is told to have no rights to get his/her analysis results, therefore you may spend hours to obtain, or to be refused your results which you paid for. On the opposite it happens in my country, it is almost impossible to get a written medical report after a doctor/specialist examination. If you want to change hospital you will need a recommendation letter which is a sealed letter which may also tell that you are a trouble-maker fault finder. I had several serious problems in Japan which a normal may considered at least crazy. The last problem it is spending weeks asking a detailed radiological screen for a obvious big aftereffects by my wrong attached clavicle, while they continue to refuse the examination telling that the patient does not know what he has. At the end, in this Collective culture made of fake gentle etiquette-manners which is very important to protect each other of the same group, you may think what happen when they start to switch to others, which always start to invent new excuses which will drive crazy even a silly goose.


Craig David September 6, 2011 at 2:27 am

Whoever wrote this article should check the facts and start over. 'The general health care in Japan is not only provided free for every Japanese citizen but also for foreigners.' is absolutely, 100% FALSE! Japanese employees pay for it from their paycheck deductions and foreigners pay for it from their paycheck or from their savings. It starts with small payments but they become substantial and sometimes exhorbitant since you pay what the govt. tells you to pay. Free doesn't belong in this article, which is a waste of space.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: