There may come a time during your stay in Japan that you have to see a doctor. It’s unfortunate, and it can make a big dent in your plans, but it is very important that you know what to do and where to go if you are in need of a medical professional. Take note that this article is for non-emergency situations, and that if you are in need of an ambulance, to call 119 immediately.
Seeing a doctor in Japan is usually not too much trouble, even if you don’t speak Japanese. Here are some useful phrases and words you may need depending on your problem, some common kanji you’ll see at clinics and hospitals, and how to tell the difference between a hospital and a clinic, as well as some additional information.
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Words and Phrases
1. Doctor: issha or sensei
2. Clinic: kurinikku (though just saying “clinic” in English is likely to be understood).
3. Hospital: byouin
4. Medicine: kusuri
5. Appointment: yoyaku
6. Prescription: sho-hou-sen
7. Medical insurance: hoken-shou
8. I have medical insurance: Watashi wa hoken-shou wo motteimasu
9. I don’t have medical insurance: Watashi wa hoken-shou wo motteimasen
10. I’m allergic to ____: Watashi wa____ arerugi ga arimasu
11. Contraception: hinin-yaku
Ailments and Problems
12. I have a cough: seki ga demasu
13: I feel dizzy: memai ga shimasu
14: I vomited: hakimashita
15: I have a cold: kaze wo hiiteimasu
16: I have diarrhea: geri desu
17: I’m constipated: benpi desu
18: My ____ hurts: ____ ga itai desu
19. Stomach: onaka
20. Throat: nodo
21. Head: atama
22. Nose: hana
23. Here (if you point at the body part that is hurting): koko
Common Kanji and Words You Will See at Hospitals and Clinics
Here are some common symbols and words that you will see at clinics and hospitals all over Japan.
24. Hospital: 病院
25. Clinic: クリニック
26. Reception desk: 受付 (uketsuke)
27. Pharmacy: 薬局 (yakkyoku)
28. Entrance/exit: 入り口 / 出口 (iriguchi/deguchi)
29. Waiting room: 待合室 (machiai-shitsu)
30. Operation room: 手術室 (shujutsu-shitsu)
Clinics and Hospitals
A hospital is generally larger and you only need to go to these for emergency treatment and surgery. A generalized hospital, a sou-gou-byouin, attends to all kinds of ailments and illnesses. You should only visit a hospital if a doctor has recommended it.
A clinic is a lot more specialized. The clinic you visit will depend on your problem; there are clinics for nose and throat, skin problems, clinics for children, and more. A good thing about clinics is that you don’t need an appointment for most of them (but do check before you go). They are on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s good to go early.
Here are a few types of clinics below:
31. Ear, nose, and throat: jibi-kouka
32. Dermatologist (skin): hifuka
33. Dentist: haissha
34. Children’s: shounika
35. Gynecologist: koumonka
36. Orthopedic surgeon: seikei-geka
37. Mental health specialist: seishinka
The easiest way to find an appropriate clinic in your area is to put the type of clinic into Google Maps, as the app will also tell you the opening times and contact details of the clinic. There are also some sources below that can help you find a doctor, some of whom speak English, though be sure to double check that the data is up to date.