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Yoyogi in Tokyo

4 Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Japan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: Expats and global nomads in Japan share their experiences with health insurance, healthcare in Japan, local hospitals and specialists, quality of medical care and more.

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How are healthcare services Japan?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Japan, they replied:

"I tell them that everyone is under the same health insurance and not to worry about choosing from medical insurance plans. Also, for those with chronic diseases, I would advise them to check if their medicine and care is available in Japan, as a lot of medicine that is available in America is not available in Japan," remarked another expat living in Tokyo.

"Research clinics and hospitals online that are English-speaking beforehand. Contact clinics to ask if they perform certain procedures. Learn some common words to ask for specific things if you have to go to a Japanese-speaking clinic or hospital. Hospitals will not coddle you - you must advocate for yourself and be firm if you are having certain issues. Otherwise they may rush you out after a quick once-over," said one expat living in Tokyo.

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"It is difficult to find English speaking health providers, but they do exist. The healthcare culture is very rushed and you must be clear about what you need, otherwise the doctor isn't going to take the time to figure it out for you," remarked another expat living in Tokyo.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Japan?

"My experience is that the national health insurance is great and easy to enroll in and easy to use. The insurance is reasonably priced and covers 70% of most medical needs. I have not had a problem with the healthcare system yet. I make sure to find an establishment that provides English support and everything is much smoother for me," remarked another expat living in Tokyo.

"I have Social Health Insurance that my job helped set up for me. It's accepted pretty much everywhere as it's a public insurance. I have only needed to do something preventative, though, so I have only paid for medical service in its entirely before," said one expat living in Tokyo.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Japan

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What are emergency services like in Japan?

When we asked about emergency services, members in Japan wrote:

"You for an ambulance by dialing 119. Tokyo is a huge city so I cannot give a recommendation on the best hospitals, as there are a lot of hospitals to choose from and they vary in their care and speciality. I would advise someone to find a hospital that provides English support if they are not comfortable communicating solely in Japanese," mentioned another expat living in Tokyo.

"Emergency services are common and can be accessed by calling 119 for a fire or ambulance and 110 for police. I am a 20 minute public transit ride away from several different hospitals, or a 10 minute drive. The best hospitals in the city are The University of Tokyo Hospital and St. Luke's International Hospital. I am unfamiliar with their care as I have not had to visit yet," said an expat in Tokyo.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Will I need to travel to see a specialist?

"Since Tokyo is such a big city, I would say that people rarely have to leave Tokyo for speciality service or care. You may be moved within Tokyo, but I would be surprised is you were moved out of Tokyo," said an expat in Tokyo.

"Expats likely go anywhere that has English speakers. Healthcare is good here. People only have to pay 30% of reasonable costs for anything covered. Unfortunately, the public healthcare here does not cover anything preventative. Since I still have active health insurance in America, I have visited there to get a child prevention measure done - completely covered," commented one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

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Are common prescription medications available in Japan?

"There are pharmacies in every neighborhood and they are easily accessible and reasonably priced. However, being in Japan, some medications may not be available or provided. Therefore, check which medications are available before moving to Japan," said one expat living in Tokyo.

"Pharmacies are usually attached to hospitals or clinics and require prescriptions. There are drugstores for over-the-counter medicine. Prescription medicine is priced pretty low, depending on what coverage and costs you are used to," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

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"There is a hospital about 15 minutes from my home. Hospitals are everywhere and are accessible. Every hospital I have been to has been of good quality and if it is public or private varies by case," said another expat.

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As a foreigner living in Japan, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"There is a national health insurance that everyone (expats and Japanese people) is enrolled in. Its cost is based off of your previous year’s income. It covers 70% of most medical costs, but preventative care is not covered (flu shots, checkups, etc.). There are public and private hospitals available," commented one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

"I have Social Health Insurance as an full-time employee. National Health Insurance also exists if one's job does not pay for half of insurance. Everyone is entitled to public insurance and may enroll if a resident. It costs me about 5% of my salary (and my employer pays another 5%) based on my salary in the previous year. I was enrolled with no questions of my pre-existing conditions. There are public hospitals, but I have not been to one yet. It is often the case that people with some health issue will go to a local, small practitioner that specializes in that field," added another expat.

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What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?

If you live in Japan, newcomers to Japan would love to hear your answer to this question:

If your answer relates to a specific city or town in Japan, please include the name of the city/town below:


We asked expats in Japan if they have access to public healthcare in Japan. And, if they do have access, what is it like. They wrote...

"Clinics and hospitals have had rules to enter their facilities, like masking, distancing, making sure you're not experiencing symptoms," said an expat in Tokyo.

"Tokyo has managed it very well, and during this outbreak, the standard of medical care there has been superb," commented one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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