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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.

William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

How are healthcare services Japan?

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

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," mentioned another expat 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," commented one expat who moved to Tokyo, Japan.

"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," mentioned another expat living in Tokyo.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Japan?

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

"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," mentioned 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 an expat in Tokyo.

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance in Japan

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.
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What are emergency services like in Japan?

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

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," commented one expat living in Tokyo, Japan.

"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," added another expat.

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Learn MoreGet a Quote

Allianz Care International Health Insurance

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

Learn MoreGet a Quote

Will I need to travel to see a specialist?

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

"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 one expat living 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," mentioned another expat in Tokyo.

Are common prescription medications available in Japan?

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

"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.

"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 an expat in Tokyo.

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

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

"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," added another expat.

"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," commented one expat who moved to Tokyo.

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

Live in Japan? Answer this Question

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

"Tokyo has managed it very well, and during this outbreak, the standard of medical care there has been superb," added another expat.

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.

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
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Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
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Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Allianz Care International Health InsuranceInternational Health Insurance

Get a quote for health insurance from our partner, Allianz Care.
Get a Quote

Japan GuideJapan Guide
Learn what members have to say about living in Japan.

Japan Forum Japan Forum
Talk with other digital nomads and expats in Japan on our Japan forum - meet people, get advice and help others.

Japan Index Japan Index
An index of all of our site's Japan information.

Contribute to Japan Network Contribute
Help others in Japan by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Japan.

Expat Healthcare Advice in JapanHealthcare & Health Insurance in Japan

Expats in Japan offer advice about healthcare, hospital visits, emergency rooms visits, finding a doctor and buying health insurance in Japan.

Real Estate in JapanReal Estate in Japan

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Japan.

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Advice for people renting and buying real estate in Japan.

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Digital Nomads & Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Japan.

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Expats in Tokyo have several neighborhoods worth considering when they move abroad. Individual needs, such as proximity to work, international schools in Tokyo and other factors will help determine the best choice for each expat and expat family.

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