Japanese Hospitals: What should a tourist expect?

2 years ago when my Dad had a stroke in Japan and we unexpectedly went to a hospital in downtown Japan for over a month, I wrote this post. I had expected to add more throughout my time. But these are the most noticeable differences from me, a pediatric travel nurse in America, while receiving care at one of the Japanese hospitals.


Unique facts I have learned about Japanese hospitals:

  • calling the ambulance (119) is free.
  • most hospitals don't have any private rooms.
    • the international hospital we are at does and we are so thankful.
  • nurses and doctors will act like they have all the time in the world to explain something to you...even if they don't...and they probably don't.
  • speech therapists start with thickened green tea (hojicha) and thickened water to assess swallow.
  • all the doors except the ER doors close outside of business hours (9-5).
  • all visitors must fill out a visitor form and turn it in to receive an id badge allowing you access that one room's floor by QR code.
  • many doctors and nurses get here by bike.
    • we've seen several of our medical team by bike and mom and I both chuckle.
  • rooms are very small (as expected) but they managed to fit in a cot for us and it comes equipped with a refrigerator. however, there are fees to use the refrigerator (on a reloadable money card) and a nightly fee for the cot. The fees are very small but very unlike hospitals in America.
    • Oh, socialist medicine.
  • there is no free wifi throughout the hospital or in patient rooms. the starbuck's cafe on the main floor is the only source at this hospital.
  • on admission paperwork there were many interesting questions. one that I remember was (interpreted to say) "Does the patient want to be aware of the details of their condition?"
    • Our response "Well obviously, what's the other option? To be told everything is sunshine and roses?" To think that not knowing the whole truth is an option seemed a little scary.
  • all nursing care, procedures, and even equipments seems very similar to America. Even with standards like JCAHO.