Getting Sick in Japan

Ben Krieger
October 31, 2014

After waking up this morning on an overnight field trip, I realized that something was wrong with my eyes. A quick look in the mirror told me that something was VERY wrong with my eyes, which scared me because I immediately thought of how impossible it would be for me to set up an appointment on a Friday for a next day visit. After talking with my program advisor, she told me she would take me to the eye doctor as soon as we returned from the field trip we were on, which was 4 hours from the doctor’s office. I thought to myself that she must just be able to set up an appointment in that amount of time, which was still unrealistic to me, but I went with it.

After returning from our field trip, we began walking to the clinic. While talking with my program advisor, I realized she hadn’t even set up an appointment. We were just going to walk into the building and see what happened. Upon walking in, we were given some incredibly simple forms to fill out. After the usual paperwork was taken care of, I was shocked to find out that seeing an eye specialist here is quicker than going to the emergency room in the US. Upon turning in my forms, I waited just one minute until I was called in to see the doctor. Also, my fee for seeing the doctor and getting a written prescription? $12. The actual prescription? $5. Considering that my copay back home for what’s generally thought to be a great insurance company is $25, I was astounded to see the efficiency of the Japanese healthcare system actually saving me such a considerable amount of money.

Just being realistic, getting sick anywhere at any time isn’t fun in my opinion, so being in Japan doesn’t make me any happier to currently be typing with eyes that can’t open fully at the current moment. After speaking with one of my program-mates about how annoyed I was at being sick, they responded with, “Yeah, but at least you’re sick in Japan, right?” My immediate reaction was to be appalled at the fact that they thought it mattered where I was sick, but I realized that there is, in fact, a silver lining to being sick here. That silver lining is: in Japan, you can walk into a clinic with no previously schedule appointment and get treatment. I would never suggest anyone get sick just to see how it works here, but if you do get sick, in most situations you’ll be able to get help very quickly.

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Ben Krieger

Hi all! My name is Ben Krieger, and I am a rising Junior at Miami University in Oxford, OH. I grew up in the Cleveland area as an aspiring professional football player, but clearly that is a path that I've abandoned because I'll be in Japan during my first season away from the game in fourteen years! I'm very excited to be in Tokyo for the fall, and I've been preparing to be able to at least survive in Tokyo by studying Japanese for the first time ever in Beppu, Japan this summer. I may not be great yet, but hopefully you'll watch me grow as I blog my way through the fall program!

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