How to be Sick in Japan

Just the other week I was supposed to meet my tattooable friend in Sannomiya after his second session under the needle. Unfortunately I woke that morning with a fever and stomach ache. After battling through 5 lessons at work, I came home, cancelled the rendezvous and collapsed into bed.

3 days later, after much time spent in bed and in the bathroom, I finally felt it time to go to the hospital (despite my girlfriend suggesting it from day one). In England we don’t go to the hospital for things like this (I was still believing it was food poisoning), if we have to, we go to a GP. But in Japan they don’t have GPs so you end up going to the hospital to see a doctor.
My gf called round a few places to find out what we should do (the hospitals and doctors specialise, so at one point she ended up talking to a brain specialist about my stomach problem – he wasn’t a great deal of help). We headed off to Ashiya hospital.

At the weekends in Japan, hospitals are for emergency only, so we had to go to the ER section.
Not quite as I was expecting. Hospitals you see on tv in Japan, are very hi-tech, expensive looking beasts. And ER’s in England are very busy and full of wounded drunks.
Well, we seemed to go in the back entrance, and from the outside it looked like a very old and run down building, not too dissimilar to an English hospital. The ER however was different. Just a doorman/porter, who took my details and ¥10,000 (they don’t have NHS here), and told me to wait.
The only other people in the tiny corridor was a family who’s child had some eye problem. After about a minute a nurse came out and gave me a thermometer. 2 minutes after that, I was called in to see the doctor. Now that’s service!

I guess this area doesn’t have so many drunken yobs.
My Japanese is not too hot, and even worse when feeling sick, so my girlfriend translated. A quick check over and searching in dictionaries, we decided I probably had acute gastritis. I was given a couple of days anti-biotics and some pain killers and told to come back Monday (this was Saturday, as it was the weekend they could only give me 2 days medicine, hence I had to come back, and also I had to pay the bill…)

The building was quite strange. Old, seemingly run-down (half the lights seemed to be off, and it was pretty deserted), and it had the same hospital smell as Ashford hospital. In fact they were remarkably similar. Also, the ER room was on the 5th floor, but we had to take a lift to the 3rd floor, cross to the otherside of the building and go up in a different lift, but strangely on the way down we only took one lift. Bit confused by that.

Any road up, the medicine started to work, and Monday we went to the hospital again, this time the front entrance. Different experience this time. We went in the front entrance! Had to go to reception and fill in a form, then go to another waiting room and fill in another form. After about an hour wait (it was pretty busy, and the doctors see each patient for 3 minutes), we were called in to the back to see the doc. They are set up in little curtained off areas, lined up next to each other, with a desk, bed and computer. Nurses wander past the connecting area at the back doing the stuff that nurses do.

Big smiley doctor said that I was fixed and nothing to worry about anymore. He also seemed to say that it was ok that I hadn’t eaten for a week as I was fat. – a lot of calories I think were his exact words, but I know what he really meant, cheeky, smiley fella.

Got a prescription and went off to pay.
This in iteslf was very Japanese in it’s bureaucracy, go to one desk with the paper work, wait, get called to another desk, pay money, get some more paper work, go next door to the pharmacy, fill in another form! (think that was the 3rd or 4th!), pay some more money, and then go home.

Cost about ¥18,000 altogether (about £90) and am now a proud owner an Ashiya hospital membership card 🙂

Feel all better, and managed to very quickly replace the 4kg I lost while I wasn’t eating.

Now just got to do all the insurance forms, to get my money back…


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