In order to use the discounts the Japanese health insurance offers, you need to first register for it.

Do this as soon as you arrive in Japan as it is not only recommended to have it, but it is in fact compulsory. According to the law, anyone staying in Japan for over three months should be covered by a Japanese health insurance. For more about insurance, see GaijinPot’s Taxes, Pensions and Health Insurance section.

If you are employed

Your company will typically apply for health insurance on your behalf and deduct a monthly sum from your salary for it. This type of insurance is simply called kenko hoken (健康保険).

After your employer completes all the necessary procedures for applying for a health insurance, you will receive a health insurance card called a kenko hokensho (健康保険証), which you should keep with you at all times.

If you are not employed

If you are not employed full time, your employer does not provide health insurance for some reason, or you are unemployed, you will have to apply for Japan’s National Health Insurance (kokumin kenkou hoken, 国民健康保険) at your local city hall at the health insurance department.

To apply for the national health insurance, you will need:

  • Passport
  • A valid Japanese ID (residence card with your postal address written on it)
  • Hanko (Japanese seal or stamp)
  • My Number card if you have one issued (if not, you may be required to issue one simultaneously)

Once you apply for a national health insurance, your application is typically accepted right away and you will be issued a health insurance card typically on the same day. Again, carry this card with you at all times. If you have this type of insurance, you will have to pay monthly premiums by yourself. These premiums are based on each individual’s age and income and you will receive a slip indicating how much you should pay. You can pay at your local convenience store or through online banking.

If you are in Japan on a spouse visa and you are unemployed, your partner can apply for your health insurance through his/her employer.

In all cases, whenever you visit a Japanese hospital or clinic, be ready to present your health insurance or you will have to pay the full cost.