To know where you should go check our article about the difference between hospitals and clinics in Japan first.

At a clinic

It depends on the actual clinic you visit, but typically you don’t need a reservation for your first time visit. You can call in advance if you wish, but you will not be turned down in case you just show up at the clinic.

Once inside, stop at the front reception (uketsuke, 受付) and give them your health insurance card.

If it’s your first visit, tell them:

  • “初めてです。= Hajimete desu.

You will then be given a medical questionnaire form which you will have to fill in. It’s called monshinhyou (問診票) and contains general information about yourself:

  • your name,
  • address,
  • sex,
  • age,
  • past conditions,
  • an inquiry about the purpose of your visit at the clinic.

If you need language support, simply let the staff members know that you need help.

Once you have filled the questionnaire, return it to the reception desk staff and wait for your name to be called. At some point you will be called to enter the doctor’s examination room, where you will once again be asked to answer questions about your condition.

It hurts (When something hurts, point to your body part and say this)ここが痛いですKoko ga itai desu
_ hurts_ 痛い_ itai
I have a headache頭痛ですZutsu desu
I have a bad coughひどい咳がでますHidoi seki ga demasu
I have a fever熱がありますNetsu ga arimasu
I have diarrhea下痢ですGeri desu
I have constipation便秘ですBenpi desu
I feel nauseous吐き気がしますHakike ga shimasu
I’m dizzyめまいがしますMemai ga shimasu
I can’t sleepよく眠れませんYoku nemuremasen
I have something hereここにできものがありますKoko ni dekimono ga arimasu
It’s itchyかゆいですKayui desu
I have rash蕁麻疹ですJinmashin desu

Once the doctor has established what the problem is, he/she will explain it to you and tell you what the next step is. When you’re done, once again go back to the waiting area at the reception desk and wait until you are called to pay.

If you are given a prescription, you will be guided to a nearby pharmacy (usually attached to the clinic or nearby).

Once there, you will once again be asked to fill in a medical questionnaire listing any allergies you have. Pass it on to the pharmacist in charge together with your health insurance and wait until your turn comes. Once you’ve received your medicines, pay and you’re ready to go home.

At a hospital

If you’re in a hospital you’re either there because of an emergency or a more serious condition, or you’ve been referred to by a clinic you have visiter earlier.

Hospitals typically operate per reservation only usually for the initial visit and always from your second visit on. If you have a referral letter (shokaijo, 紹介状) from a clinic, show this to the person in charge at the reception desk along with your health insurance. You will then be guided to the department you should be checked at. Once there, wait at the waiting area until you are called.

Once inside, your doctor will guide you through the examinations, typically asking more detailed questions. Be prepared to wait longer if you are visiting a larger hospital. From your next visit, you will also be given a medical card for the hospital, usually with your next appointment written on the back of it. It is called shinsatsuken (診察券 ). Carry this with you every time you visit the hospital.