Christmas Day Ear, Nose and Throat Anecdote
On Christmas morning (not a holiday in Japan) I went to a neighborhood ear-nose-throat clinic to get some antibiotics for persistent laryngitis. It’s frustrating when my wife insists on interpreting laryngitis as a bad cold, and treats me as if I am ill and contagious. And, it quickly consumes all my patience and leads me to anger by the Japanese propensity for thinking a “husky voice” is funny and to make jokes about it while I am struggling, in pain, to speak. The adage about getting rest, staying warm and drinking a lot failed
Many foreigners here have terrible tales about visiting Japanese doctors - at clinics or hospitals - and dentists. I have my own complaints and anecdotes, too, but all-in-all I have always found them to be polite, clean, efficient and ultra-modern like what I have never seen in Canada. I have even been hospitalized in Japan three times (kept over night three times for observation because of severe migraines). I dreaded having to visit a dentist here, until about four years ago when a dental emergency made it necessary (again, during the Christmas season), and I was happily surprised by how civilized and smoothly it all went. Since then, I have regularly used the local dental clinic.
Language is a big concern, of course - the inability of foreign patients to make themselves understood, and their inability to understand what doctors say, and how the medical system functions. So I think that language problems alone predisposes us to think badly about Japanese medicine and to elevate what we remember about the health systems in our own countries. A very important component of any medical system anecdote here is the national health insurance itself (“kokumin hoken”, or “shakkai hoken,” the employees health insurance, which costs about the same and offers the same benefits). Getting sick in a foreign country without insurance can be very expensive, and I have known legions of foreigners here who shirk their responsibility to enroll in the social health insurance plan and pay their monthly bills. Thank goodness I am all paid up.