Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I suppose I am not alone among foreign residents in that medical crisis represents one of my greatest fears living in Japan. Of course I have National Health Insurance. But so what since it doesn’t cover the costs of medical care? The passive helplessness we suffer when our bodies betray us and we become ill is a shock and a chronic risk, and once you are sick you recognize the truth of the dictum that without your health you really have nothing at all. In particular, dental emergency is my biggest fear as I am especially squeamish about my teeth.
For years I sought dental care exclusively during my annual visits home, despite knowing that in Japandentistry falls under the National Health Insurance scheme. I hesitated - even refused - to visit a Japanese dentist because of horror stories I heard from other foreigners (unreliable hearsay as it turns out), plus the evidence I could see with my own eyes: a population sporting mouths filled with metal, hideous smiles and crooked teeth (“yaeba,” that the culture perversely interprets as cute rather than a disability).
Then came a day a few years ago when I had no choice. I had to visit a neighborhood dental clinic for an emergency. And it turned out quite well. I was so satisfied that I have since taken to the local clinic for all my dental care. I don’t regret it. I find dentistry here ultra modern, clean, comfortable, and in my case as the only foreign patient, eminently accommodating. Japanese dentists don’t do things the way they do them back home, but they reliably get the job done well, I think. You just have to get used to how things work here, which is what I say to young foreigners when I still occasionally hear the same old horror stories floating about. So, bravo to Japanese dentists! But still, what’s with all the yaeba?