Japanese healthcare

Being ill is not fun at the best of times but when you’re ill in a foreign country it can really be quite frightening. Before moving abroad it’s a good idea to check out what kind of healthcare will be offered so you know what to expect and can make any necessary arrangements.  Japans healthcare system is of a high standard, and there are few risks to health in the country overall. Tap water is safe to drink and food is safe, except for the odd bouts of food poisoning.

The healthcare system is regarded as one of the most sophisticated in the world, and is highly regulated by the government. Everyone living in Japan for more than a year regardless of their nationality has to join a health insurance scheme.


It’s a good idea to do your research before going to Japan as once you join an insurance programme it is extremely difficult to leave it once you’re in.   If you’d prefer to choose private insurance, do not register for NHI, even if you are directed to do so when filing your alien registration.

The Japanese health system is designed to guarantee citizens with health care through the National health insurance scheme. It is a scheme that covers common medical expenses and is funded by the employee, employers and the government via contributions. NHI covers up to 70% of medical costs with most treatments being included on the scheme. If you’re over the age of 75 you will be issued with a new insurance card and placed on a scheme called the Long life medical care system. This scheme reimburses 90% of the cost of treatment.

Treatments that it will not cover include abortions, self-inflicted injuries, cosmetic surgeries and elective dental work. Any treatments for injuries sustained in an accident are paid for by the party at fault.

To register for NHI coverage a family has to submit a single application form to the appropriate municipal office. Once the form has been processed every member of the family listed on the form will receive their own insurance card. If ill or injured simply go to any public health facility. If you are receiving specialized treatment you will need to submit a doctor’s referral to be reimbursed.

You must update your NHI registration every time you change addresses, give birth, lose dependent status, or change to another form of insurance. You will also have to replace your NHI card if it is damaged or stolen. In order to renew or update your registration; you will need your NHI card and your alien registration card. If you are making changes to your registration, you may need to submit a document verifying the change. If you change employers, for example, you will need to submit proof of your new employment.

Emergency numbers

In the case of an emergency the number to call is 110. For the fire brigade or ambulance service call 119.