…Is climbing Mount Fuji and taking part in numerous local festivals, I get to experience the wonderful joys of being ill in Japan. Granted, now I have experience with the American for profit system and a state system, and I can say I deeply prefer the state system. I had a walk-in and within four hours I was on an MRI table. What did I pay for it all? About 90 bucks American.

So in any case, let me fill you in. In Japan, they take sickness and infirmity not as something giving reason to rest and recuperate, but instead a chance to show how stoic you are. If you’re able to get up without toppling over, you’re well enough to come into work. No excuses, and no whining. So when I started feeling under the weather a few days back, I thought Ganbattemasu (go for it). I bucked up and went in. Of course a load of work tiring to a well body does even worse to a sick one, especially now since the season has changed to a chilly rainy autumn. The only person I told was the other foreigner who works with me, though I suspect my other coworkers suspected something, even if I could cover successfully with the clients.

In anycase, it lead up to me passing out at my desk in the backroom in the middle of an eleven hour day; a case of unsuccessful karoshi (death via overwork). It was a bit disturbing to all involved. In anycase they gave me some time off and helped me to the hospital.

Hospitals in Japan have weird hours. They close in evenings and are closed on Sundays, often even in dire emergencies. Having a full-time doctor on hand just isn’t usual around here. So hence I had to do a couple of walk ins, first to a GP and then to a specialist. Luckily I had natives on hand to coach how I should look and approach the matter. The doctor is the judge, jury and executioner here. If he thinks you’re well, you’re well, if he thinks you need a certain specialist or treatment, you get that. No second opinions. They also don’t really go for the full examinations here. No one took my blood pressure or pulse or had me breathe. Just temperature and weight. They simply listened to my symptoms, took a sample, looked me over and the doc made the call in a minute and moved on.

Next came the hospital. By American standards, it was downright depressing, like an inner city clinic or a neglected Vet’s hospital. Torn seats in the hallway, ancient magazines and newspapers, ugly lighting and design, yet completely functional. The examination tables were old but immaculate, and nursing staff attentive and good humored. I was lucky to have a kind urologist who seemed overjoyed to practice his English with me. The wait was long, several hours, but I was surprised that a walk-in could get an MRI just because the Doc thought I needed that sort of check up. The MRI wasn’t too pleasant; that stuff they inject in you is just plain nasty, but I got the results, which were inconclusive. The doctor basically told me to come back later for a CAT Scan. I don’t really think I need it, but my boss seems insistent that I get it. For all this plus meds, comes to 90 bucks. It’s rather amazing, considering the bills I paid in the states.

So in all, socialized medicine: you need to know how to play it right, the doctor’s are more imperious, as they are doctors and not service providers, it’s not pretty at all, but it gets the job done quick, cleanly and with a minimum of fuss.

Despite this glowing review, I would have preferred to not get ill at all.