Sunday 29 September 2013


Sorry I've been off the wire. I've been in hospital. With pneumonia. As summer turned to autumn I must have caught a chill walking to and from work in my summer clothes. Come to think of it, didn't I mention in my last post that I'd left my cardigan on the train? I should pay more attention to those weather people on TV who in nanny-like fashion are forever reminding us to wrap up at the changing of the seasons (kisetsu no kawarime 季節の変わり目)!

So a week in a Japanese hospital, a week's worth of antibiotics and I'm right as rain. As you'd expect everything, from the nursing to the cleaning of the rooms, was efficient and to a high standard. Absolutely no complaints. I had my own room with en suite (5,000 yen extra per day), with an array of remotes to control the bed, the TV, the air conditioning, the lights. The food was Japanese, pretty plain, but palatable. From the 3rd day I chose to have bread at breakfast and lunch. It was a bit odd having, say mackerel in miso sauce, with bread but it was OK. 

I had one X-ray at the local doctors before I went in, then a CT scan and two X-rays at the hospital. That's a massive 7.18 mSv exposure to radiation which makes a mockery of my current attempts to limit additional exposure to 1 mSv/year. According to a book I have Hibaku Iryo Gaido (Guide to Medical Exposure), Japanese average per capita exposure from medical sources is 3.00 mSv/year, as opposed to a world average of 0.6 mSv/year. Strangely, I'm happy with this. I like the way Japanese doctors order lots of tests and only then give you the diagnosis. To me it seems systematic, rational - and reassuring.

And the damage? The bill was for 122,000 yen. When you deduct 35,000 yen for the private room and 4,400 yen for meals, the medical bill (medicines, tests, 7 days stay) was 82,500 yen (550 GBP). I pay 30% of the actual cost. (Incidentally, to cope with hardship, there's a ceiling of about 80,000 yen per month.)

Everyone's required to be covered by one of two national health insurance schemes. I'm satisfied with the way things work here. In England where I come from the NHS is free to all - no money changes hands - which is a great ideal but the system is creaking at the seams for lack of cash and too many people take it for granted. But as Japan prepares to join the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) there are fears here that American insurance companies might flood the market and break down this national system. 

Tonight is the last day of the Autumn Festival here in Koriyama. All day the neighbourhood has echoed with the sound of drums and pipes. Now darkness is falling and in the streets chants of Washoi! Washoi! But I'm convalescing and can't join in. It brings home the attraction of Matsuri: an invigorating show of strength, vitality, and love of life.
More later
P.S. October 5th
Looks like I'm going to get about 75,000 yen back from a couple of private health insurance schemes so the damage is looking less (though obviously I've paid in premiums over the years). Follow-up consultation today and I'm much better. CT scan booked for one month's time. Ouch, more radiation .....


  1. I hope you are making a good recovery. I read your blog with great interest from here in Greenwich. The British NHS is a great institution. I took my 92 year old Aunt for a pre-op for cataract surgery, which is happening in 3 weeks- free at the point of delivery. Our government is trying to shut down over 20 Accident & Emergency Units, including one in Lewisham (S London) which serves a huge catchment area with no alternative within 30 mins drive (heaven knows what by bus). However, a Judicial Review won by local people has spiked govt plans for the present (the govt are appealing the decision). Many of us view the NHS as a service worth fighting for- but as with Japan there are a number of American Health Insurance providers circling like Wolves.

  2. I'm sorry to hear of your illness, you must be a lot more stressed out than you realise. Get well soon.

    I'm glad to learn that Japanese hospitals have cleaned up! They used to be filthy. The health insurance system here is good (well, at least compared to places like the US), but I think it gets abused by elderly folk who treat hospital waiting rooms as social clubs.