Tetanus Shot at a Hospital in Japan

After almost 30 years here, the time had come to get my first Tetanus shot at a hospital in Japan.

I decided to take a short trip to Okinawa with my friend Raj for some R&R over the weekend. Yesterday, during our walk around the beautiful Motobu coastline, I had the misfortune of stepping on a rusty nail. The nail was perfectly positioned to drive through the sole of my shoe, the insert and straight into the bottom of my right foot.

I immediately recalled my younger years in New Jersey where, on more than one similar occasion, my mom and dad quickly escorted me to the doctor for a Tetanus shot.

I grabbed my iPhone and furiously searched for the word for Tetanus in Japanese. “Hashofu” (破傷風) was immediately added to my medical vocabulary as I began to read about the disease of lock-jaw and more gruesome things. I also quickly learned that Tetanus is more prevalent in tropical and rural environments like Okinawa. “Terrific”, I thought as I formulated a plan of action.

After a quick drive to a drugstore to get some antibiotic cream and a Band-Aid, Raj drove me to the nearest emergency room at Hokubuchiku ishikai Hospital (北部地区医師会病院).

A local hospital of medium size and a little worst for wear and tear, turned out to be incredibly helpful and efficient. Japanese hospital hospitality in Okinawa at its best!

We entered the emergency wing and stepped right up to the reception desk. The friendly staff asked me a few general questions about my ordeal. I handed over my license and national insurance card and filled out my address and general info. In return, they handed me a thermometer and after recording my temperature directed me to the next station for care.

A nurse greeted me as I walked up to the desk. He introduced himself, looked at my new chart, confirmed a few of the items and asked about allergies, medication and illnesses. Simultaneusly, another nurse took my pulse, blood pressure and weight.

Within a minute or so the first nurse was examining my newly injured foot. I mentioned my desire for a Hashofu shot and he shook his head in agreement.

As we waited for just three minutes, Raj and I reviewed the poster on the wall that outlined all of the poisonous and sometimes deadly creatures one can encounter in Okinawa. Several kinds of “habu” snakes, box jellyfish, Portuguese man-of-war, sea snakes, a type of blue octopus, some tiny catfish, lionfish, rockfish and a deadly shell. By that time, I was feeling pretty lucky that I had only encountered a rusty nail.

Next a doctor came out and called my name. He took a look at my foot and agreed with my “professional” opinion about the need for a Tetanus shot.

Within five minutes, I received my shot and was then asked to go to the payment desk.

A few minutes later I received my bill. The entire cost was just ¥7,340 ($59 at today’s exchange rate) of which I only had to pay 30% with the rest covered by national health insurance.

I do speak Japanese, but thought, “what if I didn’t”. So I headed back to the reception desk to ask what they would do if an English-speaker came for treatment. They said that they do have one or two English speaking staff during regular hours, but their iPads’ are a translator’s best friend.

Getting my first Tetanus shot at a hospital in Japan, I was impressed with the kindness and efficiency of the staff and of course the more than reasonable price for care.  The Japanese hospital hospitality in Okinawa will not be forgotten.


cover photo courtesy of piyaphantawong Freedigitalphotos.net

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