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Hakuba Japan in Nagano prefecture is world-renown for its Olympic-class winter resorts. Blessed with an abundance of powder snow and well-equipped facilities, locals and travelers flock to this winter wonderland. When planning for a trip to Hakuba, we should also know which hospitals and clinics to go to in the unfortunate case of broken bones or other medical emergencies.
The following excerpt from the Hakuba tourism bureau’s pamphlet on medical services is interesting for what it does and doesn’t say
Ito Hospital was established in1937when my grandfather decided he would like to focus exclusively on treating patients with thyroid diseases. In1959, my father became the next director and in1998 I took over as the third generation’s director of our hospital. Over the past 76 years, we have focused exclusively on treating patients with thyroid diseases. I believe, when it comes to thyroid problems, there is no better place than Ito Hospital for diagnoses and treatments. In addition, there is no better place for the people who are interested and engaged in thyroid diseases.
Navigating a healthcare system in a foreign country is seldom easy, especially if you don’t know the system or speak the language well. Before you visit a Japanese hospital—on an emergency basisor otherwise—here are seven things you should know:
1. Doctor’s offices and clinics provide primary care; hospitals are for specific procedures, emergencies and high levels of care
Should you go to a hospital instead of a local clinic or doctor’s office?
Nakamura Azabujuban Clinic is a brand-new facility, but Dr. Mitsuyasu Nakamura spent two decades as a topflight physician at Keio University Hospital and department head at Kawasaki Ida Municipal Hospital before opening his clinic in Tokyo’s fashionable Azabu-Juban neighborhood.
“In a big hospital you have lots of facilities and space, but patients complain about waiting so long, and say they can’t talk much to doctors,” Dr. Nakamura notes. “So I wanted to get closer to my patients, and to treat more foreign patients. I chose Azabu-Juban primarily because the area has a lot of embassies and expat residents.”
Dr. Nakamura speaks English fluently and is quite comfortable interacting with foreign patients. One reason is that he spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow investigating the hepatitis C virus under world-renowned viral disease expert Stanley Lemon at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He enjoyed his time in the States, and traveled frequently to both coasts when he had the chance.
To gauge a health-care system’s success, it’s standard to consider three points: quality, coverage, and cost. On all three measures, Japan stands at or near the top in every comparative ranking. The Japanese have the world’s longest life expectancy and the best recovery rates from just about every major disease. Infant mortality is less than half the U.S. rate. Japan usually leads the world in rankings of “avoidable mortality” -its effectiveness in curing diseases that can be cured.
– T.R. Reid, Newsweek, August 16, 2010
Anyone who has been in Japan for more than a year is no doubt familiar with the thorough physical exam known as ningen-dokku, a term that translated literally means “human dock.” Think of a ship pulling into port for a complete inspection and you’ll get the idea.
Dr. Takuji Kato, who runs the Kato Eye Clinic in Shibuya, acted on a friend’s suggestion and came up with the eye-dokku—a comprehensive eye exam designed to spot a variety of vision problems and potentially serious medical conditions. An award-winning ophthalmologist who formerly headed a major university’s ophthalmology department and did research at two Harvard University affiliates, Dr. Kato and his associates are well-versed at diagnosing glaucoma, retinal and corneal diseases, macular degeneration and many other eye disorders.
Situated right across the street from the statue of Hachiko at Shibuya Station, the Kato Eye Clinic handles all types of eye diseases and injuries. Dr. Takuji Kato founded the clinic about ten years ago, and is assisted by nine other ophthalmologists having various specialties and ten other support staff.
The clinic’s basic services include comprehensive vision exams and multiple options for vision correction, most prominently an alternative to LASIK called orthokeratology. The clinic’s major strengths include having specialists in infectious diseases, both the cornea and retina, and glaucoma and cataracts. It also handles pediatric eye care
Extra virgin olive oil—the all-natural juice pressed from just-picked olives—is so delicious that at Italian olive oil factories they give it to you in a spoon to taste. They even give it to babies in Italy because the structure of the fatty acids in olive oil is so similar to breast milk. It is also an integral part of the much-admired Mediterranean diet.