Preparing for a medical emergency in Japan

If you have a medical condition that could affect your care in an emergency, you need to be able to communicate that quickly to emergency crews. You will want to know how to describe your condition in Japanese, but you should also keep a written record in your refrigerator. Did I say refrigerator?

In the drawing above, an emergency responder is asking Daijōbu desuka? 大丈夫ですか?(“Are you alright?”) while the elderly lady struggles to say “reizōko” 冷蔵庫 (“The re..refrigerator…”). She’s telling him to look for her emergency medical information, as represented in the red balloon at the top left.

Local governments all across Japan provide free kinkyū iryō jōhō kitto 緊急医療情報キット, (emergency medical information kits), which include personal identification and medical information sheets, a canister in which to store them, and stickers for the door of your house and frig to let crews know you’ve prepared it.

Ok, but why the frig? Because there’s a refrigerator in every home and they’re easy to locate. Ask for a kit at your ward or city office; they are often available at public health centers and facilities for senior citizens as well.

Preparing such a kit will help if your emergency happens at home, but what if you’re out and about when trouble hits? A friend with diabetes keeps a slip of paper in his wallet with his medical information written in Japanese, which is fine if he’s conscious, but keep in mind that ambulance crews aren’t allowed to go through your pockets or wallet. They have to call in a police officer for that.

If your situation is serious it’s better to wear your information where it can be readily seen. It’s possible to get medical-alert bracelets and dog tags in Japanese.

The products above, for example, can be custom ordered from Medic Information, which also sells a simple write-it-yourself medical ID wrist bandthrough Amazon Japan. I provided a link to the large size in pink, suitable for a wrist of 17 to 20.5 cm, but there are smaller sizes and other colors available, too.

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4 Responses to Preparing for a medical emergency in Japan

  1. Mimi Dollinger says:

    Alice — I enjoy your posts, but… when I first read this I thought there was a squadron of children in Japan who were prepared to help in emergencies. Check the second paragraph — turns out you probably meant kits, not kids.

  2. Alice says:

    Oops! Thanks, I fixed it!

  3. Shinji says:

    Also, I believe the lying elderly in the first illustration is not a lady. : p

  4. Alice says:

    Yeah, I debated whether to identify that person as a man or a woman. Clearly, it could go either way, which was pretty clever of the artist. But it was nicer for my sentence to be able to use “she” so I called it my own way!

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