Cabby on “Ten Days in May: A Memorable Japan Hospital Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis”


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Hi Blog. Continuing the August semi-vacation where I am commenting less and letting Readers take the helm, here’s some good news for a change, where Cabby writes about a good experience he had in Japanese hospital in Okayama, Central Japan. With all the stories has covered about how COVID has affected NJ Residents adversely, this story comes a welcome respite. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.


Ten Days in May: A Memorable Japan Hospital Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis
By Cabby, Exclusive to, May 17, 2020

As if submerged in a deep dark viscous pool and slowing ascending to the surface, I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital with doctor and two nurses in attendance. My vision was unfocused and mind disoriented. I saw I was enclosed in some type of clear vinyl box with what seemed like a wooden frame.

The first external sound was that of a doctor asking if it was all right. My first mumbled utterance, “Where am I?” was answered with Okayama University Hospital I.C.U. The next words from the doctor were, “Is it okay for us to remove the ventilator? We need it for another patient.”

My confused reply . . . “What ventilator? What time is it? The doctor informed me it was Saturday afternoon and that I had been unconscious for about 26 hours. He asked once more about the ventilator. I now assume there was a matter of urgency to the request but at the time I was still quite groggy and did not even understand why I was on a ventilator. I answered, “if you think it is OK. You’re the doctor.” It was removed and in it’s place a large clear plastic oxygen mask was positioned over my nose and mouth.

As I began to regain a semblance of mental clarity I could see that I was in a large room with many patients. At the foot of the bed was a large blue and gray high-tech machine of some sort and a nurse sitting behind it. She was focused on a laptop computer resting on the surface of a tray in front of the mass of the machine.

Before long the doctor returned and informed me that they were going to move me to a different part of I.C.U. to lessen the threat of COVID-19 infection. He also told me that I had been tested upon admittance and the results were negative. This was not my primary concern at the time. The very professional staff proceeded to wheel my bed along with the blue and gray machine down a short hallway to a somewhat more secluded section of the ward.

I was placed into what to me resembled the most sanitary stable stall I’d ever seen. It was enclosed on three sides from floor to ceiling with the entire section at the foot of the bed open. For the next 24 hours, as with the previous, I remained flat on my back with a nurse in attendance the entire time as she monitored the reading on the machine and checked the laptop. I mainly slept the first evening and slowly became aware that both wrists were secured to the side rails of the bed, forcing me to remain almost completely immobile. I could see a line running into my left wrist. I later found it ran directly to an artery. There was a surgical tube through a hole in my right side over my ribcage. I was unaware of its existence until Sunday morning when a very competent doctor with a bushy black beard removed it and used stitches to close the open hole. He then removed the large oxygen mask, replacing it with a smaller one. Later that day it too was replaced by a small light nasal cannula.

During my stay in the ‘stall’ my only complaint was that my back hurt. I repeated this numerous times in English and Japanese. I knew it was because I couldn’t move from this fixed position and that nothing was broken, but the attentive and caring nurse had someone from radiology come up with a portable X-ray machine to X-ray my back. I’d never seen anything like it before. Naturally the results were negative. This was just one indication of the high degree of professionalism and concern exhibited by all staff I came in contact with during my ten-day stay at the hospital.

At the time I was unaware that there was a tube through my left nostril that went to my stomach for forced feeding. Honesty, I’m not certain when it was removed and only became aware of it when I misunderstood a nurse later in the week and thought they wanted to put a tube down my throat to my stomach. “I’m sorry but I get panic attacks and I couldn’t take having a tube go down my throat”, I said excitedly. Yukari, my nurse, smiled and calmly said, “Don’t worry. There was a tube in your nose that went to your stomach. It was already removed.” It was actually a humorous exchange. I was happy to have been completely unaware of the nasogastric incubation having taken place.

There was a need for more bed space in the I.C.U. on Sunday, and the attending doctor who removed the tubing returned with what seemed like a ream of documents for me to sign. I couldn’t focus well, and the bed could only be raised slightly, so I am certain all of my signings are illegible. I made a feeble attempt at humor with the doctor. Instead of the word “signature”, the English version of the forms had “autograph”. I told him before I gave an autograph it would cost ¥500 per autograph but I would provide my signature for free. Being competent in English as well as medicine, he smiled.

I then asked him, “What happened to me on Friday afternoon?” He said, “You had a light case of pneumonia.” I said, “a light case?” To which he responded, “Along with a collapsed right lung.” Now that one got my attention. Although I didn’t feel it, my condition must have been improving because he informed me that I’d be leaving I.C.U. in a few hours and explained the current room situation and costs. Due to the crowded conditions in the respiratory ward, my first choice, whether it be a private or four-person room, might not be available. I opted for a private room, at least, for a few days and was fortunate to get it and remain there for the rest of my stay.

The next part of our conversation was mildly confrontational since I was informed that I would probably have to move to a different hospital due to the need for beds. This hospital is one of the four in the prefecture designated to treat COVID-19 patients. I was adamant about not wanting to move, knowing that I would receive the best available treatment right where I was, since I was already an outpatient there for my COPD condition. The doctor told me not to get too stressed over it as any other hospital would have to approve my transfer, even though I tested negative for COVID-19. Many hospitals in the area were refusing patients due to the epidemic.

At about 2:00 in the afternoon I was moved to a private room in the respiratory ward. I could never have anticipated the reception I received when my bed was wheeled past the nurse’s station. I actually had a nurse assigned to me for both day and night shifts. However, this does not mean that she remained in the room. Of course I was aided by many different nurses every day. It being Golden Week (a week of national holidays), the conscientious nurses were working with a full ward of patients and a skeleton crew. Somehow they managed to remain cheerful and attentive at all times. Their constant positive demeanor amazed me.

Afraid of being moved to another hospital, I did something I am not accustomed to doing. I told the nurse assigned to me that I did not want to move to another facility and then began name-dropping. I told her that I have been teaching nurses in this hospital for the past three years. I quickly learned she was aware of this and had wanted to take my class last year but it was full. The next time I saw the doctors I did the same thing and let them know that fifth year students at the Dental Hospital all use a textbook that I wrote and edited with university dentists.

Every day as my condition improved there were small changes. After two days of nothing but soft foods three times a day, I was able to change to a regular diet. It was a pleasant surprise that the most meals tasted good. I devoured every morsel served to me as I wanted to regain my strength and return home as soon as possible. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough food, but I understood why. As is currently the case in most hospitals across Japan due to COVID-19, no visitors were allowed, so receiving food from outside was not an option. The ban on visitors placed an extra psychological strain on patients. It also caused additional work for the nurses. Since I arrived by ambulance I had none of the many things needed for a prolonged stay in a Japanese hospital. When I arrived in the ward I was able to get my phone and wallet that my good friend, Tony, brought to the hospital. I felt bad about having to impose on the nurses who needed to go to the first floor convenience store to buy me a comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, chopsticks, etc. at a time when they were so busy and short staffed. The shops were only open a few hours a day during Golden Week. Another good friend, Paul, went to my apartment to gather some clothes and a few other needed items and was able to bring them to the nurse’s station for me. I now had my Kindle to read from, which made passing the time much easier.

When the nurses came to check my condition, administer medications through IVs and injections through a hole in my neck that had three different lines, they were always cheerful and we had fun in mixing Japanese and English. They would often bring a tablet that they could speak Japanese into and English text would appear on the screen. As one might expect with translation software, it wasn’t very accurate. At times the errors were truly funny and when I’d explain what the translation meant we’d all crack up laughing. 0ne said, “After you stop breathing, how do you feel?” At one point a nurse was trying to find a medical expression in English and I began to laugh. She didn’t understand and I asked if I could see the laminated sheets of paper she was holding. I flipped through them to the correct page and explained they were the pages of bilingual expressions used in my lessons. We both enjoyed that one. I noticed that there were corresponding pages in Chinese, too.

By Monday I could brush my teeth in bed and stand up next to the bed for a short time. Tuesday I got up and into a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached, and a nice young nurse took me to a room with a beauty salon type chair and shampooed my hair. I was beginning to feel human again. Later we went to the first floor radiology center for a chest X-ray. On Wednesday they removed both the catheter and oxygen line. A nurse bought a card that allowed me to use the room TV and ward washers and dryers, so I was able to wash clothes right on the ward. It felt so good to be untethered again. I met with doctors a few times on Thursday and Friday and they changed my tentative release date from the following Tuesday to Sunday.

Once free of all tubes and hoses I began to wander the ward trying to get some circulation through my legs and build up their strength. I met a few interesting old gentlemen during my laps around the ward. One was a retired merchant marine captain who had been around the world many times. Friday I had a brief explanation about the new daily medication I would be taking at home and continued my walking. It felt nice not to burden the nurses with taking away my food tray after meals or having them go to the vending machine for all the bottled water I consumed. I had the stitches removed from my side where the tube had been inserted, only to have them replaced on Saturday as the hole reopened slightly during the night.

Saturday morning, I met with the head of the respiratory rehabilitation therapy section, answered some profile questions and later in the afternoon a very nice young therapist, Sho, met with me about breathing exercises. He was excited to be able to communicate in English and we talked about music for a bit. I was very happy to learn that he and all the doctors felt the QiGong, Louhan Patting, stretching and Tai Chi I’d been doing every morning since October were all good for my lung conditioning and recommended I continue my daily routine.

Sunday morning was interminable as I awoke at 5:00 and was counting the minutes until my 10:00 release time. The last 30 minutes seemed like an eternity as I didn’t get to leave until 10:30. When I got to the nurse’s station, two friends whom I’ve known for more than thirty years were waiting for me. It took all the restraint I could muster not to run up to them and give them a giant hug. Instead we did a Corina shoe tap. Hardly sufficient. In addition to the fantastic care and encouragement I received from doctors and nurses, being able to use FaceTime to connect with my daughter and friends was invaluable in keeping my spirits up at a difficult time. The online support and well wishes from so many friends made through both my career as an educator and a lover of music were unbelievable.

I would be remiss in completing this saga without describing what had happened before waking up on a ventilator. On Friday afternoon, May 1, I was feeling great and about to take a shower and go for a 6km walk as I had the two previous afternoons. Suddenly I felt as if I were experiencing the onset of a panic attack. Since talking usually helps to relieve the anxiety and get back to normal, I phoned my best friend, Tony. After a few minutes the conversation ended. Almost immediately I hit the high anxiety level and called him back. During the conversation I became very frightened and asked him to please get a cab to my place. He knew where I lived but not the address. I texted that quickly and told him I’d leave the door open. That was my last memory until waking in the hospital the next afternoon. My friend found me slumped on the sofa, eyes open but glassy and breathing, but barely. After I couldn’t respond in a coherent manner to a few questions he called 119 and had an ambulance sent. Within five minutes the excellent three-member team from the Okayama Fire & Rescue Department arrived in what could be termed hazmat suits, and together with my friend carried me in a body sling down the building steps to the ambulance. At first the driver was unsure the university hospital would accept me as I was exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, so we slowly made our way toward town and as soon as they received approval, the driver hit the siren and sped to the ER.

I owe so much to so many for saving my life and providing highly professional treatment and care. I am quite fortunate to be here to write this and to have so many friends who were there when I needed them most.

CABBY (2,618 words)

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27 comments on “Cabby on “Ten Days in May: A Memorable Japan Hospital Experience during the COVID-19 Crisis”

  • I do sincerely appreciate you sharing your story and glad you had a good experience and are feeling better. Perhaps the Tokyo area is different than where you reside. Most of the medical treatment I have dealt with in the Tokyo area has not been a great experience. Rehabilitation is unheard of unless you are an athlete or elderly with not much in between. Most doctors either despise the fact that I am even in their presence or they provide inadequate half-assed care because I’m a foreigner and not worth their time. A lot of them lack the knowledge of sports medicine or lack any courtesy. I’ve had nurses seem so nervous and tremor in fear because I am bigger foreigner. Most recently I had a nurse that was clueless about drawing my blood even though I told her the correct vein to draw she said she couldn’t find the vein and asked the doctor for help all the while wiggling the need in my vein which didn’t feel great. She was an experienced nurse but was so nervous around me that she couldn’t do a basic procedure like drawing blood. In my experiences doctors in the examination room seem as if they are always in a rush and not very attentive or thorough when in reality there are not many patients waiting in line so I never understood the rush mentality. I will say they get with the program when giving X-rays although when receiving X-rays they never provide a vest which I have to demand each time and shouldn’t have to. They always seem irritated as if I shamed them when I ask about providing a vest. I guess exposure to radiation isn’t a big concern. Moreover, Japanese doctors usually don’t have a pleasant attitude with a God complex although that happens back home too. Often my experience is they really don’t want to deal with a foreigner. Another thing I have noticed is that you really can’t get an appointment in Japan. For example, each time my child needs to visit the pediatrician there’s always a long que to wait. Each time you have to check the que online to see if you are next and then rush over to the clinic hoping you are able to be seen. Kudos to our pediatrician; she’s a sweet lady and has always been good to our child since day one. She can’t provide much adult care but has helped me whenever she is able to. That’s something positive. Ha!

    Universal healthcare is great that all are covered, but I would argue this also inhibits medical professionals from wanting to improve medical procedures or technique. If you know you will always receive a paycheck regardless and there’s also no competition, there’s very little incentive to improve your technique or offer better services in my opinion hence the lackadaisical care or condescending treatment I have experienced. That summarizes Japanese medicine to me. It hasn’t been all bad with some good experiences and people that I do appreciate, but overall the clinics and hospitals I have been to in Japan have not been helpful or very friendly.

    • Universal healthcare has nothing to do with your experience Chris. Australia, New Zealand, England and many other countries have universal healthcare. The U.S (Im guessing that you are from there due to your statements) does not as you need to be wealthy to get any health care there.

      If you live or have lived in any of the previous countries I mentioned then you’d know that if you do not like a doctor then you have the option to move on to another one. This may be difficult when dealing with specialists but even in country Australia where I am from, there is usually two specialists to deal with.

      – We are getting away from the main point of this blog entry. Further posts that do not relate it back will not be approved.

      • Right, and just above us is a country called Canada, and the wait times for care are ridiculous and taxes are insanely high. There are often Canadians that come down to the US for care they cannot receive in their home country in a timely manner. So yeah, it does make a difference.

        If you’re going to reply to a comment, perhaps you should consider or address the other parts I wrote about instead of focusing just on the Universal Healthcare aspect that you’d like to boast about in your home country. We could go round and round. Everyone’s experiences are different, but to boast about healthcare in Japan to me, is propaganda. I can tell you that most great physicians want to go to places where they are paid much more.

        Debito writes about humanitarian issues in Japan, and my experiences with Japan healthcare haven’t been exactly humanitarian, friendly, or welcoming. I was surprised to see this propaganda piece on how great Japan’s healthcare is when it couldn’t be further from the truth, in my experience. Experiences may vary though, and that was my main point. Like I said at the beginning, I’m glad OP recovered and had a good experience. I also do appreciate your response but respectfully disagree.

        • Chris,
          Not knowing about your personal experiences or much about sports medicine in a Japan I take offense in your labeling my piece propaganda. Those who know me know that I am no apologist for Japan, have taken civil action my university and won, and have been an active union member for decades. What I tried to present was an accurate description of a very frightening personal experience when I nearly died. I suggest you return to Trump’s Amerika where it appears from your comments you would fit in well.

          • Did you even read what I wrote? You just jump to me being a Trump guy. I am neither. All I was doing was replying to what you wrote and I said that I was glad you recovered but experiences may vary and that Japan medical care isn’t exactly great. That was my point. My Japanese is fine, and it has nothing to do with that. It does have everything to do with Japanese bad attitudes towards foreigners. Congrats on the past civil case. I will continue to write about my experiences. You telling me to head back to Trump America is utter BS and a horrible retort.

        • How is your spoken Japanese? It can make a real difference, you know. I personally don’t like doctors and hospitals anywhere, but my son was born in a Japanese hospital, I was treated for a broken leg, and torn achilles, the gout, and cancer, among others things there (in the Kobe-Osaka Area) and am alive and in good health. BTW, Cabby is not propagandist by any means. You should hear him rant about the Tax Office. grin. The fact that he actually taught at the hospital, knew people well there, probably goes a long way to explaining his positive experience.

    • tl;dr I’m sorry for your bad experiencess but as long as anecdata goes mine is completely different yours – yes it has its problems, but at least healthcare-wise Japan was and is OK (both on a professional [doing their job] and a human [treating you with respect as a person] level)

      Living in Tokyo for last 5 years, spent 5 years in Osaka before that. Perhaps as other pointed out, me being a fluent Japanese speaker helped me, but I never experienced this kind of treatment you complain about – that is, neither the doctors nor nurses or other assistant staff being rushed, unknowledgeable or uncourteous (unwilling to deal with a foreigner), and this being not limited to just checkups/temporary visits – in fact, as far as hospital stays go, I had a really pleasant experience after a surgery, not unlike the one described by Cabby in this blog entry (actually, it was much better than what I experienced back in my home country as a teen).

  • The Japanese Government has divided our families and friends (violating our human rights)! Hence, I would recommend this references to better understand the COVID-related discrimination:

    Don’t watch TV coverage of Covid-19!
    — by Richard Stallman

    Don’t watch TV coverage of Covid-19! (Or “social media”; the details are different.) Watching repetitive coverage of something frightening can interfere with clear thinking, even traumatize people.

    TV news coverage of a crisis struggles to fill 24 hours a day with “information”, notwithstanding the fact that the actual flow of new information about the crisis is nowhere near sufficient to fill that time. What do they do? They repeat. They present tangential and minor details. They make the same points in different ways. They belabor the obvious. They repeat.

    If your goal is to be informed, you don’t need to dwell on the crisis for hours every day. Not even one hour a day. Getting your news in this inefficient matter will waste a lot of time — and worse.

    In addition, it will make you more and more anxious. Someone I knew in 2001, who lived in California. spent all day on Sep 11 and following days watching the TV coverage. Afterward perse was afraid to go outside, watching for terrorist airplanes. TV made it possible for per to be traumatized by events 3000 miles away.

    That was an unusually strong case. Most people did not get so traumatized as that. That does not imply it did not affect them. I suspect that the TV coverage may have shifted millions of people’s perceptions, so that they overestimated the danger of terrorism while downplaying the danger of laws that take away freedom. This would have smoothed the path for careless passage of the dangerous USA PAT RIOT Act and its massive surveillance.

    In any a good, general textual news site, you can read the things you really want to know about Covid-19 in 10 or 20 minutes a day. Then you won’t fall behind on your work, and you won’t be brainwashed into panic.

    Keep calm and carry on!

    Copyright © 2020 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.

  • If you want to see the difference when a doctor visits a Japanese vs a foreigner, go to the examination room when your J partner needs a visit and simply stay quiet in the corner.
    I was really surprised at the number of questions the doctor asked, the lengthy explanation of things and the general lack of rush.

    When I go by myself, it’s mostly him/her typing at the computer, little explanation and a list of medicine I have to take.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      This. Indeed, in any situation.
      My wife never believed me when I told her that I got treated like crap in all manner of everyday situations in Japan, so I made her follow me around from a discrete distance for a weekend; shops, trains, coffee shops, walking down the street, the post office etc. she was astounded and embarrassed for her country.

    • Same question as to another commentator: how is your spoken Japanese? If it is not good, that would explain everything. BTW, studies have shown that Japanese doctors actually explain much more to foreign patients than to National ones. The thing is that non nationals are use to, and often demand, explanation, while the Nationals are more accustomed to ‘taking 2 aspirin and sending in their $5’. Your experience of course has been different. Personally I believe you 100%, but trust the studies more than anecdotal evidence.

      • Do you have a link to the study you mentioned? I actually have similar experiences like you with Japanese doctors. Most of them treated me very well and it always felt like I was in good hands. And I definitely have to say that universal healthcare is way better than the „system“ which the US has. I have a lot of beef with Japan, but doctors and hospitals have always been pretty good in my experience (very similar to Germany). Still, I would definitely appreciate a link to the study if you don‘t mind.

      • Neverawajin says:

        Japanese proficiency may explain but does not justifies racism and discrimination in the medical system here.. . and what studies are you talking about btw?

        • Sorry guys, those were old sociolinguistic technical studies published in technical journals which I no longer have access to, having retired and moved to Pamplona 2 years ago. I hesitated to mention them but they are pertinent, and I do remember them well. Rube
          PS We do have National Health here, but people with money seem to supplement it with private insurance. In either case it seems well equipped but slow.

          • Rube, have some honor and just admit that the claim of studies done was BS and non-existent. Also, please don’t start with the apologist ‘whataboutism’ – always the last weapon of desperate choice, when all else fails. Although the Spanish national health system is based on a regionalist approach, I have quite a few family members who live in Alicante and have lived there for the last 20 years. The public health service that they exclusively use is not only better than the public health service that they could possibly use, back in the UK, it would be impossible to even place the Japanese public health service in the same concept as its Spanish counterpart. I have no complaints about the Japanese health system and I’m happy for Cabby’s experience, but by the law of averages, Japan, apart from Italy, would be the last country of choice, in the developed world, where I would want to have a serious illness. In Japan, public health is not a service, it’s a business. Oh, and I can reference lots of studies, that have not mysteriously disappeared, to prove my final statement.

  • Dear Minister of Justice of Japan
    Mori Masako sama,

    Could we please have a meeting with all the refugees locked under inhumane conditions for many months?

    Also, could we meet some families divided and impoverished due to the COVID-Discrimination ?

    Their voices are also heartbreaking….

  • “Most doctors either despise the fact that I am even in their presence or they provide inadequate half-assed care because I’m a foreigner and not worth their time”

    Ive had the same exact experience, actually quite scary

    • I speak fluent, coherent Japanese and got mixed results so far. Some doctors treated me like crap despite my language abilities, and some (luckily a slight majority) treated me very well and professionally. I punish the first group with bad reviews and avoiding any revisits to them. Well, I suppose the avoiding any revisits part is actually what they’re up to, aren’t they?

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I note with interest that there are a couple of comments asking ‘How good is your (spoken) Japanese?’
    I always feel strange about this. On the one hand, it’s a tactic I have often seen employed by apologists to blame the victim and reinforce and affirm their own illusions of supposed superiority in some imaginary ‘gaijin hierarchy’ (it’s part of the ‘gatekeeper complex’ that is a function of apologism).
    On the other hand, I can attest that having excellent spoken Japanese can be an experience altering skill, although my personal opinion is that NJ with great Japanese language skills will simply find themselves avoiding the ‘crossed arms batsu sign’ and ‘sorry, no English’ to find it replaced by interactions suddenly conducted in the fastest, most obtuse and archaic Japanese language wording and constructions possible in some chip-on-the-shoulder effort to show up the NJ speaker for not being native-level fluent.
    What do readers think of that?

    As for medical professionals, I find that they constantly insisted on attempting to conduct consultations in their universally second-rate English despite my Japanese skills being superior to their English (as I demonstrate to them). As you can imagine, when the topic of discussion is my health, the priority should be accurate and exact transmission of information for my benefit as a patient, not an English conversation opportunity for them to show off to the on-duty nursing staff how ‘erai’ they are.

    I’d love for some of these doctors to turn up for English lessons only to have the teacher press gang them in Japanese for advice regarding medical conditions.

    • >to find it replaced by interactions suddenly conducted in the fastest, most obtuse and archaic Japanese language wording and constructions possible in some chip-on-the-shoulder effort to show up the NJ speaker for not being native-level fluent.

      Never happened to me, but since you’re asking for our opinion, I think this is genuine assholery… perhaps stemming from the fact that the person doing this can’t communicate in any other language and can’t imagine how difficult it might be for you to convey your thoughts precisely in a foreign tongue?

      >As for medical professionals, I find that they constantly insisted on attempting to conduct consultations in their universally second-rate English despite my Japanese skills being superior to their English (as I demonstrate to them).

      I replied above to Chris praising the doctors in Japan, but this made me remember my first visit at a Japanese doctor and the literally only instance of me getting pissed at a doctor in Japan. I was having a high fever and was counting on getting help ASAP, and at some point the lady switched to English (it was the same situation of “attempting to conduct consultations in their universally second-rate English despite my Japanese skills being superior to their English (as I demonstrate to them)”.).

      (conversation in Japanese, then doc switches to English, and I follow)
      Me: “So basically, ….”
      Doc: “………. (silence) bicycle?”
      Me: (rephrasing the same in Japanese)
      Doc: (stops the eikaiwa and completes the transaction)

      Still, this was literally the ONLY time, and I also experienced asshole doctors back home, so overall, I can’t say this single bad apple was something common.

      At my hospital stay last year I also witnessed a conversation between another foreign patient and my doctor in English – he was struggling somehow but was able to communicate with the girl, whom I presumed to have a worse Japanese ability than his English. He himself did not push any English on me during my week at the hospital.. there might have been a ‘nihongo daijoubu desuka?’ during my first pre-surgery check up before checking in to the hospital – which, if a a brief ‘hai’ ends the topic, I find fully OK, for the record – I can easily imagine that some people would be better off with a baby talk of sorts, or perhaps even a translator…

      Last but not least, perhaps this phenomenon happening to you might have to do something with being an Anglophone (which I am not)….

      >I’d love for some of these doctors to turn up for English lessons only to have the teacher press gang them in Japanese for advice regarding medical conditions.


      • Baudrillard says:

        This should be a new T Shirt, the second in the series “Lose the Racism and Complete the Transaction”
        -Doc: (stops the eikaiwa and completes the transaction)

        “Stop the Eikaiwa and Complete the Transaction”
        “Gaijin Customers Matter”
        “Gaikokujin taxpayers’ lives matter”
        “Do you want gaikokujin money or not?”

        Optional; Micro Aggression Back at You series, thought provoking in Japanese:
        “Yes, I can use chopsticks and you use a fork very well”
        “Do you like Japan?”
        “I am a Japanese permanent resident, let me back in”
        “This isn’t the bubble era”

        Dr Debito, how about printing up some? I for one would definitely buy off you and I guess Jim would too..

        – No time or seed funds. Feel free.

    • Forgive me for tooting my own horn here, but since the question was posed…

      I am completely fluent, and my pronunciation, while not perfect, is quite decent (in my own estimate, Lord knows I’d never get a reliable assessment from a Wajin). In fact, I teach Japanese children kokugo and social studies in Japanese. I am completely capable of handling myself in the context of a medical conversation.

      That being said, I don’t find myself confronted with any Japanese that I would consider to be exceedingly obtuse or archaic. If anything, I can easily throw out some obscure vocabulary or kanji that almost nobody knows, just to one-up Wajin who want to try to lord it over on me. Nevertheless, I continue to be subjected to the unnecessary, unwelcome, broken English, and sometimes, the exaggerated gestures and hand signs, along with all the other usual gaijin treatment.

      The other day, I went to a doctor to get my regular prescription filled, but it was the first time I had been to that particular doctor. We were talking, and the conversation was going well at first, with no gaijin treatment. However, the doctor unintentionally or deliberately addressed me by my first name and asked me the usual “Where are you from?” BS. Without answering his question, I corrected him on the mistaken form of address. He was so blinded by his own racist bigotry that he didn’t even realize what was happening and instead proceeded to spit out ナショナリティー, as if I were the one who had made a mistake and misunderstood. When I replied to that with やめてください, he clearly became irritated for a moment.

      This is not my first experience of the sort, either. I had an ENT ask me if I can read 片仮名, even though my name is written in kanji, and I obviously filled out the intake form myself. (I’m single, so I’m always going to these visits by myself.) When I objected to the question, pointing out that I’m not a kindergartener, he got bent out of shape about it and declared that he was just “being considerate of foreigners.” When I pointed out that he doesn’t actually know whether or not I’m a “foreigner” because he knows nothing about me, he got more irritated.

      The degree obviously varies from doctor to doctor, but I’ve only ever had one doctor who just treated me like a normal person.

      About a year ago, I went to a new doctor for the first time and even hand-wrote in a comment on the intake form in which I stated, “As you can see, I’m a white person, but please treat me equally, like all other patients, and do not give me the gaijin treatment.” The second I walked into his office and sat down in the chair, the first thing out of his mouth was “Where are you from?”

      In conclusion, my experience indicates that fluency does not guarantee anyone ever that he or she will be spared the gaijin treatment.

      As an aside, ask literally any mixed race native Japanese speaker who appears predominantly black/Indian/white to confirm this. It is not a language ability issue; it is a race issue, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

    • I hate to say it but my current doctor has a bit of the same problems. He handed me a sheet of Japanese text all about the importance of Potassium in your diet and what are some of the best sources of potassium and he said “get that translated”. He knows I read and speak Japanese and I started reading it back to him in Japanese (actually for the second time, since we had been through this before). Then he went on (in English) about how I need to get as much sodium as possible into my diet. I was like ??? Isn’t that the opposite of what I need? So I clarified, do I need “Na”? He said no you need “K” OK, that’s not sodium.

      One little error in English has major implications.

    • Jim,

      Thanks for your reply. You had me dying in laughter with the comment below especially the crossed arm bastu sign. LOL! I’ve seen that a few times for no justifiable reason other than exclusion. Ha! At least you and Scipio know that I am speaking from real experience, unfortunately what usually happens when you criticize Japan is Japan apologists almost always jump to “Is your Japanese good.? Yes, your fluency level does make a difference, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that Japanese immediately act awkwardly, unfriendly, or resort to just refusal of services and treat you much differently than how they would give exceptional service to Japanese. What these Japan apologists attempt to do is shaming tactics, which makes me just shake my head each time I read or hear this rhetoric. This is what happens in conformist nations. America is heading in that direction as well if we are not careful. Debate or difference in opinion is not tolerated nor will common sense be tolerated as well.

      “On the other hand, I can attest that having excellent spoken Japanese can be an experience altering skill, although my personal opinion is that NJ with great Japanese language skills will simply find themselves avoiding the ‘crossed arms batsu sign’ and ‘sorry, no English’ to find it replaced by interactions suddenly conducted in the fastest, most obtuse and archaic Japanese language wording and constructions possible in some chip-on-the-shoulder effort to show up the NJ speaker for not being native-level fluent.”

  • Let’s remember what Professor Huerta de Soto said at The Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (May 2019):

    ” According to my criteria, the best test to determine whether we are dealing with a good economist is whether or not the person understands why it is a grave error to believe the injection and manipulation of money can bring about economic prosperity ! ”

    “….a very clear illustration of the importance of our test can be found in the wild monetary manipulations and injections with which authorities around the world have reacted to the Great Recession of 2008. This reaction reaches its pinnacle in what we will refer to as the “Japanese economic illness” or the “malady of economic Japanization.” What does this syndrome or disease, this “Japanese economic illness,” consist of? ”

    “In Japan, it is culturally unacceptable for a company to fail; it is culturally unacceptable for workers to be let go. Each company is like the mother of a large family, and she must keep all the members safe and employed. Though officially, the unemployment figures may be very low, and everyone may seem to have a job, we must remember the photographs of those big departments in many Japanese companies, where employees are seen sleeping or doing nothing”.

    Comment from Reader:

    Let’s hug each other as a big family 😀
    – Minister of Justice: MORI Masako sama ( )
    – Deputy Prime Minister: Taro Aso sama

    It seems that ABE chan was a bit sick recently… We should hug each other and invite refugees, migrants and divided families…

  • I’ve had much the same experience over my nearly thirty years in Japan. The majority if doctors and nurses have been great. But yes, there has been the nasty old boot to deal with on occasion. Dentists have been rather different, I haven’t liked many on them as once they get their hooks into you the keep you going back as much as possible.


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