What does a hospital offer in Okinawa?

If you’re new to Okinawa and Japan, you may hear a foreigner or local say, “I had to go to the hospital yesterday,” and think that they had an emergency.

In Japan, a hospital is a place to go for a routine checkup, minor issues, and also an emergency. Not all hospitals have the same specialties and not all hospitals have emergency care.

English Services

Making an appointment will be a challenge at most clinics and hospitals in Okinawa. The Okinawa International Exchange and Human Resources Development Foundation has a great list of medical facilities with the ability to filter and locate English-speaking facilities, however, you’ll find that most facilities that are listed as English speaking, when you call, the person who answers doesn’t speak English. I’m currently looking into this more, but I’m guessing that if a facility is listed as English speaking, it simply means there’s at least one doctor there that speaks English.

It’s best to call a hospital or clinic before going to give them a heads up of a possible language barrier. They will let you know if they have a translator present or not.

Another option is to ask the hospital or clinic if they are able to use the translation hotline: 03-6635-0230. From my understanding, this service is provided for providers to call for translation purposes. Unfortunately, the call has to be initiated by the provider; if you call as a patient, they will decline your call and ask the provider call.

Translation Services

Another workaround for the language barrier is to hire a translator to make phone calls for you and/or attend appointments with you:

Okinawa Translator is well known by the English-speaking community in Okinawa and has a 5-star rating on Google.

Central Translation Services is also a reputable company that can help you navigate the medical services in Okinawa.

Okinawa International Exchange and Human Resources Development Foundation is also worth looking into as they have a volunteer medical translation program.