Travel insurance is essential for any visit or vacation in Japan. Whether you are here for just a few days or planning a longer stay as an exchange student, visiting academic or business executive be sure to take out a reputable insurance policy before you arrive.
Why, you may ask, is travel insurance a necessity for Japan? Japan certainly doesn't rank as one of the most dangerous places to travel in the world, and the chance of volcanic eruption, earthquakes and related seismic events are an extremely low (albeit ever present) risk for most travelers who confine their visit to the Golden Triangle of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
Personal crime and theft (especially involving foreign visitors) is extremely low. It is still possible to leave even expensive articles on public transport such as cameras and audio equipment and track them down, safe and sound, a few hours later at the lost property office of the railway, taxi or bus company you were traveling on.
And although there are bears, boars, giant hornets and even poisonous snakes among Japan's wildlife, again the chance of the average foreign visitor encountering one of these potentially lethal creatures is extremely low indeed.
So why the absolute necessity to take out a comprehensive travel insurance package before you step foot in Japan?
While medical costs at hospitals and clinics are not outrageous in Japan and are in most cases cheaper than in the US, they are not negligible by any means and if you require an operation during your visit to Japan you may be looking at a bill of thousands of dollars.
Also Japanese hospitals tend to keep patients for recuperation much longer than their western counterparts. A minor operation for say repairing a tendon or setting a broken limb, would normally require only one night in hospital in the west and subsequent outpatient treatment. In Japan it may extend to a month or more of expensive hospital care.
The crux of the problem for the uninsured in Japan is that most hospitals and doctors will simply refuse to treat you without some physical evidence of insurance. Nearly all Japanese residents belong to the national insurance scheme and when you arrive at a hospital or clinic your national insurance card is the first thing reception asks to see before you can be treated.
Sadly it is not rare for the uninsured foreign visitor to be turned away at the point of treatment, even those with potentially life-threatening illnesses. There are horror stories of the sick being shuttled from place to place in a taxi and not being admitted due to lack of cover.
So make sure your insurance policy is valid for Japan, covers hotel and travel cancellations, and includes coverage for lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal property.
Increasingly visitors are coming to Japan to ski, hike, scuba dive and even mountain climb so make sure your insurance includes coverage if you plan to undertake a more risky adventure holiday than the usual sightseeing and gourmet indulgence.
Finally make sure you have a document you can show on arrival at a clinic or hospital (and keep a copy just in case). The English original should be fine but a Japanese translation would be ideal. Secure full peace of mind with adequate insurance then relax and enjoy your stay in Japan.
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