Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Eating Your Own Pants

Don't get sick in Japan if you're poor. Because if you do, you'll have to eat your own pants.

Foreigners complain a lot about the health care system in Japan. A Peruvian friend said something about "medicines as effective as tap water", a Thai friend echoed his sentiment; others have something to say about the mechanical, unfriendly doctors. Whether or not these claims are true, are rather subjective and should be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, they come from foreigners. You know, they complain too much.

There is, however, one thing that even a typical Japanese would agree - the high cost of medical fee. And as a poor guy who has recently got substantially poorer, thanks to the doctors, I think I have the right to have my say in this matter.

Two weeks ago, with a half-lucid mind and looking almost like a pot-smoking hippie, I dropped by at the hospital. At the reception, I was greeted by a lady who was suffering from a bad case of PMS.

"What's the matter?" lady PMS peered from her squinted eyes.

"I think I've been poisoned by psychedelic mushrooms. My head's groggy."

"Any appointment?" Her facial muscles twitched into a wry smile. Despite her PMS, the lady made painstaking efforts to project a friendly face. I felt that I owed her my deepest gratitude for her professionalism.

"Erm, nope."

"That will cost you a surcharge." 

Crap. As if I had a choice. When you're downright worried about mushroom poisoning, money's your last concern.

It took me more than an hour's wait for the doctor, just to be diagnosed with chicken pox. The consultation cost me more than 1,000 yen. Then with a prescription letter from the hospital, I was supposed to get the medicine from a pharmacy outside. The cost, 5,640 yen. Fantastic, that's more than half a week's budget.

My wallet got way lighter by the time I left the pharmacy.

Oh well, that's why we've got the wonderful national health insurance system. Without which I'd have had to pay a whopping 18,810 yen! Now, that's about 1/3 my monthly house rent. Even the mere thought made my wallet shiver.

But the episode didn't end there. After 12 days of sucking at my thumb at home, I felt ready to go for lessons once more. Visiting the hospital to get a medical certificate, I was referred to a doctor who, upon seeing me, proclaimed that he is "no specialist in this (chicken pox)". He then took no more than a passing glance at the marks on my face, and announced that I may return to school. Writing an M.C., would however, "cost some money". (Chotto ryoukin ga kakarimasu.)

After four years in Japan, I am yet to learn the unimaginable power of the evil Japanese word chotto. Translated into English, it means a little or some. But in Japanese, it can mean something in between nil and the largest amount conceivable by the human mind. In my case, chotto meant 1,500 yen.

With that amount of money, I could have gotten two paperback novels from Amazon, that would have kept me entertained for a couple of days. But, to spend that on just a piece of paper scribbled with two lines of hardly-legible writing no more entertaining than a piece of used toilet paper is utter bullcrap.

Hospitals in Japan sure operate like loan sharks. Filthy bloodsuckers.

I'm eating my pants for dinner tonight.

3 persons flung their shoes:

K.O.J.A. said...

When you talk about evil japan, it has to be the highways, healthcare and postal system.

(me picked that up from manga Akumetsu anyways :P)

The PMS lady would have charged you money for her smile (laughter is the best medicine anyway, and you thought it's free?)

Yap! It's 3088.. said...

that's alot of money to spend for something that doesn't work. i thought you could claim the remaining 20% as a student?

Kryptos said...

1. i don't know about the postal system, but there's one more thing, consumer tax.

2. i cud hv juz gone to a mcD. they charge nothing for a smile.

1. i need to clarify that the meds worked well, without which i'd have suffered a few days more. it's the high medical fee that's ridiculous. and to be charged 1,500 for an MC is way too much.

2. u're talking about the cost covered by JASSO? they scrapped tat thing not long after you left...