Health and Safety in AEA Programs
According to the World Health Organization, in Japan, “the average life expectancy remains the highest in the world. In 2007, it was 85.9 years for women and 79.2 years for men.” Medical facilities (although expensive) are widely available. In Kyoto, where much of the Japan and Its Buddhist Traditions program is located, there are numerous major public and private hospitals, not to mention hundreds of clinics, many within easy walking distance of the program’s lodgings at Koshoji temple.
That said, the most important preventative measure is for students to make sure they are healthy before the program begins. It’s a good idea for students to get a full medical and dental checkup before leaving. Students should also bring any medications they might need in the original, labeled bottles. Getting correct medications may be difficult-and even illegal-if students don’t have their prescription handy (it’s also helpful to know the generic name of the drug as well as the brand name). However, medical treatment and prescription drugs are of high quality in Japan. No immunizations or health certificates are necessary.
Food is almost always safe to eat, and students can drink tap water throughout Japan but should avoid drinking untreated water. Hygiene standards are high in Japan, and students should be aware that it can be culturally offensive not to be clean.
Students are expected to have insurance that is valid abroad. Valid policies may exist through the student’s parents or home institution. Students in the Japan program will also be issued an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). In addition to various discounts, the ISIC card provides travel insurance. This insurance covers medical expenses, travel delays, emergency medical transportation, and more. For additional information about the ISIC card, visit our page on insurance.
Some participants choose to take out an additional travel insurance policy to cover theft, property loss, and health problems. Your current insurance provider may have options available, so you should consult them if interested. Students (and parents) should read through the options to find out which one will work best for them. For example, note that some policies will not cover you if you’re engaged in activities such as cycling or hiking, both of which program students typically do. Other things to check for are coverage of ambulances and emergency flights home, payment method (do you pay upfront, or do you get reimbursed?), and low or high medical expense options.
Following acceptance, students will receive extensive pre-departure information. Included in this information will be advice on what to pack, including medical items. Students should know that the rules for dispensing over-the-counter drugs in Japan are stricter than in the United States.
Medical Assistance and Emergencies
Although larger hospitals typically have English-speaking doctors available, especially the Red Cross (Nisseki) hospitals, bilingual Japan program staff members are always available to accompany students with medical needs. Should students need medical assistance during the final three-week independent research period, they can always contact Japan program staff for assistance, or they can call either the Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) or the Japan Helpline. Each student is provided with a laminated card containing all key phone numbers and addresses they may need.
In the 2009 Global Peace Index, which ranks countries by safety, Japan ranked 7th; the United States ranked 83rd. For an overview on travel in Japan, visit the U.S. Department of State’s country profile of Japan.
Typically, most of our students feel secure in Kyoto and around Japan. You will see both men and women walking alone twenty-four hours a day. In all cross-cultural situations, though, signals and signs of danger may vary. Students should be aware of this to help avoid unsafe situations. During the program orientation, students will be advised of many cultural differences, including personal space. It is the responsibility of students to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. Overall, however, Japan is a very safe and enjoyable country in which to move about. Despite the language barrier, the Japanese people typically go out of their way to assist visitors.
If you have specific questions regarding health and safety in Japan, please contact us.