In Case of Emergency

You’ve seen the news about Japan’s earthquakes. You know about the typhoons. And by now, you’ve probably heard that your neighbor is an extremely active volcano. All this information would cause anyone to be nervous. Lucky for you, we have some resources to ease your worried mind.

The Prefectural Website has compiled an extensive list of links on how to handle your next natural disaster. You can find that list HERE. Resources include

  • How to prepare an emergency kit
  • How to evacuate
  • What to do in an earthquake, typhoon, eruption or tsunami such as:

A Tip for Drivers – if you find yourself in a car during an earthquake:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road
  2. Turn off the engine, turn on the radio for updates
  3. Put on your emergency brake/hand brake
  4. Stay in the vehicle until shaking stops
  5. You can exit the car once the shaking stops


The prefectural website also has a list of contacts to report any kind of workplace harassment. CLAIR also offers counseling for long-term issues. You can find those HERE.

Finally, here is a quick list of emergency numbers to have on hand in case of the worst. They can also be found on the Prefectural Website:

  • Police (keisatsu / 警察) 110
  • Ambulance (kyuukyuusha / 救急車) 119
  • Fire (shoubousha / 消防車) 119
    • From green pay phones: Lift the receiver, push the red emergency button, and dial.
    • From grey pay phones: Lift the receiver and dial.



Seeing a Doctor: Respiratory Distress

Are you sick? Injured? Dying? Perhaps I can help.

When I arrived to Japan, I had a horrible wheeze and a productive cough. In layman’s terms, I coughed and stuff came out of my lungs. I couldn’t sleep and it made it almost impossible for me to go on runs. Not a good situation to be in. So naturally I saught help with a respiratory doctor in my town.

I’d never been to a Japanese doctor before, and I had my first experience going to a hospital on my own when I was a senior in college and developed a pretty nasty lung infection about a month before I was set to depart for Japan. Before you ridicule, I was and still am a very healthy adult who takes very good care of my body, thank you very much. There was never a need.

THE FIRST THING YOU NEED TO KNOW: when you are sick, you go to a hospital. Unless there is a special clinic, you will hear your colleagues talking about “my child is in the hospital” or “I have to go to the hospital.” Do not be alarmed! It’s the equivalent of “welp, gotta go to the doctor to get this scrape looked at.” Due to the excellent healthcare here, hospital visits are common and thus usually not a time for worrying. I didn’t know that so I was adamant about going to a clinic, but I don’t think it would have made any sort of difference to be honest.

Here is a vocabulary list/timeline of my average experience at the clinic:

  • 内科(ないか): Internal Medicine. This is where I went for my respiratory issues.
  • 受付(うけつけ)Reception Desk. Go to this when you first get here. You put your name on a list and you will be called on a first-come, first-served basis. Avoid peak hours like lunch, and don’t go too close to closing time.
  • 初診です(しょしん)This is my first visit! This is very important, as they will give you a questionnaire to fill out. Bring a dictionary if you are not up to date with medical kanji. It will ask about your symptoms and medications and smoking/drinking habits.
  • 保険証(ほけんじょう)Insurance Card: You will have one from JET. Bring this and give it to the receptionist with your completed survey. Your copay will be cheap, around maybe 1000 yen if even. I got a chest X ray for the equivalent of $11. You don’t pay till you are done so sit tight.
    • 診察券(しんさつけん):Patient ID Card. If you go to a hospital, not a clinic, you may recieve this. It basically acts as a patient ID card for you to use each time you visit.
  • 診察室(しんさつしつ):Medical Exam Room. You will go here to be examined by the doctor. If you were like me, you will get blood drawn by the nurse first. She will also take your height and weight.

From here, vocabulary will vary. Please understand that you will need a functioning conversational level of Japanese from here on out. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms so try to know how to explain them. Worst case: take a JTE or a Japanese speaking friend with you to translate. When in doubt, pointing to an area and saying 「ここが痛い(いたい)」or “This hurts” will help.

So when that was all done and finished:

  • 待合室(まちあいしつ):Waiting Room. Go back out here and wait. If the doctor prescribed you medicine,  you need a prescription sheet from him or the receptionist.
  • 処方箋(しょほうせん):Prescription. After you get the documents for this, THEN you pay. After you pay, you are free to go to the pharmacy.
  • 薬(くすり):Medicine, in its most general term.
  • 薬局(やっきょく):Pharmacy.They are usually quite near to the clinic. Mine was next door. Walk in, give them your prescription, and wait while they fill it. The will then explain what each medicine does.They may even give you a prescription book, which counts as a record for all prescriptions filled at that pharmacy.

And that’s about it. Unless you experience asthma-like symptoms like I apparently did, your situation will probably be a little different. I ended up getting a short term inhaler and all is well now. Anywho, I hope this can help you navigate through your first experience at a Japanese doctor!

Christine Zawlocki is a 2nd year ALT in Kanoya, Kagoshima

Running in Kagoshima

Post by Adrian Storr, an ALT in Hioki City



When I arrived in Kagoshima two and a bit years ago I weighed roughly 85kg (13.5 stone) and didn’t really do any exercise. During school and university I’d mostly kept my weight down by playing Rock Band drums a lot, but in the last year and a half of university my friends, and then I, lost interest in the game. As a result, during final year I put on a lot of weight. Now, 2 years later I’m down to around 73kg (11.5 stone) and it’s due to two things; running and elementary school lunch break.

I started doing the odd run in my first year around this time. I only ran around 2k around my little village back then, but it was enough for me to feel like it was a good way for me to lose some weight. For my New Year’s Resolution in January 2014, I decided that by the end of the year I wanted to run a half marathon. I managed this on December 7th 2014 at the Akune Bontan Road Race with a time of 1.49.17.

I’ve found Kagoshima to be a good place to run, especially outside of the city. It’s a great way to see nature here and a good way to relax and unwind while listening to some good music.

In Kagoshima, the running season is based during the winter, stretching from early December through to around March. This is great for two reasons. Firstly, unlike the summer, the winter here ranges between cold and cool with no humidity, allowing you to run in really comfortable temperatures. Secondly, for training, as your distances increase the temperature decreases, making running longer easier as the season approaches.

For training there are many resources you can find online for the various distances you can run. I took influence from several and made my own, but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to train. I’ve listed a couple down below.

When planning your runs, I recommend making sure you know your half way point, as it makes it easier to judge your speed for the second half of your run. Secondly, choosing music appropriate to both your pace and the current point in your run is important. Anything with too fast a beat will likely make you run too quickly. Anything too slow and it won’t have the desired effect of being a decent pacemaker. Also, you’ll want songs to pick you up and encourage you towards the end of your run, to help you go through the final kilometre or two. Two examples that I use are Survival by Muse and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. If you have any other suggestions, please put them in the comments below.

Starting to run was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my time in Japan. It’s been a good talking point for people who’ve seen me running and has made me happier overall. There are plenty of runs happening in southern Kyushu and it’s a popular pastime here, so make sure to ask around and see what runs you can join!

Online resources:

5 Tips for Grocery Shopping in Kagoshima


Ever felt (or think you may soon feel) completely bewildered by the Japanese supermarket? Start looking for soy sauce and realize you’re knee deep in the nori section with no memory of getting there? Well wander no more! Here are 5 tips for helping you navigate your grocery like the experienced obaachan we know you can be.

1. Remember Sa, Shi, Su, Se, So
The most common ingredients found in Japanese cooking can be summed up by the 5 S syllables: Sa, Shi, Su, Se, So. With these ingredients on hand, you can conquer a wide range of Japanese dishes.

Sa: Sato, or sugar
Shi: Shio, or salt
Su: vinegar, particularly mirin (rice wine vinegar)
Se: Seiyu, or soy sauce
So: Miso

In most dishes, you add these ingredients in this order, because their taste is affected by heat and cooking time. Always start here!

2. Understand The Store Layout
Take a half hour with a friend in your area to wander around your local store, noting where go-to items are kept. Fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy are laid out along the perimeter, with dry goods like rice in the inner isles. Make note of the fresh bento areas, clearance racks and where to stock up on essentials like soy sauce.

3. Start Small: Make A List
This may seem self-explanatory, but it can be all too easy to pop into Nishimuta and walk out with 9 things whose names you can’t pronounce. The easiest way to avoid confusion in the store is to have a list of what you need. To start, look up some easy Japanese recipes like donburi, soba, or fried rice and work from there. Google Searches like “cake in a rice cooker” have literally changed my life in the inaka, and they can change yours too.

4. Ask for help
So you find the tomatoes, here’s the lettuce, but where are the damn potatoes again?

Hail down a nice and friendly Japanese worker with a simple
“______ wa doko desu ka?” (Where is…?)
Or a “______ wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have…?)

Pull up a picture on your phone for quick reference in times of need.

5. Use A Kanji App
Once you find the soy sauce, how will you know which is which?
To avoid much confusion, download a Japanese dictionary like JEDict with a kanji drawing option, so you can quickly reference unknown characters. Google Translate also has a fairly accurate picture to text option- just snap a photo and bam!

Bonus Tip- Cheap Shopping: Keep an eye out for seasonally cheap items like mikans and biwa and watermelon. Most grocery stores discount their bentos and meat after 8pm on weekdays, and your area probably have additional sale days. Ask your coworkers where/when they shop for extra points.

For additional tips, including ingredient lists and allergy warnings, check out this Gaijinpot Beginners Guide to Japanese Supermarkets.

Happy Meal Hunting!