Hospital patients are treated in the order they arrive. Both private and public hospitals use this first-come, first-serve system, so it is better to arrive early in the day. For non-emergencies, hospital waiting rooms usually open around 7 A.M, and many patients arrive at 6:30 to get the early appointments. Appointment times are issued by a machine (simply select the appropriate hospital department), and unless you are one of the first to arrive you will wait an hour or two for your appointment. Patients who arrive midday may have to wait even longer.
Japanese hospitals are organized differently than most Western hospitals, where doctors visit patients in examining rooms. In Japan, doctors remain in curtained examining areas while patients are led in and out by nurses. The next few patients in line wait on benches near the examining areas. They cannot see through the curtains, though they are usually able to hear most of the examination.
Medical attention in other languages
Some Japanese doctors speak or at least understand basic English. If you are having trouble communicating, try writing the doctor a note. He may understand written English better than spoken English. Older doctors might speak German as well – Japanese medical education is based off of the German system (up until the mid-twentieth century Japanese medical charts were actually written in German!), and many Japanese doctors have studied in Germany.
If you want to be sure the best advice is to consult your embassy or local consulate. They usually make lists of foreign language speaking doctors available to their citizens.
Another option is to get an expat-focused private health insurance with a network of English-speaking doctors.
Regardless whether you have health insurance or not, you can use Air Doctor, a mobile app to quickly find trusted specialists who speak your language.
Public health clinics in Japan
There are public health clinics throughout Japan. They feature a variety of services, mostly involving check-ups and health resources. In addition to medical services, clinics offer counselling for alcohol and drug addiction, plus health education materials for pregnant women and new mothers. All public clinics provide AIDS testing, and many will test for other sexually transmitted diseases as well.
Public health clinic services are free to all Japanese citizens and foreigners, though their staffs do not typically speak very good English. If you do not speak Japanese well, you should bring a Japanese friend with you to help with the language barrier.