Healthcare in Japan for International Students

One of the benefits of Studying in Japan is the access you gain to Japan’s excellent healthcare system. With the highest life expectancy rate in the world, it’s little wonder that healthcare in Japan is affordable and easily accessible for all citizens and residents, and that extends to international students.

Healthcare system in Japan

Stethoscope on health insurance form

Japan’s healthcare system is designed to provide universal coverage for all citizens and residents of Japan and is funded through taxation and individual contributions. Everyone is required to enroll in either an employment-based or residency-based health insurance plan. When accessing health care, people enrolled in a health insurance program will pay 30% of the medical costs, including prescription medications, dentistry, hospital bills and specialist clinic fees, with the insurance covering the remaining 70%. Low-income earners and the elderly pay 10%. The government sets fee schedules to keep costs low for residents and maintain the financial health of the system. Limits to monthly and annual out-of-pocket expenses are also in place to protect people in case of, for example, a medical emergency necessitating a long hospital stay or requiring expensive ongoing treatment for chronic illnesses or disabilities.

One facet of the Japanese healthcare system that may come as a surprise to international students arriving in Japan is the lack of family doctors, or general practitioners (GPs). Instead of requiring a referral from a GP to access specialist medical services (and in many cases needing to wait weeks or months to be seen), in Japan you can visit specialists directly. Most clinics have a walk-in system for first visits but also take appointments. It’s important to remember to bring cash to your appointment, as many clinics and pharmacies do not accept credit cards.

Health insurance for international students

Japanese National Health Insurance Card

All international students are required to register for the National Health Insurance (NHI) at their local city hall soon after arriving in Japan.

The NHI covers 70% of the cost of medical bills and prescribed medications. This coverage extends to hospitals, dentists, and most specialist clinics. Students are liable for the remaining 30%. National Health Insurance premiums are based on your income in the previous year, but students can expect to pay around 2000 yen per month in their first year. If you then earn income from a part-time job, the cost of insurance in the following year may be higher.

As you can see, Japan has developed a national healthcare system that, while not free, is very accessible and reasonably priced compared to many other countries.

At iCLA we will take care of the initial enrollment into the National Health Insurance for you during orientation.

Many universities will also require you to take out travel or other insurance on top of the National Health Insurance to cover you in the case of accidents and emergencies. At iCLA we provide insurance for school related activities known as “Gakkensai” or “Personal Accident and Injury Insurance for Students during Education and Research”. This insurance covers you in case of accidents during classes and related activities, at school events, around campus and during club activities. This insurance provides compensation in the unfortunate event of your death, physical impairment, or hospital treatment. In addition, all international degree-seeking students at Yamanashi Gakuin University are automatically covered by the “Comprehensive Insurance for Students’ Lives Coupled with Gakkensai” which provides, personal liability, death/permanent disability, and rescue expenses. Gakkensai is provided without extra cost to all iCLA students.

National Health Insurance in Japan

A group of Japanese health professionals

What is National Health Insurance?

The National Health Insurance (NHI) is the health insurance that students and those under 75 who are not receiving health insurance through their employer or public assistance are enrolled in.

Is it mandatory?

Unless you are over 75 years old or receiving health insurance through your employer or public assistance, every Japanese citizen and resident (except short-term residents) must enroll in National Health Insurance. Therefore, all iCLA students, including exchange students, must enroll in the NHI.

How do you apply?

Typically, you will apply for National Health Insurance when you register your resident status at your local city hall or ward office not long after arriving in Japan.

At iCLA, the student support staff will apply for you on your behalf as part of your resident registration process at city hall.

How much does it cost?

The NHI premium is set in combination with the city or town and calculated based on your previous year’s income. Students at iCLA can expect to pay around 2000 yen per month in their first year. If you then earn income from a part-time job, the cost of the following year’s insurance may be higher. The invoices for your NHI premiums will be sent directly to you by post and are easily payable at any convenience store. It’s important not to get behind in your NHI payments as being in arrears may affect your ability to extend your student visa.

What does it cover?

Your national health insurance covers 70% of the cost of medical bills and prescribed medications. This coverage extends to hospitals, dentists, and most specialist clinics. You are liable for the remaining 30%.

Medical Services at iCLA

On campus nurse and medical assistance

Yamanashi Gakuin University has a nurse’s station on site. If you need assistance to make appointments at local clinics, we have Japanese language volunteers who can assist you. Many clinics have doctors that speak English. Staff are also on hand to help with any emergency situations.

There is also a Student Counseling Room where students can get support with issues they are facing so they can make the most of their time at iCLA. Students are welcome to consult our team of trained professional counselors who will support students safely and confidentially. Students can easily schedule an appointment online, by phone or by visiting the Student Counseling Room directly. Further information can be found on the bulletin boards located on campus or from the iCLA Admin Office.

Counseling sessions are offered in Japanese and English. The Student Counseling Room is located on the 3rd floor of the Campus Center.

Health and Medical Care Room

YGU provides the following services in its Student Center:

The YGU School Nurse is available for basic first aid and advice on where to seek treatment if you are unwell and unsure of where to go. The YGU School Nurse’s office is open Monday through Friday between 9 am and 5 pm at the Health and Medical Care Room located on the 2nd floor of the YGU Student Center.

The YGU Counselor’s office is open for mental health support Monday through Friday at the YGU Counseling Center located on the 3rd floor of the YGU Student Center. Counseling is available in both Japanese and English.

iCLA staff maintain a list of clinics near YGU you can access at the iCLA Admin Office. Many specialist doctors were trained overseas so there are more English-speaking doctors in Japan than you may expect. In case you are not able to find an English-speaking doctor, you can either bring a friend to help translate or access a free medical translation service we provide details for.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, Japan does not offer free health insurance. All residents, including international students, are required to enroll in a health insurance system, which covers up to 70% of medical costs.

The cost of health insurance in Japan varies depending on various factors, such as your employment status and income. For students, the National Health Insurance (NHI) fee can be relatively low, often around a few thousand yen per month, but it depends on the municipality and your previous year's income.

Everyone living in Japan for more than three months is required to join the Japanese health insurance system. This includes students, who typically enroll in the National Health Insurance (NHI) soon after arriving in Japan.

Japan's healthcare system is highly regarded for its quality, accessibility, and comprehensive coverage. It offers advanced medical care, with a wide network of hospitals and clinics throughout the country. Patients have the freedom to choose their healthcare providers.

Japanese residents tend to utilize healthcare services frequently, benefiting from the affordable and accessible heathcare system. The exact frequency varies by individual needs and conditions, but the comprehensive insurance coverage encourages regular doctor visits for preventative care and treatment.


The low cost and accessibility of healthcare in Japan are truly one of the best aspects of living and studying here. With health costs rising in many countries, it’s good to know that the National Health Insurance remains a stable and affordable system that supports the health of all residents of Japan, including international students.