1. Starting life in Japan during Autumn
September is the start of the Autumn season in Japan, which is characterized by the transition from the Summer’s sweltering heat and high humidity, to some lingering Summer heat in the day time at first, followed by cool air which gives you the feel of winter settling in slowly. In Autumn there are various events to enjoy across Japan, such as Autumn festivals. These will be a great opportunity for you to get into the local culture by experiencing events at your school or in the local community. However, it is important to bear in mind that you are new to the food, environment, etc., and that there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to staying healthy.
2. Health hazards during Autumn
There are three major illnesses that you could suffer from, and therefore you should be aware of their dangers as follows (Byouki to Kenko, 2017):
The contents of a bento can easily go bad under the heat of September and October. Until you become familiar with the climate in Japan, it is suggested you be careful about carrying around food outside. Be mindful that you are in an environment different from that of the country from which you came, and take preventive measures such as the following:
Food poisoning: In Autumn, there are many enjoyable occasions to eat food outside, including some finger foods from street stands at festivals. It is advisable not to eat food you are not familiar with while you are still unsure how your body will react to the new items. Also, when you are taking a bento (or boxed meal) for picnicking, you should keep it in a cool place and wash your hands before eating.
Asthma: There is danger of the possible outbreak of asthma due to unstable temperatures from the change in season. Also, typhoons hitting Japan in September cause climate change, which can increase the occurrence of allergic inflammation. You should know that when the seasons change health problems may arise, and you ought to be prepared for hospital care in case you get the feeling of dyspnea, even if you normally didn’t have respiratory problems back home.
Hay fever: Hay fever is another health hazard for those who are new to or unfamiliar with Japanese flora. As it is well known, hay fever could suddenly occur one day even though you have never had it before in your life. Specifically, the hay fever in Autumn could be caused by Asteraceae plants such as mug wort. As preventive caution, it is effective to wear a mask, as Japanese people do, to prevent pollen from getting into your system. It is advisable to go to a hospital when you have the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness of eyes.
Apart from these illnesses, you may want to be cautious about a condition called “Akibate”. It could occur when your body cannot adapt to the seasonal transition, such as the drastic changes in temperature within a day: hot in the daytime and cold in the nighttime. You should give close attention to the signals coming from your body, and pay attention to your habits when it comes to eating, getting sufficient sleep, etc. Remember, it is advisable for you not to hesitate visit a hospital when you feel sick.
3. Seeking medical attention
In a severe medical situation, you call an ambulance just like you do in any other country. If not an emergency, you choose which sort of medical institution you should visit depending on your specific condition. There is no system like in some countries where you visit the general physician first to determine the field from the medical professional’s perspective. For instance, you will probably go to Gastroenterology or Internal Medicine if it is food poisoning, Pulmonology for asthma, and Otorhinolaryngology or Internal Medicine for hay fever. In case you can’t judge which you should go to, it may by safer for you to visit hospitals or clinics that cover multiple sectors. However, there are hospitals that could charge you more for treatment if you do not have a reference letter from a first medical contact, and they could prioritize the patients with conditions requiring urgent attention, focusing on critical care. If you need medical attention on weekends or at night, you should go to Emergency Room of nearby hospitals or clinics, although it will be subject to additional charges.
4. Insurance, a.k.a. Peace of Mind
It is true that you cannot predict what will happen to your health in a country you are not familiar with. In cases when you get sick, insurance is always good for your peace of mind. You may apply for travel insurance or international student insurance for your stay in Japan. However, it is suggested you apply for the National Health Insurance (NHI) as soon as you arrive in Japan. NHI covers 70 % of the total medical fee, leaving you only 30% to pay. Although terms and conditions may apply, it is still an essential piece of your safe and comfortable living in Japan to have insurance to support your health. You can apply for NHI at a ward or city office in your residential area with the presentation of your residence card and passport（Japan Study Support, n.d.).
5. Explore Japan with good health
Autumn in Japan is a very beautiful season to enjoy. Once you start your student life in September, you will have great opportunities to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. However, you should be mindful that your body is dealing with an unfamiliar environment, and it is difficult to say how your body will react to changing seasons, the climate, etc. Without being overconfident and relying on knowledge and common sense from practices in your home country, it is recommended to have knowledge about health management in Japan, take preventive measures as well as hold insurance in order to be prepared for any possible incidents or illnesses so that you may continue to hit your academic goals and fully enjoy your time in Japan.