Japan has a comprehensive health care system that provides medical attention to all Japanese citizens regardless of income. The system is funded by national and local governments, as well as by contributions from employers and individuals. In addition to the public health insurance plan, many people contribute to private health insurance plans, which give them access to extra services.

 Health care facilities range from small neighbourhood clinics to hospitals that provide more intensive care. Some companies run their own hospitals for employees. Japan also has a system of public health centres in urban areas that provide health education, immunization, pre- and post-natal care and preventive health care.

Medical consultations tend to be short, which leaves little time to explain a diagnosis or treatment. Patients usually leave medical decisions to their doctor. Patient consent to treatment is not legally required under Japanese law. Doctors are often reluctant to give bad news to a patient directly. Instead they tell family members, who decide on the treatment and whether to inform the patient.

 A challenge to the health care system is the country’s aging population. The average lifespan for a man is 77 years and for a woman 84 years. It is estimated that by 2025, about a quarter of the population will be over 65. The government is investigating ways to allow those over 65 to keep working if they wish to do so. It is also trying to deal with the shortage of home nursing services. This shortage has resulted in a large number of the elderly living in nursing homes, which are often understaffed. Government subsidies are available to families who are willing to care for an elderly relative at home. 

The Japanese use many alternative medical practices. Kampo is a holistic approach that treats illness while strengthening the body. A Kampo practitioner can be a medical doctor or a pharmacist who has trained in oriental medicine. Acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific areas on the body to relieve pain. Moxibustion is a treatment in which small amounts of an oriental plant called mogusa or moxa are burned on the skin to stimulate the immune system and prevent illness. Shiatsu and amma massage techniques are used to strengthen weak areas of the body. Sekkotsu therapy involves diagnosing sprains, dislocations, and fractures by touch and using massage techniques to treat the injury.
  Did you know?
When Japanese people visit a friend or relative in hospital, they do not bring potted plants, which are considered bad luck, since the roots may suggest that the patient will become "rooted" and stay in hospital a long time. Chrysanthemums or white flowers are also bad luck, because they are associated with death and funerals.