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Health Tourism in Japan

Health Tourism in Japan

Thursday June 14, 2012

So-called medical tourism is a growing market worldwide and high-tech Japan hopes to get a piece of the action.

Millions of people worldwide travel abroad seeking high quality or cheaper medical treatment. A 2008 report by McKinsey & Co. forecasts the global medical tourism market to amount to the equivalent of $100 billion in 2012.

Asia in particular is seeing growth, especially in Thailand, Singapore and India.

In recent years the government has also started taking measures to expand the business, including a program started in January 2011 to issue entry visas for people coming to the country for medical treatment. The visas allow travelers entering Japan to receive medical care for up to a six-month stay, or double the period under a regular tourism visas.

Following are some questions and answers about medical tourism in Japan:

How many medical tourists does Japan expect?

No official statistics exist on how many overseas travelers are coming to Japan for medical treatment apart from the number of visas issued for that purpose.

According to the Foreign Ministry, 70 medical tourism visas were issued in 2011, including 31 issued to Chinese and 23 to Russians.

But experts say total arrivals are much greater. Many come on tourist or business visas and get health checkups.

A Japan Tourism Agency survey carried out on 12,066 foreign travelers to Japan in 2011 found 261 of the respondents, or 2 percent, said they received health checks or medical care in Japan during their stay.

"To be honest, we don't know what the actual volume (of medical travelers) is. . . . In order to understand (Japan's medical tourism) market, we need to know" such figures, Kazuyoshi Kiyose, a service and health care industry consultant at Nomura Research Institute, told The Japan Times.

What fields does Japanese medicine excel in?

Aya Miyai, a health care business section chief at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said Japan has many skilled cancer specialists.

Heavy particle radiotherapy cases in Japan exceed those of other nations, she said.

But because medical care is a service business, it is difficult to accurately compare its level with other countries, Miyai said.

Kiyose of NRI said Japan is advanced in such cutting-edge medical technology as regenerative medicine, whereby damaged or diseased body tissues and organs are repaired or replaced.

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Tags: medical tourism, medical tourists, regenerative medicine, cancer treatment, radiotherapy, international patients, Japan

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