According to The Asahi Shimbun, as a way to improve hospitality in this popular tourist destination, local citizens in Japan have taken measures to prevent communication problems from killing visitors during medical emergencies.
Largely based on personal experiences abroad, two groups in Nara have produced pamphlets in English and other languages so that non-Japanese tourists and foreign residents can easily explain their health problems to physicians or passers-by during emergencies.
On a recent day, volunteers wearing orange scarfs and speaking English asked tourists around JR Nara Station if they needed assistance.
One family asked for directions to Nara Park, Todaiji temple and their hotel. A tourist group sought advice on restaurants where they could dine at ease. Another visitor asked the volunteer guides for the location of a shop that can repair eyeglasses.
The guides were members of a volunteer group called the Team Orange of English Speaking, which was established in April by the Nara NPO Centre.
The volunteers also handed English pamphlets to tourists to fill in and carry around during their stay in Japan.
Holders of the orange pamphlet write in their names, birthdates, chronic illnesses, prescribed medications, side effects from certain drugs, and allergies. The pamphlet provides this vital information to medical staff if the tourist suddenly falls ill or is injured.
The pamphlet also contains information on the emergency number 119 and the AMDA International Medical Information Centre, which offers advice in multiple languages.
The contents of the pamphlet are based on the experience of a Nara NPO Centre official whose family had problems after getting sick overseas.
To compile the material, the centre sought advice from non-Japanese living in the prefecture.
A local non-profit group, consisting of former members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) and others, recently released a different medical pamphlet for people who cannot understand Japanese.
The material includes a list of medical institutions in Nara Prefecture and typical conversations at hospitals in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
“It is difficult for people to accurately explain their conditions and other affairs that could threaten their lives,” said Jiro Kobi, 58, who once worked in Nepal as a member of the JOCVs.
After returning to Japan, a pregnant woman from Nepal asked Kobi for help by being her interpreter. Through the experience, Kobi became aware that medical interpretation requires technical knowledge, and hospitals and local municipalities do not always have personnel on hand who can understand foreign languages.
He and his friends worked for around six months gathering information for the pamphlet, which non-Japanese can use instead of interpreters.
Consisting of 61 pages, the A4 pamphlet not only lists words for organs, diseases and hospital departments, but it also explains how to describe the feeling of pressure in the chest, wheezing breath and other health conditions.
The pamphlet also contains typical instructions from doctors, such as pointing to problem areas on the body, and explanations about medicine, such as an agent intended to lower blood glucose levels.
Kobi and his colleagues have printed 1,000 copies of the pamphlet and have distributed them to people who need the information.
The non-profit group said it hopes “the booklet will be used at various facilities and locations that foreign people visit, such as inns, tourism facilities and restaurants.”
If you want to read this article in Japanese, please see the following link:
Subscribe to our English Newsletter