A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Need Vaccinations for Travel?

I am planning an exciting trip to Mozambique this summer. This is my first time travelling to Africa, so I am both excited and a little nervous. I figured that one of my priorities should be to figure out which vaccinations I should get, since I will be staying with a friend in an “off-the-beaten-path” city in the north of Mozambique.


There is a lot of information about vaccinations on the internet, but some of the advice you get is conflicting, so I decided to try to find a travel health clinic to consult here in Japan. The Japanese Society of Travel Medicine lists a doctor at Tsukuba Soai Hospital (029-873-2511, Takasaki 1245) as a member amongst other doctors in the Kanto Region. There is also a major travel health clinic in Tokyo called the Travel Clinic at the International Medical Center of Japan. I decided to go to the Tokyo clinic to get some advice, as I was not certain that the people at the Soai Clinic would have as much experience with travel medicine specifically for trips to Africa.

It is quite easy to get to the Travel Clinic from Tsukuba. Take any train into Akihabara and get off at Shin Okachimachi, the stop just before Akihabara. Switch to the Toei Oedo line and take a train heading to Tocho Mae (都庁前). Get off at Wakamatsu Kawada (若松河田) and take the Wakamatsu Chou Exit (若松町). When you get up the stairs, look for the Lawson’s on your right. Walk towards the Lawson’s and turn right again onto the road after the Lawson’s. Follow that little road until it ends and then turn left. You should see the hospital right in front of you. Some parts of the hospital are under construction, so you might have to wander around some pedestrian paths before you actually get to the front door.

You must make an appointment before you go, so once you arrive at the hospital, check in at the desk near the front entrance. They will hand you your chart and send you upstairs to the Travel Clinic on the second floor. Once there, you will be asked to fill out some forms that detail your medical history, your travel plans, and your current state. After all that is done, you will be able to talk to the doctor.

The doctor was able to give me good advice about the vaccinations that I could receive there, which ones were applicable to my trip, which ones were obligatory and which were optional (in my case, all were optional), the schedule that I would need to follow for getting the vaccinations, and how long they would be effective. I had my consultation in Japanese, but they say on their website that they do have doctors who can speak English. (You may have to come on a particular day to be able to see an English-speaking doctor.) The doctor was extremely knowledgeable and was very happy to answer all of my questions.

Vaccinations are not covered by regular health insurance, so they can be really pricey. My bill for the consultation and the three shots that I ended up getting came to about 20,000 yen (16,600 yen for the shots and 2700 yen for the consultation). I didn’t see any information about being able to pay by credit card, so it is probably better to bring a big wadge of cash with you, just in case. (By the way, the shots are cheaper at the Travel Clinic than they are at Soai in Tsukuba.)

As it turned out, I decided to get my first shots at the Travel Clinic and then have my follow-up shots at Soai Hospital in Tsukuba. I am glad that I went to the Travel Clinic in Tokyo for my first consultation because I felt like they would have more experience in dealing with this kind of information. Also, as an added bonus, while you wait to pay your exorbitant bill, you can spend your time looking up at the intricate overhead paths of rails from which dangle briefcase-sized boxes of documents that the office staff send around to each other. It is one of those things that looks like it could have been really futuristic in the 1960s, but now it just looks messy. Still, it’s surprisingly captivating to watch the boxes scurry about like little automated trains along the rails.

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