TT-616 -- Believers in Japan's Health System, e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, June 05, 2011, Issue No. 616


- What's New -- Believers in Japan's Health System
- Metropolis Members Club -- 2 air tickets on United
- News -- Young stay away from gyms
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events -- ICA meeting
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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We all have our pet peeves about the Japanese "one size
fits all" medical system. Our's is being forced to submit
to barium meal breakfasts and x-rays every year, as part
of the nation's employee health screening program. We know
of others who have been unfortunate enough to emerge from
local hospitals with infections and complications they
didn't go in with, you can't get the latest drugs here
without special personal imports, and what drugs you do
get are massively over-prescribed, as that is how doctors
get paid.

But while every health system has its negatives, Japan's
does have some amazing positives. By way of anecdotal
evidence, we thought we'd share two very special stories
with you today. Both involve kids with life-threatening
problems, and the parents have been kind enough to let
us tell what happened.

Although one of the children did not make it, the common
thread between both couples is that they can reaffirm the
considerable talent, dedication, and financial generosity
of the medical system in Japan.

Our first parent is Charles McJilton, who runs the NPO food
bank Second Harvest.

The second is Kim Forsythe-Ferris, who is a founder of the
Tyler Foundation, which helps children with cancer.

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

==> Ruby McJilton, as told by father, Charles.

Our baby girl, Ruby, was born on 9/18/2010 with a heart
defect. My wife and I had planned to return to the US in
fall the same year, after the baby got settled, but Ruby's
heart condition changed our plans. My wife had to travel
ahead in October alone to get her Green Card and at that
time she inquired about getting the operation done in the
US. That is when she found out it would be US$114,000 for
the surgery alone... a very unsettling discovery for us.

Early in my wife's pregnancy she was hit by a motorcycle.
She was taken to Todai [Ed: Tokyo University Hospital], as
it was the only one equipped to handle pregnant women in
such situations. Luckily the baby was OK and after several
visits we decided to continue with this hospital through
her pregnancy until we decided on where to have the baby
(in the US or in Japan). In the end, having the baby in
Japan and at Todai became our only option.

My wife spent three days in labor and finally gave birth by
emergency c-section at 0400 on Saturday September 18th.
When Ruby was born they immediately knew she was in trouble
and put her in ICU for several days. About two weeks later,
when I was checking the mail at home, I opened the bill for
our treatment and realized that they had not charged us for
the three days my wife was in labor nor for Ruby's stay in
the ICU. In fact, the local government even gave us
JPY450,000 to offset the labor costs and later gave us an
additional JPY186,000 to reimburse additional costs we

We cannot say enough about the doctors and nurses at Todai.
Our specialist, Dr. Murakami was very quiet and modest. He
explained the procedure in great detail on at least four
different occasions in English. While I speak Japanese,
they made an effort to have someone there who could answer
my wife's questions or would wait until I was available to
interpret for my wife. My wife and I feel extremely
grateful for everyone's support.

We also feel a deep sense of gratitude for the Japanese
National Health Insurance. In the last Friday of May 2011,
my wife paid our hospital bill and could not stop crying
when she confirmed again that indeed the amount due
was only ¥5,200 ($64)..! For the record, the actual cost
her operation, the ICU, and the hospital stay, was
¥4.6m, (US$56,900). As mentioned, when she
checked on costs in the US for the same procedure, she
found that the operation alone would have been US$114,000
(¥9.2m). We both feel like we have won the lottery. Not
only do we have a healthy daughter back home with us, we do
not have financial burden of paying medical bills for years
to come.

Ruby is much happier and breathes so much better. What more
could parents want?

==> Tyler Forsythe-Ferris, as told by mother, Kim.

Our son Tyler, born in Japan, was diagnosed with a rare
form of leukemia when he was just one month old. He spent
nearly all of his short two years at the National Center
for Child Health and Development in Setagaya, Tokyo.
Although we lost Tyler, it was not for lack of excellent
medical care. His 10%-30% chance of cure would have been a
challenging case in any country and that we had him alive
and joyful for nearly two years attests to the quality of
medical care we received.

We were active in every decision and aspect of his
treatment - with the doctors working as a team to give us
the best possible direction and explain options. Also, we
repeatedly confirmed with doctors literally around the
world by phone and email that every step we took was spot
on. It was in fact the excellent medical care that made us
realize how much this contrasted with the lack of family
support and psycho-social support offered to families and
children with cancer, and this precipitated our founding
of the Tyler Foundation.

I would like to point out a few key points regarding our
pediatric hospital experience. Some are double edged, but
I want to stress that no system is perfect!

1. When it comes to children with serious conditions and
diseases, the National Health Care system provides
amazing financial support. For our two years in the
hospital with Tyler we paid essentially nothing. This
includes a bone marrow transplant (which costs about
US$250,000 in the US) and a total of over 3 months in the
ICU during the more than two years of treatment (probably
averaging US$5,000 per day in US). This is quite simply
astonishing and something that we cannot begin to express
our gratitude for to the Japanese government and its
medical system.

2. The pediatric nurses we met over the years were lovely.
True, they might not be as highly specialized as in the US
(in Japan they often rotate wards every 2 years or so),
but in general their demeanor was gentle, sweet and caring.

3. While the tendency to keep kids in hospital for quite a
while in Japan can - when treating a long-term illnesses
like cancer - have a negative impact on quality of life
by keeping kids away from home and siblings, on the other
hand there is something to be said about not being kicked
out of the hospital when you are not comfortable about
caring for a child in such a delicate state.

4. The biggest problem I see is inconsistency in
day-to-day hospital life for child patients, as it varies
greatly by institution. Nonetheless, the "top" hospitals
have doctors who travel often overseas and who have worked
in hospitals abroad, and who really embrace "Western"
patient care concepts such as transparency in dealing with
parents and patients, quality of life while in the
hospital, involving the family in aspects of the treatment
process, decision-making, etc.

So I note that as a foreigner being treated in Japan, if
you choose your hospital carefully, you can have excellent
care at a truly reasonable price AND have a doctor/hospital
experience similar to what you would expect in the USA or
other advanced economies.

...The information janitors/


Metropolis Members Club Winners

Last week Robert Hoey who won one night's accommodation for
two at The Westin Tokyo courtesy of The Westin Tokyo. Next
we have another GRAND PRIZE, which is a pair of air tickets
to any United direct destination in the USA or Asia
courtesy of United Airlines. This is the big one...!

Our Metropolis Members Club is growing by leaps and bounds
-- join now. No obligations, simply receive our weekly
email magazine and enjoy the Metropolis stories, discounts,
and prizes.


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+++ NEWS

- Companies to move out of Kanto because of power
- Increase in beer consumption expected this summer
- Big drop in young people using gyms
- Libyan assets seized in Japan
- China amongst massive JGB buyers

-> Companies to move out of Kanto because of power

You wonder how complete the survey is, but apparently a
Teikoku Databank poll has found that 7.6% of 3,680 companies
within the greater Tokyo area are planning to shift
factories or offices away because of power supply problems.
The poll also found that 7.5% of retail companies, such as
restaurateurs, are planning to move location -- although
not necessarily out of the Kanto -- because consumer
behaviors have changed. (Source: TT commentary from, Jun 4, 2011)

-> Increase in beer consumption expected this summer

Not everyone is disappointed by the forecasted hot summer
about to descend upon us. The beer companies are quietly
cheering the weather on, and are expecting consumption to
hit a 5-year high this year. Three of the four majors,
Asahi, Kirin, and Suntory, all plan to increase production
by 10%, while Sapporo will keep numbers at last year's
level. Japanese drink about 30% of the year's beer
consumption in the period June-August. (Source: TT
commentary from, Jun 4, 2011)

-> Big drop in young people using gyms

Interesting stats from a Nikkei article bemoaning the
reduction in the number of young people, particularly young
women, using gyms. Apparently the average age of of major
gym chains such as Central Sports, Renaissance, and Megalos
is now around 50 years old, and the percentage of customers
in their 20's is now just 10-15% of the total customer
base, varying by chain. Operators say that young people
can't afford the fees nor the time in the gym, while older
folks have become more health aware. So where are the young
going? The women at least are apparently heading for yoga
studios, and it's estimated that about 1m people were
practicing yoga nationwide in 2010, up up 500% over 2003.
(Source: TT commentary from, Jun 4, 2011)

-> Libyan assets seized in Japan

Coordinating with US- and European-led efforts to squeeze
Muammar Gaddafi out of power, Japan has joined the fray by
seizing an estimated US$4.4bn in assets, including bank
accounts here. The government has not said what assets have
been seized, but with that level we have to assume it is
at least a mix of stocks, bonds, and property. ***Ed: The
scale of Gaddafi and his cronies' holdings outside Libya
gives you some idea of just how much they've screwed the
country over the last 42 years. Also interesting how the
Japanese authorities made the seizures without any fuss or
fanfare.** (Source: TT commentary from afp on,
Jun 4, 2011)

-> China amongst massive JGB buyers

Following a similar pattern to last year when there were
simultaneous concerns about the US dollar and the Euro,
foreign buyers have bought up a record amount of Japanese
bonds in the last five weeks, hitting JPY4.696trn.
Apparently part of the surge is due to China getting out of
Euro and dollars and buying maturing 4- and 5-year bonds as
a short term position to park money. **Ed: Apart from the
Euro and Dollar, the Yen is the only currency available in
sufficient quantity that it can serve as a parking place
for massive amounts of foreign investment -- thus the
paradox of a not-so-healthy economy but lots of yen buying
going on.** (Source: TT commentary from, May
27, 2011)

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.


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------------ Earthquake Kids Charity Dinner ---------------

The Support Our Kids Charity Dinner & Auction
Date & Time: Friday June 24th, 2011
Doors open at 7:00 p.m.
Program from 7:30 - 10:30 p.m.

Venue: ANA Intercontinental Hotel Tokyo, Prominence Ballroom
Format: Four course seated dinner, beer, great wine and
soft drinks.

Corporate Table-250,000 yen /table plus tax ( 262,500 yen).
(Table of 10 guests)
Individual Tickets-15,000 yen plus tax (15,750 yen).

Corporate tables-Email for corporate tables to, or submit the form online.
Individual tickets-Please submit the form online, or email , and pay by bank transfer.
Tax inclusive price 15,750 yen.

Dress: Business / Business Casual.

Proceeds from the event will go to support orphanages in
New Zealand and Japan and to provide 'Time-Out' home stays
in New Zealand for young Japanese affected by the Tohoku

For more information please go to our website

------------------ ICA Event - June 16 --------------------

Speaker: Jack Byrd, Managing Partner - 360 Risk Management
Title: Prevent/Detect Workplace Fraud

Details: Complete event details at
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, June 16, 2011
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members).
Open to all.

Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan



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