Hooray for Japanese national health insurance

On the way back home on the train tonight I was chewing some gum and an old filling came out! Fortunately I was able to save it and put it in a little pill box I had. It didn’t hurt, but there was a glaring, annoying space in the back of a top rear tooth that I knew was going to drive me crazy with tongue feels until I got it fixed.

By the time I got to my home station it was already past 7 pm. And my regular dentist was closed on Wednesdays. So I desperately hunted around for an open dentist on the walk home from the station. I passed one that was also closed on Wednesdays, and then came across a glowing tooth sign with an arrow to a dental clinic on the 2nd floor, near the station. And they were open until 8 pm!

They asked if I had my national health insurance card, which I always do, and they saw me in about 15 minutes. The dentist said the filling was quite old, and it seems the cavity it was filling may have expanded a bit over time, and I should see my regular dentist when I could for a more thorough checkup. But he was able to cement it back in, and drill and buff where needed (bite bite bit, grind grind grind) to make sure it fit well. He said it should be fine for now, and told me just not to eat for one hour. It feels just fine now – like it did before.

Total cost: 890 yen = $8.28.

I love Japanese national health insurance. Why can’t they have a system like this in the U.S.?

At the tax office today

Today was the first day for submitting personal taxes in Tokyo, so I decided to get them done early. For this return, I always go over to the Katsushika tax office and somebody stands by me and helps me get the right data into the computer. I always choose the “I don’t know how to use computers” option because even though I do know how to use computers I don’t understand taxes at all – even in the U.S. So I bring medical receipts, salary statements, and other stuff – plus my returns from the past few years so the person helping me can see what last year’s person did, and just ask them to help me. It usually goes more smoothly that way.

I was surprised it was so crowded. I guess a bunch of other people also wanted to get it done with quickly.

After standing in line for a while, and getting to the front of the “preliminary preparation” stage, instead of having to go to the computer area, wait in another line, and stand with somebody and do it, they dragged me out of line, said there were too many part-timers there today who are unfamiliar with dealing with foreigners (my income is from the U.S.), and brought me over to what I can best describe as a sort of “tax concierge corner” I had never seen before.

There I got to sit at a table in a comfortable chair while somebody took my papers and entered everything into the computer by himself, and I was done in 10 minutes. He even personally escorted me to the next room and showed me where to drop the final papers off.

After I was done I asked where I could call a taxi, because there was no obvious place around there where taxis go by, and I just felt like getting home quickly.

He sent me to the third floor, where they had me sit down again while they called a taxi for me. Then they escorted me back down to the first floor, showed me a comfortable seat where I could wait for the taxi, and told me where to look. And they even offered to stay with me until the taxi came.

Your tax yen at work.