Nothing is more important than this:Staying healthy[MAMA AMIA! Surviving Japan]

ママ・アミアSurvivingJapan LIFESTYLE

A message of all foreigners living in Japan: From Mama Amia
A survival column to you in Japan–those working so hard, trying, sometimes succeeding and other times not–words of encouragement along with a strict “buck up” from your home-away-from-home mother-figure. Mama Amia shares everything from mental health survival tips to how to take out the trash. Come back to this column regularly for your virtual check-up. (Japanese readers welcome as well!)
Today She is talking about “Nothing is more important than this:Staying healthy”.

Nothing is more important than this: Staying healthy

This one hits close to home for me. Between the coronavirus scare and my own personal health crisis, I have my fair share of stories. Here’s what I want you to hear me say today. There is nothing more important than your health. Not money, your job, your friends or even your family. Bold words, I know, and as many of you represent different customs and beliefs, this may rub some of you the wrong way.

Just over two years ago I became extremely ill due to doctor error. Here in Japan. I almost died. I’m now on my third large hospital in two-plus years. I’ve had varying degrees of competency from nurses, doctors, and hospital staff. Some of my stories are unbelievable, both good and bad. The best and most thoughtful things said and done, and the stupidest, most horrible, what-the-*$%@-is-wrong-with-you statements said.


I speak Japanese fluently. I have no problem communicating with my doctors. Not so my husband. He has searched far and wide for English-speaking doctors and hospitals and here, too, has had mixed luck. I know not all of you want English-speaking care (we represent all kinds of languages here) but do your research. This is important.

Some large hospitals have interpreting services. Some don’t. Like the doctor who said to me “this is Japan” when I asked to bring in my own interpreters because this well-known and respected hospital didn’t have interpretation services. I got out of there as quickly as possible. Try saying those words “we don’t have interpreters here because this is Japan” to an injured Olympian, #!&#*. Unbelievable.

Some large hospitals have English-speaking doctors but here, too, I’ve found “I speak English” to mean different things. My husband did NOT understand his English-speaking doctor. I’ve had doctors say they speak English “well enough” which is not okay because this is MY health we’re dealing with and you speaking “well enough” is not an acceptable way to treat me.


So, again. Do your research. Which hospitals have interpretation services in which languages, which doctors in which hospitals speak which languages and then go and test them before you commit. This is your health. One mistake and you may not be here anymore. This is serious. Don’t settle and don’t play nice. Keep looking and keep switching until you find the doctor and hospital system you trust.

Don’t assume you can take someone along to be your interpreter. Don’t assume having an interpreting service means there will be an interpreter there with you in person. (Sometimes the interpreters are called on the phone.) Keep asking questions until you understand. Don’t let doctors or nurses or staff getting annoyed at you from standing up for yourself. Don’t let shock and disgust keep you from pushing back and asking for a retraction or an apology. Don’t keep going to the same doctor you don’t like or trust because of convenience. This is your health. Losing health can mean it directly affects life and can also mean death. I’ll say it again. This is not the time to play nice.


Do your research. Keep looking. Let me repeat this again: Your health should always be the most important thing for you. How much money you have, how wonderful a job you might have, the love of your family and friends? None of this matters if you’re dead. Shoddy healthcare can lead to death. Never, ever compromise on your health. Good doctors and nurses and hospitals are out there. It’s on you to find them. Be well.

ママ・アミア(MAMA AMIA)

別名「Pie Queen」。ハードなボランティア活動で心が疲弊していたある日、故郷の食べ物——バターと砂糖が焼けるパイの香りに癒やされることに気づき、パイの販売を始める。2019年より「ママ・アミア」の名で活動開始。日本在住外国人のママとして元気を発信中。相撲が大好き。

Food consultant/Talent. American born and raised in Japan. Returned to the US at age 18 for university, and continued on as an interpreter and US-Japan consultant. Came back to Japan in 2011 to volunteer in the aftermath of the Tohoku disaster and stayed on in Rikuzentakata (Iwate Prefecture) for seven years. Raised funds, liaised with major international media outlets for coverage of the city and region. One of the primary sources of information on the disaster region for foreigners. Recognized and awared by the Governor of Iwate in 2014 and the Consul General of the Japanese Consulate of San Francisco in 2018 for the work and dedication to promoting awareness. Also known as the PieQueen. Found the scent of baked goods was both food for the soul as well as emotionally therapeutic, she began a business selling American-style pies. Working as Mama Amia as of 2019 promoting cooking and baking using traditional Japanese ingredients and offering advice to foreigners in Japan as "your mother in Tokyo". Big fan of sumo.