Today was a wonderful warm and sunny day – and I was quite busy all day long. A few days ago I mentioned that a friend of mine was in hospital. Today I heard that he had left the ICU and was now in a normal room, and since I was in the neighborhood anyway, I decided on a whim to visit him in hospital.

My visit was unplanned, and I arrived around 6 pm when the hospital was ready to shut down for the day. The information counter had been closed since 5:15, and there were hardly any people around. I was finally directed to the emergency entrance, where I could ask for the whereabouts of my friend. Thank goodness I don’t have much experience when it comes to hospitals, neither as patient nor as visitor. But I did notice that here in Japan – or at least: in Kyoto University hospital – access to patients is much more difficult than in Austria.

When you visit somebody in a hospital in Austria, all you need is the name of the person and you will readily receive the room number from the information counter at the entrance. Not so here: I had to give my friend’s full name, age, and his address before I was told the ward and floor he was on, but not his room number. I am not sure whether this is standard procedure, but I think my friend’s name is not very common, so it is unlikely that there were more than one with this name in the hospital today. Once in the ward, I had to go to the nursing station where I had to fill out a short form asking for date, visitor’s name, and patient’s name before a nurse finally took me to my friend’s room.

Now I know what standard rooms in Kyoto University hospital look like: I guess this particular building is about 40 years old or more. The rooms are very small, only 4 beds with ugly green curtains between them to assure some sort of very limited privacy – all doors to patient’s rooms stand wide open. Toilets and bathrooms are outside, which was normal at that time in our hospitals as well. On the other hand, at the door of each room there is an electronic touchscreen with the patient’s names; I found the contrast striking.

I was glad I was admitted to see my friend. I disturbed him during dinner, which did not look very enticing to me, but I know that only last week or so he was still on a diet of jelly… He is doing very well, in fact, he will go home on Sunday already. He claims to be a bit sad about this since he is enjoying his “vacation” and next week he will have to go back to work. I believe it’s also the young nurses he’ll be missing…