While I was in Australia I managed to injure my knee by underestimating the strength of an incoming wave while exiting the ocean, so I thought I’d write about how the healthcare system here works. Japan has two different national health insurance systems, one for employees of larger companies and one for self-employed/members of smaller organizations, both of which cover 70% of medical costs. Everyone’s required to join one or the other, and monthly costs run from $100-800 per month, depending on total household income. Medical costs are rigidly controlled, so that a hospital can’t charge more than, say, $200 for a CT scan, 70% of which is covered by the insurance system. While controlling costs is important, this stricter system might limit the funds hospitals have for upgrading to the newest equipment, or cause some work to be spread out over multiple visits, like the time my dentist took 2 months to complete a root canal. The system works well overall — you can tell this by the fact that Japanese live longer than any other people — though it’s far from perfect. Occasionally a patient dies because the ambulance can’t find a hospital that’s set up to provide the specific care that patient needs, and in rural areas patients are often farther from medical care than they should be.

Since the world of anime and manga represents a significant segment of Japan’s popular culture, it’s common for the country as a whole to feel sadness when some great creator or artist or voice actor leaves us. This happened when Lupin III voice Yasuo Yamada passed away in 1995 and again when the voice of his nemesis Detective Zenigata, Goro Naya, died in 2010. Last month the international fan community was shocked at news that Matsuki Miyu, seiyu for Anna-senpai from Shimoneta and  Cthuko from Nyaruko had died of pneumonia at the young age of 38. Today’s sad news is that Shigeru Mizuki, creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro, a manga and anime running since the 1960s. Besides being almost single-handedly responsible for popularizing yokai, Japan’s pantheon of folk spirits and ghosts on which Touhou and many other fandoms are based, he was the oldest working manga-ka in the world, still actively creating art daily at the age of 93.

J-List’s big Cyber Monday sale is going on now, with a wonderful 12% off everything on the entire site! (Except for Fukubukuro grab bags and iTunes Japan cards.) There’s never been a better time to snap up some Japanese snacks or that Super Pochaco butt mouse pad or perhaps some personal stress toys! So get browsing now!