Julian recently visited a Red Cross blood donation center in Kagoshima to donate blood, but was refused because he can’t speak Japanese. They also told him he couldn’t donate blood even if he brought along a native speaker.

“I was so surprised, I couldn’t believe it,” he writes. “I’d like to know why the Japanese Red Cross rejects blood donations from some foreigners who cannot speak Japanese, even if the person went to their office with a native speaker.”

After contacting the Japan Red Cross Society, they confirmed that people wanting to donate blood who aren’t able to speak Japanese are usually refused (although how often this actually happens is unclear). Their reason: “We want to save the lives of patients who are in need of blood transfusions, so we want many people to donate blood. At the same time, we want to make sure blood donors stay healthy. People often feel sick and faint after donating blood. In order to prevent these incidents, we think it is very important to conduct an appropriate medical examination (by interview and self-survey).

“Unfortunately, not many doctors or nurses speak English in the blood donation centers, which is why we usually only accept donors who understand the medical examinations, questions and instructions in Japanese.”

They apologized to anyone who may have been turned away as a result of this, and said it’s not their intention to insult anyone. In regards to bringing along a native speaker, they said: “It is possible for non-Japanese speakers to give blood if someone who understands Japanese is with them because the risk of misunderstanding medical questions would be lower. However, this decision may vary for each blood donation center.

“This decision isn’t based on nationality — we want to protect the lives of our donors and patients. We appreciate everyone’s good will. Our projects wouldn’t be able to continue without support.”

Has anyone had a similar experience? Or have you been able to successfully donate in Japan without language problems? Please let us know.

Thanks to David Thompson for his research assistance. Ashley Thompson writes survival tips and unique how-tos about living in Japan at www.survivingnjapan.com. Send your questions to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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