After I got over my initial confusion that a 美容院 (biyōin, beauty salon) and a 病院 (byōin, hospital) were different places when I first arrived in Japan, I admit I didn’t give the latter much more thought. After all, I fancied myself young and invincible.

Well, I’ve now had more than my fair share of 怪我 (kega, injuries) and 病気 (byōki, illnesses) here, and I have ended up learning much more about 病院 through real-life situations than I had ever intended. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to talk about 病院 without even mentioning the word for them.

While I have heard people say 病院に行く (byōin ni iku, go to the hospital) to mean a trip to the doctor, it’s more common to say 医者に行く (isha ni iku, go to the doctor) or to use the term for the specific type of clinic you’re going to when referring to anything other than a general hospital.