According to the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRC), the decreasing birthrate and aging population are causing a drain on blood supplies in Japan. Ensuring a stable supply of blood donors is, therefore, a need that must be quickly addressed. However, there are still a lot of confusion over who is allowed and who is not allowed to donate blood according to Japanese regulations, especially when it comes to foreign donors. But, the good thing for sure is: you don’t have to be a citizen to donate blood in Japan. If you are a foreigner staying or living in Japan and still want to help people by donating blood, here are some things you might need to know before you go to the blood donation center.
There are many blood donation centers in almost all prefectures in Japan. In Tokyo, they are available near the big central stations, such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Akihabara. Other than going to a donation center, you also have the option to donate at a blood donation van. The blood donation vans usually come to some universities or public places several times a year.
Before you decide to donate, please make sure that you do not have one of the following criteria of people who are banned from donating blood in Japan. You can read the complete list here, but these are several basic requirements you can read for a pre-check.
- Anyone who has received dental treatment resulting in bleeding within the past 3 days.
- Anyone who has entered Japan in the past 4 weeks.
- Anyone who has ever received a blood transfusion (excluding autologous transfusions), tissue or marrow transplants, human growth hormone injections, or human placenta extract.
- Anyone diagnosed with AIDS or HIV.
- Anyone diagnosed with syphilis, hepatitis C, malaria, or Chagas disease.
- Anyone who is currently pregnant or breastfeeding.
There are also many conditions required to be a blood donor in Japan, but these are the main things you have to pass before you can fill out the form and be checked by a doctor to make sure your current health condition is suitable.
Anyone who has good Japanese ability (speaking and reading), in order to communicate with the staff and filling out the health requirement form. There are still a few staff members in the blood center who can speak English, and for the blood recipients’ safety, in many cases, blood centers refuse foreigners due to the difficulties in communication. If you don’t know Japanese and still want to be a donor, you may want to contact the Japanese Red Cross ahead of time to see if English materials (or materials in your native language) can be provided.
Men and women must be at least 16 years for 200 mL donations. For 400 mL donations, men must be at least 17 and women must be at least 18. And for plasma or platelet donations, donors should be at least 18. For platelet donors, the maximum age for men is 69 and 54 for women. General maximum age is 69, though this can change depending on the donation type. Anyone whose body weight and blood pressure are in good condition, with a good health history as well as good health at the time of donation.
Like in any other countries, before donating, it is strongly suggested that you eat and have a warm drink. Some blood centers in Japan will offer you a warm drink and sweet cookies while you are waiting for your turn to donate.
You can choose four types of blood donation. The blood center staff will ask your preference, or sometimes they will decide which type of donation you are the most suited for. The four types of blood donation are 200 mL whole blood donation, 400 mL whole blood donation, Plasma Apheresis Donation, and Platelet Apheresis Donation. Generally, for the whole blood donation, you can donate up to 1200 mL of blood (for males) and 800 mL of blood (for females) in a year. However, there is some time needed after your last donation before you can donate again. After you donate 200 mL of whole blood or plasma, you can have your next donation after 4 weeks; and after a 400 mL whole blood donation, you can donate after 8 to 16 weeks. For each donation, you will collect points and after several points, the blood center will provide you with some presents.
Directly after your donation, you will have free snacks and hot drinks to help you recover after the donation, and also some blood centers will give many souvenirs to bring home (pens, towels, hot ECO packs, or cute calendars). After you completely finish your blood donation, you will have a blood donor ID card (献血カード, Kenketsu Card) to be brought for your next donation.
Donating blood is one of the easy ways to help others, and if you can fulfill those previous requirements to be a donor, you will not face any difficulties even if you are not a Japanese citizen. However, each country has different regulations, especially when it comes to health matters, so please pay attention carefully to the information above. In addition, if you are not eligible to be a blood donor while you are staying in Japan, there are still other ways to help, such as donating funds to the Japanese Red Cross.
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