So the time finally arrived when I ran out of my contact lens supply. In order to not be blind at work, I decided I had best make a trip to a store to buy contacts today. I thought I would outline how it went.
I HIGHLY recommend bringing someone Japanese with you, unless of course you are pretty fluent in the language. I have an alright conversation level, but since I know better than to try to do something involving jargon in Japanese by myself, I brought Aki with me (本当にありがとう！！). The whole thing probably took about 45 minutes (there were only two other customers though). I was going to go to Eye City, but after looking around a little more on the net, we decided on Price Contact. I went to the eye doctor before I left the states and got a full eye exam (dilation, blinding lights, etc.), so I did not need any of that.
First things first, I brought both my American contact prescription and my old contact boxes (Acuvue Oasys). YOU DON'T NEED THE PRESCRIPTION. They looked at it, and kindly told me that I need to get a new one done. The boxes were pretty much useless, but by looking at them, they were able to get the general idea of how blind I am. They got thrown away at the end of the exam. Back to the process. When Aki and I entered the exam half of the place, I was told to fill out the top part of a form, and show my insurance card. They took the card while I was filling out the paper. It only asked for my name, sex, birthday (in Japanese year e.g. I was born in 1989, which was 平成元 i.e. Heisei Origin year), phone number, address, and current eye contact prescription numbers (if you don't know them, they are on your contact lens box). After that, we were led to another room and the lady very nicely asked me basic questions about my contact wearing history (how long I'd been using them, what brand I used, how long do I wear them, etc.). This is where Aki really helped me out. Because I could understand the gist of what she was saying, but since she used some jargon (even though she tried to simplify things for me), I had difficulty truly understanding most of the stuff.
I was planning on getting Acuvue Oasys again, but they are much more expensive than other brands, and because I'm Caucasian, the eye diameter is slightly different from Asian eyes (something the nice lady said). She explained that if I wanted the Oasys, she would have to order them, and it would take three days (they don't keep the ones with diameters for Caucasian eyes in stock in the Oasys brand). However, they had some other brands with a diameter that matches Caucasian eye shape much better, and I could take them home today. She also explained, that I could use a trial pair for two weeks, and if I did not like them, I could bring the unopened boxes back, and order the Oasys and pay the difference. So I decided to give a new brand a try. I am now wearing Air OPTIX. After the basic chat, I took out my old lenses, and she led me to a machine. I don't know what it's called, but it is the exact same machine that my eye doctor in the states uses. The machine with the hot air balloon image. If you have bad eyes, and go to the eye doctor, you probably know what machine I'm talking about.
After that, she led me back to where we had been sitting before, and gave me a pair of trial Air OPTIX lenses. I put them in, she asked how they felt, etc., and then we talked about which contact solution I use. After some discussion, she explained that I can get a special price for a four pack of contact solution with a travel size included for about ¥1500. So I decided to get that. I also bought two boxes of contacts since I have a different prescription for each eye. Which is great because if you buy two boxes, the price goes down a little. After more talking, she led me to a small area to make sure I can read clearly. It's the C chart where you have to say which direction the gap is pointing: up, down, left, or right. Once done, I went back to the hot air balloon machine, this time with the contacts in.
When done with the balloon machine, she led me to a small area where an actual eye doctor was going to check out how the contacts move in my eyes. Surprisingly, once he realized Aki was translating the stuff I didn't understand, the doctor switched to English!
Once that was all done, we were led back to the counter and paid for the eye exam and trial lenses. I paid a grand total of ¥980. I love having insurance!! Without insurance, the cost of the exam was ¥2700, and the lenses ¥560. That is also when they returned my insurance card. I was also given a card with my name, the date, and an account number. I assume that as long as I come to the same clinic to buy contacts, that I just have to show them the card, and they can pull my account information up no problem. The card conveniently also has their hours of operation, the address, and a phone number.
Then, we went next door to the half of the clinic where you get your lenses. They already had everything ready to go in a bag, and I paid for the contacts and solution set there. Japanese insurance does not cover contact lenses, FYI. Aki and I had a coupon that we had seen online at Price Contact's website, so we got a ¥1000 cash back rebate. After the coupon was put in, I paid a total of ¥4150. The two boxes of contacts were ¥1780 each (¥1980 if you only buy one box).
Overall, the whole process was very easy. It didn't take too much time, and the staff were very friendly. Again, unless you are quite fluent in Japanese, I recommend bringing a friend along. It makes is so much easier.