First off, thank you for your interest in blood donation (献血 ‘kenketsu’ in Japanese)! It is a simple thing that can make a huge difference to the lives of others. Whether you have donated in your home country, or are looking to donate for the first time, we hope the information here will help you out.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for non-Japanese residents currently living in Japan to donate blood. There are some strict requirements that may not apply in your home country due to (somewhat outdated) safety concerns. However, as long as you don’t match up with anything under the Restricted and Prohibited Donors section (and you are not from the UK–see below), you should be good to go.
Where can I donate?
There are blood donation centers all across Japan in most major cities. You can spot them by either looking for 「献血ルーム」 (‘kenketsu room’) or 「献血センター 」(‘kenketsu center’).
You can also try and spot their cute little mascot, Kenketsu-chan! Most centers accept both walk-ins and appointments.
Sometimes there will be special blood donation drives held at supermarkets, community centers, and other places where you live that see a lot of foot traffic. Keep an eye out.
Unfortunately, due to regulations in Japan concerning bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, most donors from the United Kingdom are unable to donate blood in Japan. There is still not a reliable way to test for the disease in blood, so the Japan Red Cross has decided to not allow any donations from people who meet the following criteria:
|Length and period of stay||Countries|
|More than 30 days between 1980-1996||United Kingdom|
|More than 6 months between 1980-2004||Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland (plus those above)|
|More than 5 years between 1980-2004||Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Sweden (plus those above)|
|More than 5 years between 1980-present day||Albania, Andorra, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Herzegovina, Hungary, Iceland, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Lichtenstein, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Vatican City (plus those above)|
*Please note that the categories are cumulative, so periods of stay in various countries are added to one another. All countries in rows above are also included in successive categories.
Restricted or Prohibited Donors
While these may seem strict, remember that donated blood often goes to people in dire medical condition. Please be honest in your answers. In order to minimize risks from transfusion, certain types of donors are simply not allowed to donate. If you’re still interested, try asking at your local Red Cross Center about donating plasma (血漿 ‘kesshou’) or platelets (血小板 ‘kesshouban’), as those can sometimes still be accepted.
The following people are not allowed to donate blood in Japan:
Qualifications 1-8 listed below may not exclude you from donating blood, but you must let the attending physicians or a member of staff know before you donate. The donation center will decide whether or not you can donate if you:
There are some physical criteria that donors must meet in order to be eligible. Those right on the edge can consult with the physician on staff, as a quick blood iron and blood pressure test can confirm whether or not donation is safe for you.
- Age – Must be over 16 for 200 mL donations, 17 for 400 mL donations, or 18 for plasma and platelets.
- Weight – Must be over 45 kg (100 lbs); 50 kg (110 lbs) for 400 mL donations.
- Blood pressure – Over 90 mmHg
- Age – Must be over 18 for all donations.
- Weight – Must be over 40 kg (89 lbs); 50 kg (110 lbs) for 400 mL donations.
- Blood pressure – Over 90 mmHg
See the full table, including information on donation limits, here.
Preparing to Donate Blood
While donating blood can be a quick and easy process, there are some things you can do beforehand to ensure it all goes smoothly.
- IDENTIFICATION — You will need a form of official identification, such as your resident card or driver’s license, in order to verify who you are for collection purposes.
- VACCINE DOCUMENTATION — If you have had any vaccines in the past year, are currently taking any medication, or have been abroad recently, make sure to write down some quick notes so you know the names and approximate dates. This will make your initial sign in and interview much quicker!
- RESPONSE ACCURACY — The information you provide on all questionnaires and in the interview must be accurate, or else you risk the blood being unused.
- ALLERGIES — If you have any medical allergies (particularly to iodine) let the staff know immediately so they can use an alternative.
- DRINKING FLUIDS — Drink plenty of fluids before donating. Sports drinks are particularly good. These are provided for free in the waiting room of most blood centers.
- EATING — It is good to eat at least 2 hours before donating. Donating on an empty stomach, especially if you have a history of low blood pressure or low blood sugar, can be dangerous and lead to fainting. Keep those iron and energy levels up!
- NO ALCOHOL OR TOBACCO — Alcohol and tobacco thin the blood, so you must not drink or smoke for a few hours before and after donating.
- LIMIT STRENUOUS ACTIVITY — It is not recommended that you do anything strenuous or overly physical for the remainder of the day. If you have got a sports tournament on, or plan to move apartments, maybe schedule your donation for a different day!
The Donation Process
REMEMBER: If, at any point before/during/after the donation process, you feel ill or experience pain, let the doctor or a member of staff know!
After You Donate
Blood donation impacts everyone differently, so it’s important to take time afterward to relax. If it’s your first time donating, give yourself ample time to recover. You can stay as long as you like, watching TV and eating ice cream. The staff don’t mind! Many of these precautions listed below have to do with sudden fainting or dizziness that can occur in the hours following donation.
- RESTING — Especially if you plan to operate a car or any vehicle the day of donation, you will need to rest a considerable amount of time before doing so (more than 30 minutes).
- REPLENISHING FLUIDS — Make sure to keep drinking fluids such as juice, sports drinks, tea and the like.
- BE CAREFUL WHEN TAKING THE STAIRS OR ESCALATOR — Please exercise caution while ascending or descending. Use the handrail should sudden dizziness or fainting occur.
- LIMIT STRENUOUS ACTIVITY — Be careful not to apply too much force or pressure to the arm from which blood was drawn, as it will be weaker for a day or two.
- STANDING WHILE USING THE TOILET — Should you need to use the restroom immediately following the procedure, please do so while in a sitting position (this means you, men!).
- BATHING — Please do not enter saunas or other hot baths for at least two hours on the day of donation, as heat can thin the blood and cause fainting or other problems.
- DRINKING ALCOHOL AND SMOKING — Refrain from drinking or smoking immediately following donation for at least two hours, as these can also thin the blood.
- SPORTS — Strenuous cardiovascular activities and sports such as swimming or running should be avoided for the remainder of the day.
In some rare cases, particularly in individuals under stress or physical tension, some dizziness or ill feelings may occur. In the event this does occur, please lie down or take a squatting position as soon as possible to avoid falling.
Typically, bringing your head low for 30 minutes and resting should alleviate any symptoms. However, should you feel any lingering pain in your arm or any kind of worry, please contact the blood center at which you donated immediately.
Good Luck Donating!