Tokyo Mental Health Blog Mental Disability Certificate - How to get one in Japan and its benefits

While many may have heard of a disability certification/registration system here in Japan, actually getting one – especially when in a foreign country – can be tricky and  bureaucratic procedures can seem daunting. Nonetheless, it is encouraged to acquire the certificate if eligible, because it offers a wide range of benefits that can lower the obstacles of living overseas with mental illness. 

In this article, we summarized what the Japanese mental disability certificate is, why it might be  beneficial for you if you are eligible, and how to apply for one.

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Mental disability certificate in Japan

According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the mental disability certificate (精神障害者保健福祉手帳 / seishin shogaisha techo) is a registration system made for people whose daily and/or social activities are limited by mental illness or disability for a certain period of time. This includes people with epilepsy and developmental disabilities. 

Who qualifies for the certificate

While many mental illnesses or disabilities can fall within the scope of this certificate, MHLW lists the following as examples:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Substance use disorder
  • Higher brain dysfunction
  • Developmental disabilities, such as ASD, ADHD and learning difficulties
  • Stress-related disabilities

NOTE: This certificate does not cover intellectual disabilities as there is a separate certification system (療育手帳 / ryoiku techo) for these.

Three different grades of certification

The certificate has three grades (1-3) depending on the severity of the mental disability – Grade 1 being the most severe and Grade 3 being the least severe. 

The grade is determined by the issuing authority after reviewing your application. 

Grade 1 (1級)Mental disabilities that make a person’s daily activities impossible
Grade 2 (2級)Mental disabilities that severely limit (or force a person to severely limit) their daily activities
Grade 3 (3級)Mental disabilities that limit (or force a person to limit) their daily or social activities

Benefits of getting the mental disability certificate

With the mental disability certificate, you will be able to receive benefits and support in various areas, including employment, taxes, utilities, and transportation.  

Employment-related benefits

With the mental disability certificate, you are qualified to apply for job openings legally allocated to disabled people. Not only does this make your job searching process relatively easier, you also have a higher chance of finding an employer that is willing to understand your condition and offer necessary accommodations. 

Nation-wide benefits

There are some services and benefits you will be able to receive with the certificate, regardless of where you live in Japan, such as: 

  • Discount on the NHK (national TV station) license fee
  • Deduction of income tax, resident tax, and inheritance tax
  • Deduction of automobile and automobile acquisition tax (Grade 1 only)
  • Being eligible to receive a living welfare fund loan (生活福祉資金 / seikatsu fukushi shikin)

Region-specific benefits

On top of the nation-wide benefits above, you may be able to receive the following benefits depending on where you live, including:

  • Discounts on public transportation fares
  • Discounts on utility fees
  • Financial aid for disability-related medical costs
  • A stipend to receive related welfare services (including the transportation cost)
  • Prioritized application to public housing

How to apply for the mental disability certificate in Japan

Below are the general steps for applying for the mental disability certificate (seishin shogaisha techo) in Japan. Please note that it is subject to change at any point – please contact your city office for the most up-to-date procedure. 

Step 1: Receive an application document at your local city office

At your city office, request an application document for “精神障害者手帳 / seishin shogaisha techo.”

Step 2: Request a diagnosis (medical certificate) from your psychiatrist

The diagnosis can only be used for the application at least six months after the first date of seeing a doctor for your mental disability. 

Step 3: Submit the application at your local city office

You need to submit 1) the application document, 2) the medical certificate (i.e., a document from a doctor certified to do this sort of work) and 3) your photo. Please follow your city’s specific requirements. 

Step 4: Receive a handbook (shogaisha techo)

After your application is reviewed and approved, you will receive a mental disability handbook with your disability grade. This handbook works as proof of certification. The review process usually takes 1-2 months, but may take up to 3-4 months in some cases.

More things to know about the mental disability certificate

Does the certificate expire?

Yes, the certificate expires after two years. You need to submit the renewal request to your city office if you wish to keep your certification. 

Is there any disadvantage to the certificate?

No! This certificate does not limit your rights in any way.

Please note that both Tokyo Mental Health and Doctor Andrew Kissane’s psychiatry clinic at American Clinic Tokyo are unable to issue an application document for the mental disability certificate. Doctors need to be specially approved to do this work. If you wish to apply for a mental disability certificate, please consider finding a ‘Designated Physician of Mental Health’ (精神保健指定医) in your area. You may need to check with your city/ward office.