Health Care in Japan

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Mon 2008/05/26 08:08 JST in Japan

"Kenko Shindan" ] is the word for "Health Checkup" and I've been having them since my times at Amazon. Many companies in Japan provide annual health checkups for employees. Depending on what your company decides to pay, some of the checkups range from being really useless to really thorough.

I recently had mine and this article talks about whats involved but just before I continue - this health checkup is nothing to do with the other form of health care.

The stuff you see here is a pack of instructions and containers that I received before the day of the checkup.

In previous health checkups, a urine sample was taken at the facility but this time they asked for me to prepare the sample and take it along.
They provide a little plastic container for you to pee in and a syringe thingy for you to transfer the pee to a container which they ask you to keep in your refrigerator...
Check the illustration of the fountain boy.

And here is the fun part - they want a sample of poo too. Here they show you how to poo depending on whether you have a Japanese or western style toilet. They ask you to stick some tissue as shown in the diagram so that your friend does not slide into the water.

And this is how you should extract the poo - does it not look like a peanut? Next time you eat peanuts please think of this.

And the image on the right shows the catch of the day - does it not look like curry, peanut butter, nutella, laksa paste?
Was the first time in life that I poked about with my own poo. Poo at arms length is not pleasant and the vomiting noises quickly follow. Luckily I didn't have anything spicy the night before or the experience would have been much more interesting.

They provide two containers as they want poo taken from different days. They ask that you keep these in the refrigerator too. Just make sure your other family members dont unconsciously mistake your poo for peanut butter and spread it on their toast.

And this their mascot Mr Poo egging you on as you fight with the whiff of poo embracing your soul.
There are various words for poo in Japanese. The proper term is "Ben" or "Dai Ben" and colloquial words are "Unko" or "Unchi."
When you are served something bad at a restaurant, you can say "Unko Kusai!" or "Smells like shit!"

Bag O poo n peee packed and ready to head out.

On the way to the hospital. A man suddenly looks up as I pass and wonders what the smell is.

At the hospital. I hand in my shit and am asked to get changed for the morning tests.

Am given a locker and some sort of pajamas to change into. Seeing a whole floor of folk walking around in these felt like watching The Island (which is a great film).

They provide a locker within the locker too for those carrying around stuff that you dont want others to have or see - like this for example.

A sheet showing what I had checked.

  • Height/Weight
  • Eye sight
  • Listening
  • Blood Pressure
  • Various blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Barium stomach scan
  • 1x1 time with a doctor

They locked me in a sound proof room with headphones where they emitted high pitched sounds. I had to squeeze a switch when I heard the sounds.

Was my first time to try Barium and was an interesting experience. Barium is a soft silvery metallic alkaline earth metal and is used for all sorts of applications including poisoning rats and making bricks.
I was asked to drink a glass of Barium where I was then stuck on a rotating bed which I had to grab onto with my arms to prevent me falling off. At the same time, a camera is taking images of the Barium inside my stomach which you can see at the Japanese wikipedia entry for Barium. Apparently, the Japanese have a high rate of stomach/intestinal cancer which is why these Barium stomach scans are common for those who are older than 35.

After drinking the Barium, a huge amount of gas is produced in the stomach which I was told to keep inside - one burp would mean another glass of Barium. Just the thought of that was enough motivation for me to hold in the burps.

After the scans, I went to the changing room and started to burp out loud like I've never burped before^^;

The Barium starts to solidify and if not expelled from the body soon, it gets harder and in worst cases has to be cut open. The nurse gives me some medicine to give me the runs which forces the Barium out with the regular poo. For three days I had completely white poo! And its heavy too - needed a few flushes to get rid of it. It kinda resembles plaster cast.

This is the waiting room where the nurse directed me to drink the medicine.

Just over an hour later and all the tests are done. What you may not know is that any x-ray/scan that a hospital takes can be purchased and usually cost about 600 yen each. Will be going back for my copies soon.
The results of the health checkup will be ready in a few weeks which will outline whether I have any major problems and what I should be looking out for.
A checkup like this is going to cost about 20000 yen.

When was the last time you had a thorough health checkup? (not the ones you perform on your dolphin)
Are checkups provided by schools or workplaces in your region? Never had anything of this sort when I was in the UK or US.