Japan Probe

I’m a little nervous as I sit waiting for the sensei. Did I come to the right office? I even forgot to slip on the lobby slippers once I had removed my street shoes – more out of the thought that they didn’t have slippers my size. The setting is the same, regardless of the country: posters warning “This could happen to you!” or “Take care of yourself!”

Soon enough, however, my name is called and I’m led into the back room with a simple “kochira, kudasai” (this way, please). Just like at home, I leave the room of waiting recipients and march towards the impenetrable curtain: my time has come.

Seeing a doctor, or dealing with anyone in the medical field, can be just as annoying or frustrating in Japan as in any other country. When I was first told that most Japanese companies require a kenkou shindan sho (Heath Examination Form, 健康診断書), I was a little unprepared as to where to go and what to do:

This is required by Japanese law, and is necessary for the company to understand your current state of health. Details of the examination are stated in the ‘Health Examination Guide’(健康診断についてのご案内).


Quickly consulting my foreign resident’s guide (which you should have received once you registered at the local government office), I found a listing of doctors with various specialties, but no general practitioners. I had heard doctors were much more specialized in Japan, from your foot doctor, to your “arm aches every other Saturday doctor”. Going with convenience rather than certainty, I chose a doctor dealing with internal medicine, who happened to speak both Chinese and English. And lucky for me, his office was in the shopping area two minutes from my apartment.

I did call ahead, and was told that the kenkou shindan sho would be no problem (though I got the impression this particular doctor wasn’t asked to do such basic examination procedures so often).

Step one: entering the office. The same procedures as any other Japanese setting: remove your street shoes and don slippers. Approach the counter with a big smile and a nice “ohayou gozaimas!”

Step two: explain exactly what you need today:

Examination of the presence of subjective and objective symptoms (自覚症状及���他覚症状の有無調査)

Examination of height, weight, eyesight and hearing (身長、体重、視力、聴力検査)

Chest X-ray examination, indirect (胸部X線検査、間接撮影)

Blood pressure measurement (血圧測定)

Blood analysis (血液検査)
– Anemia examination (erythrocytometry and hemochromometry) (貧血検査(赤血球数・血色素量))
– Examination of hepatic function (GOT, GPT, γ-GTP) (肝機能検査)
– Examination of blood lipid levels (total cholesterol level, HDL cholesterol, triglyceride level) (血中脂質検査(総コレストロール・HDLコレストロール・中性脂肪))
– Examination of blood sugar level (血糖検査)


Urine analysis

Step three: wait for your friendly neighborhood doctor. Just like with any expert in his respective field, you should refer to a doctor as “sensei”. Fortunately for me this doctor did speak enough English for us to understand each other. He told me the tests would be no problem, and I should come back tomorrow to pick up the results.

Naturally, I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of a medical examination; it’s exactly the same, with two exceptions as far as I could tell…

Testing the vision in your right and left eyes. Of course, just like at home, I was asked to hit a tape mark on the floor and cover my right eye. Just like at home, there was a chart with some black symbols about two meters in front of me. But, in this case, the symbols were:

You were asked to use your finger and point up, down, left, right, depending on the direction of the hole opening.

In addition, you might find the colorblind test a little difficult if you don’t know Japanese. Remember those old tests? You look at a colored pattern in a book. There should be a letter in a color surrounded by its opposite. In this manner, you can determine if your eyes can detect the differences between two colors; if they can’t, you only see one huge blob of color.

The nurse might have assumed I was colorblind, if I hadn’t told her I wasn’t the best at reading hiragana, the loopy Japanese written language. I could see all the characters perfectly, but just didn’t always know what they were. An educational experience (incidentally, that did prompt me to learn hiragana once and for all).

Total price tag? About 10,000円