Tuesday, July 8, 2008

But I'm a lady...

After being a student here and going to expensive foreign clinics before deciding it was time to go Japanese, I have been to several different Japanese doctors. I am lucky to be in good health and have never really been seriously ill except for the time I contracted the norovirus from some sushi and even then I only felt like I was dying for 3 days. Most of the doctors seemed capable, albeit very clinical, and they always prescribed a plethora of meds which included pills, liquids and powders. And that was for a cold. They all worked though.

The two doctors that stand out in my mind would have to be the guy who said he was going to do a test on my "vageena" (this even had the beau snickering as we had recently been discussing its proper pronunciation) and the older female doctor who wore pink leg warmers with her white skirt and lab coat. Now I think you get the all-mighty doctor syndrome anywhere, but I get the feeling it's going out a style a lot slower here. Doctors are "god", second opinions are not often asked for and of course, you've probably heard that if you are terminally ill here, your doctor won't inform you of such. These types of things are changing but I have little faith in the Japanese system after hearing/seeing all this.

I had been putting off my yearly pap smear for ages, mostly because while you can walk into a doctor's office here and ask for one, I have always gotten the feeling it's just not done. When I asked a doctor once about yearly paps he said once every few years was fine and that most women here didn't do them until they were thinking about becoming with child.

I looked up several "ladies clinics" (no joke, this title is apparently supposed to induce feelings of wanting to go to the gyno) and a lot of them didn't take health insurance. I ended up at one that didn't (18,000 yen later for a urine and blood test and a quick poke with a swab) but even clinics that do take health insurance aren't often covered for tests (I'm not sure about paps but STDs and other tests are not covered). And they said Japan was progressive. Progressive in that they try to make a trip to the ladies clinic feel spa-like by offering courses named after flowers and shit. Like "Blue Lotus Course: Urine sample, PAP smear, uterus echo, oral consult". Gosh I get so warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. My favourite was the "bridal check" which gave me images of tent people in the desert checking some 12 year old bride to make sure her hymen is still intact. But no, here it just means a big extensive check-up including STD tests and reproductive organ checks before you get married. Loved that shit. Why worry about your sexual health or whether you have protected yourself from STDs before marriage? Because you don't really matter, we are doing this to protect your future husband. Not much better than the desert people if you ask me.

Okay so I digressed. I have to give props to the doc I ended up sitting across from today. He actually shook my hand when we met and looked me in the eye during the consult. Perhaps we're not down the rabbit hole after all I thought to myself. I of course, spoke too soon. After the consult I was ushered into another room divided by a huge white curtain with a chair placed right under the dividing line. The nurse told me to take off my stockings and panties, hike my skirt up around my waist and sit in the chair. I also got the option of having the curtain open or closed (open). If it was closed I thought, I would be sitting in this chair, staring at a white curtain, my legs on the other side of it. The chair was no-nonsense and straight-backed so that I sat on a small shelf like seat, with two separate parts supporting my thighs while my legs dangled in the air. When it was show time the seat of the chair basically fell away, I was hoisted up to eye level (by "I" I mean my cooch) with the doc and the two leg parts spread me open. There I was in my pearls and skirt, in some horror movie chair with the doc saying "I'm going to touch you now". Which by the way, he didn't. He managed to scrape some cells from my cervix without actually touching my body. What a man!

I guess you just gotta laugh. The dated and oppressive feeling that I get here from tampons being wrapped in brown paper bags, from pills claiming to enhance beauty and stockings to make you lose weight just by walking, and from gynecology offices being called "ladies clinics" to make them seem nicer, would be too depressing if I didn't.


Sarah said...

I know you've already gone, but I really highly recommend Aoyama Shibuya Medical Clinic!!


They have two gynecologists, an older couple who practice on alternating weeks. The wife is actually a rather famous doctor and has written several books, though I can't for the life of me remember their names. They have a pretty "Western" way of thinking regarding women's health, and I was scolded repeatedly for not being periodically tested.

They accept health insurance as well. The only problem is that the gynecologists are only in on Wednesday (and assumedly practicing at other clinics on other days), and the place is extremely crowded so you have to plan to wait about 30 minutes after the time of your scheduled appointment to see a doctor. That's socialized medicine though, right? ;)

heart in amber said...

Love your experience! Boyf and I got into some gynecological trouble in Japan and went to ‘ladies doctor’ (had to persuade him not to ask potential-mother-in-law for recommendation). Boy had to stand next to me during the examination because the Doc and I would have no other way of communication. Oh, romantic!
I asked the doctor when we can start having sex again and he gave me an evil eye.
What did I do wrong?!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

heart - Thanks for stopping by. That must have been a fun experience during your visit (?) here. What's up with the doc though? You'd think he would have encouraged you to go off birth control and start contributing to the population here. The beau took me to the doctor once when I had a virus and could barely walk and the doctor in leg warmers actually offered up the no-sex period without prompting.

Edo said...

Goodness. I always suspected that I would be skeedaddling back home for my gyno appointments (although mostly now because I have a funky pill prescription that Japan might not agree with), and now you've confirmed it for me. Maybe my cruising through old posts is to my detriment, maybe things have improved drastically in the past two years, but... Ergh.

I keep thinking back to when I went to our local clinic to get tested for influenza... if they're shoving the cotton swab into my brain via my nasal cavities to check for viruses, goodness knows what they'll do with a larger target to work with. Then of course there's the "wow, over 60 kilos huh? Ever considered lipo?" commentary... Sigh.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Edo - I don't think you need to go home for gyno appointments, but just go into them knowing that most places here are run like we are back in the late 50s.