Your guide on what to expect when going to the gynecologist in Japan.
In a culture where Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi faces obscenity charges due to the public display of her vagina-inspired art, it’s hardly surprising that there is a lack of accessible female sexual health information in Japan.
But that doesn’t mean that the services aren’t out there. They are. For the first in our sexual health in Japan series; here’s a guide on what to expect when going to the gynecologist.
Finding a gynecologist
Last week, a few female colleagues and I stood in a lobby not discussing work politics but whispering on where to find a proficient English-speaking gynecologist in the city. In fact, the list is endless, but as with any doctor, a great recommendation can make all the difference.
So do not hesitate to ask that female neighbor in your sharehouse, a good friend or look through the many lists of recommended surgeries in the city, like our Savvy list below.
Making an appointment
The Ladies’ Clinic usually runs a practice of drop-in appointments at various points throughout the week, so call in advance, register on entry and take a seat in the waiting room filled with in an impressive array of pink furniture. On your first visit (初診, shoshin), if you are in possession of a Medical Insurance Card (保険証, hokensho), please ensure you bring it with you as it will enable you to pay only 30% of your total bill. Ensure you ask from the outset if you want to get any contraceptives, the contraceptive pill in particular (normally around ¥2,000 not included in insurance), as you will have to have a blood test.
Meeting your gynecologist
My Japanese gynecologist, although quite blunt, asked exactly what I wanted from the appointment and was comfortably direct in what was occurring throughout the whole procedure. Don’t worry about feeling embarrassed or awkward – this is their job, and yours certainly won’t be the only vagina they’ve seen today, so just take a deep breath and relax.
What happens at your appointment
Now if you could please leave your knickers in the basket and let’s get down to business. A few words of warning: be aware the chair moves. In a matter of a few moments, this large contraption will have transported you, legs akimbo and placed a curtain between your vagina, your new gyno and yourself.
The curtain is seen to protect individuals from embarrassment and shame – heaven forbid we might catch a glimpse of our own genitals.
For some individuals it might be comforting, however on a personal level my anxiety levels gradually rose during my time in the hot seat.
Especially after an unexpected chitsusenjou —or what felt like a car jet wash in my vagina — of which you have the pleasure of paying ¥1,500 for.
But when the curtain came away for a minute, the gynecologist revealed on the ultrasound screen a textbook view of my ovaries and follicles like I had never seen them before.
To go or not to gyno
Japanese gynecologists have a reputation of unusual processes and a different approach. However, I was enlightened by the attention to detail within my ultrasound, incredibly taken care of by all of the staff I encountered.
The gynecologist in Japan is not the subject of horror movies like you might have heard. Japanese gynecology practice is on the whole advanced, straightforward and, importantly, non-judgmental.