What Every Person Getting An Annual Health Checkup in Japan Goes Through

The preparation starts weeks before.

The start of summer in Japan is also the season for annual health checks for some Japanese companies. Though this may not be something new to most of us, you might be surprised how the Japanese take their annual health check seriously.

This is what happens when it’s time for the annual health checkup at a Japanese company.

Weeks before

A guy who eats
tonkatsu or ramen for most of his lunches suddenly changes to a no-carb diet. Meanwhile, the ladies have no more snacks or sweets on their desks. Suddenly everyone is sharing information about weight loss and you start wondering if the health exam season is also a dieting season.

The day before

You start to calculate:
until what time can I eat today? If I have the health exam at 9 in the morning, does this mean I can eat until midnight? For some reason, we prepare ourselves for “starvation” and eat until the laaast minute—all the dieting effort was for naught. 

Thinking about the next day makes you anxious. You start looking up various information that never mattered to you before.
Does “no food and drink for 10 hours*” include water? Is water even a drink? In the end, you have a fitful sleep. 

The number of hours one is not supposed to eat and drink depends on the health exam itself, so it is best to ask if you are not sure. 

The big day

You wake up to bright sunlight; it’s a beautiful day. You get out of bed and pee—and regret it almost immediately.
You have a urinalysis later and you forgot the packet they gave you to collect your urine. Hoping and praying that there is enough—err, sample—for later, you get ready and head on to the clinic. 

This is what the urinalysis packet looks like. Inside you will find a foldable plastic cup and a tube. You deposit your sample first in the cup, which makes it easier for you to transfer it in the tube. Close the tube and write your name on the label provided and put the sticker on the tub.
Throw the plastic cup away and just put the tube inside the brown plastic bag. You are supposed to bring the sample with you and give it to the clinic. 

Upon entering the clinic, the receptionist smiles at you and hands you a number and a file containing your name. (This file is meant to be handed out at different stations in the clinic that handle different tests). Once you are called for the first exam, you brace yourself—
it’s on.


The exam

During the eye exam, you look into a machine and navigate the stick to which side the letter “c” is facing. As you hold the stick-type machine (although there are other methods as well), it reminds you of an old-style video game for some reason.

When they measure your height and weight you stand as tall as you can without actually going on tiptoe, and hold your breath as if that would make you lighter. As they measure your waistline, you marvel at how your abdominal muscles could hold in your stomach for 10 seconds. Even if you have had your blood drawn several times in the past, each time feels like the first.

All throughout the exam you are probably thinking what to eat when it is all finished.  


You don’t have to pay for anything unless you would like to avail of extra tests. The annual medical health exam is one of the benefits one usually receives from companies in Japan.

You congratulate yourself with your favorite meal as a treat to yourself—forgetting your “diet” temporarily.
Crispy tonkatsu and white rice has never tasted so good. 

When your results come in an envelope addressed to you, you brace yourself to see your “grade”. In Japan they come in A (no abnormalities), B (slight abnormality but no hindrance to daily life), C (observation and lifestyle change needed), D1 (re-examination needed)...and so on.

It suddenly feels like receiving your report card at school. So, did you pass?

 (07 June 2019)

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