Health Check 2008 – still genki?

Once again, on my day off, I rode – hungry, still tired – to the tongue-twisterly named Nishinakajima-Minamigata Station for my annual company health check ( I’ve written about this before ). I found the place more easily than in past years, and got a pair of pyjamas which fit me on the first try – both good omens. The usual samples were given to the nurses when I checked in (produced this year not without some effort: of all times to get constipated). Now that it’s nearly a routine, like taking the subway, I can observe the check-up process  a bit more detachedly, as though it’s all happening to someone else (except for the barium exam of my innards, which could only have been happening to me).

God, I thought, everyone looks so tired and old! Is that what office life does to someone in Japan? Then I remembered that the morning check-ups were reserved for men 35 and up. Looking around me, there seemed to be more ups than 35s. I didn’t see anyone who looked as though he even remembered being 35 (I do, but only what year it was). We all sat in our powder-blue pyjamas, waiting our turns for the weighing, blood pressure check, eye check, chest X-ray, blood test or what-not. A different-coloured stripe around the cuffs denoted the size of the pyjamas. I noted, with no satisfaction, that I was the only one with lime green cuffs. Most men’s cuffs were brown; a few small men’s, orange (as well as one stout man who was definitely in denial or too shy to ask for something larger).

The nurses (or technicians – I don’t know the difference) all wear powder-blue uniforms and black tights (and now I can’t recall if they wore caps). I have my blood pressure taken (normal!) by the same nurse who took it last year. A flicker of recognition from her, but she’s too professional to say anything other than “Roll up your sleeve, please” or “Relax your arm, please”. She has that kind of Lead-Actress’s-Best-Friend look about her. I wonder if her life is going as she’d hoped. Has she found someone? Is she happy? Does she get to do the eye tests or the blood-drawing every now and then, or does she perform the same function, year-in, year-out? The old-fashionedness of the place, the uniforms, give me old-fashioned, protective thoughts for this woman, who’s probably just wondering when she can go have lunch.

The barium wasn’t that bad, really (until it made a sudden encore appearance later in the day). I could have had another blood test done instead, but it would have cost ¥2000 extra and I’d forgotten to go to the bank. Outside the testing room were some cards with cute, cartoon food  drawn on them. They were the flavours of barium you could request (strawberry, vanilla, coffee, and my choice – lemon – are the only ones I can recall). After drinking that taste sensation, I went through the same performance  I do every year, even though they’ve finally installed new speakers, so the technician behind the thick, shaded glass no longer sounds like he’s communicating from a ham radio somewhere in the South Pacific. He still had to risk death and come out of his booth to turn me in the right direction more than once. At the end, as usual, we both good-naturedly apologized – him, unnecessarily, for his inability to give instructions in English; me, more justifiably, for continuing to misunderstand his Japanese. It’s a tradition by now – it almost puts me in the Christmas spirit.

The last test is always done by an actual doctor, who puts a stethescope to your chest and back and tells you to breathe deeply a few times. This has always been done by a large, elderly man, but this year a no-nonsense woman in her 50s seemed to have taken over, and not just his chair. I say this because the one doctor is often the owner of these check-up factories (for that is what they are – Japanese companies are required by law to provide these annual tests to their full-time employees). Maybe she was the old guy’s daughter – anyway, I’ll never know. She suggested I lose weight (an observation that doesn’t exactly require seven years of med school), drink less coffee, and join a gym. I will do all those things, again.

Changing back into my street clothes (there’s a locker room), I made my way out. The nurse at the uketsuke (reception desk) called me back. She waved a little green ziplock bag with a little tube inside. “What do you call this in English?” she asked.

“Um, stool sample,” I replied. She’d never heard it before. I wrote it down, and illustrated it with a smiling piece of poo, which received the ultimate Japanese accolade: kawaii (cute)! She thanked me profusely, and I noticed a gaijin in ill-ftting pyjamas standing by the loo. He nodded, sheepishly. My good deed for the day completed, I left, with resolutions to keep fit ringing in my ears as I walked down the highway toward the station and made a beeline for Mosburger.

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This entry was posted in Blogroll, japan, Osaka, 大阪, 日本. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Health Check 2008 – still genki?

  1. Kelly says:

    Hahaha mosburger no less! I hope you had rice… 😉 I just recently had a barium test and i didn’t get to choose a flavour, so count yourself lucky! Are there white things floating across your screen or is it just my eyes?

  2. nagaijin says:

    No, it’s supposed to be snow, courtesy of WordPress. I think they did it last year too, in the true spirit of Christmas or something

  3. jyankee says:

    Hey I get to do the annual check up too… we don’t get to choose any flavors..but then I am a wimp and choose to cut the barium test out all together…! Uhmmm yeah…I got snow across my blog too…seeing as there isn’t any here where I am either!

  4. Kelly says:

    Haha ok then. I haven’t seen it on any other wordpress blogs, just yours. So how long does it take to get the results? Do they usually post them out to you?

  5. nagaijin says:

    They usually send the results out in January, then I corral some poor Japanese friend into translating it all for me.

  6. John o says:

    The final paragraph cracked me up.

  7. Pingback: Annual Health Check, 2009 « Nagaijin

  8. charlie says:

    I had to skip the check up because of a conflicting schedule. When I called Personnel to re-schedule I had an Australian lady tell me it’s mandatory but not mandatory so I might as well skip it because a lot of people do. When I asked for a response that made sense, I got more “umms and ahhhs” then gave up.

    The check up has always given me “angry laughs” as I’ve dealt with a doctor sipping what looked like whiskey from a CC Lemon bottle and nurses take 5 minutes trying to find a vein then marvel in amazement and give me the eye test twice because I did too well the first time (obviously, I must of cheated). I miss the place.

  9. Pingback: Annual Health Check, 2009 | Nagaijin

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