On Thursday I went in before work to a clinic near my office for a routine physical (kenkou shindan, 健康診断 in Japanese). My company arranged for everyone to get free checkups, so I figured I might as well. I had never gotten a physical here in Japan, so for some reason I was expecting a series of futuristic exams and machines similar to what you’d see on a TV show. Unfortunately, the exam ended up seeming more like something out of Welcome Back Kotter than Star Trek.

When I came in, first I told them my name, and they gave me my file. Since my company already had everyone’s reservations made, I assume they also handled any other paperwork. I had a 2-page short questionnaire with the basic medical history stuff like “have you been stomped by Godzilla in the past year,” but other than that and my name, they asked nothing. Not my birth date, not if I was feeling sick or not, nothing else. I take my little file to another counter, where they explain to me the… how do I say this medically? Oh yeah, the piss test. So instead of a plastic medical-looking cup with a locking lid like I’m used to in the States, they hand me a paper Dixie cup with my name written on it in Sharpie. I was instructed to go into the bathroom, do my biznass, and put the sample in the small closet in the toilet stall. Yeah. Instead of putting a lid on the cup and handing it to a nurse, I was instructed to put my cup into a little cabinet. Along with like 7 other peoples pee! W. T. F. So things were already getting weird.

Next I go sit in the waiting lobby and talk to one of my co-workers who was there at the same time. After a few minutes I get called into the next station of fun: the x-ray room. This room looked more like a boiler room with a giant 1930’s printing press. There was a very industrial feel to this room, complimented by the enormous, multi-section beige-colored x-ray equipment. The crazy looking old Japanese dude started speaking in horribly broken English, telling me to take off my jacket and step up to the chest x-ray machine, which looked like an old-school refrigerator. That was pretty weird. I don’t even know if that was an x-ray machine, he might have just wanted me to hug his fridge. The technician never even left the room during the x-ray. He actually was standing right behind me. I’m sure this contributed to his craziness, being blasted multiple times an hour with radiation.

After that there was some more waiting before the next round of stuff. They did my weight, height, blood pressure, hearing, and eyes, which were all pretty much routine and nothing special. After that, there was more waiting followed by “the doctor.” From my past experience with doctors offices, all the little tests and stuff were first, followed by the actual examination with a doctor, who does all the real stuff. This would also be the time they actually give you any advice, etc., and make you feel like you were really being checked up.

Here, however, the “doctor” (I don’t know if he was a doctor, I’m just assuming so) checked me with a stethoscope then… told me I was done. That was it. I literally spent 5 minutes or less with the doctor then I was sent home. I did feel kind of ripped off. They’re supposedly going to send me my results later at work. Maybe it will have a sweet picture of me hugging a fridge with a creepy glowing man behind me.

I also want to mention that this clinic had a “members club” area behind a curtained hallway. What does that mean? I have no idea. Maybe you get a real x-ray and a real doctor’s advice. And maybe even a lid for your pee cup.