Health Checks

Getting a Physical

ALTs are required to take a government-sponsored medical check-up each year at school (see below). However, if you’d also like to have an annual physical done, many clinics offer a variety of different checks. The most thorough physicals are known as ningen-dokku 人間ドック, basically meaning “human dry-dock”. Ningen-dokku usually isn’t covered by National Health Insurance and can take from an hour or two, to an overnight visit, depending on the checks you want to take. They can include the usual blood-work, urine tests, etc. plus X-rays, CT-scans, bone-density checks, body-fat composition scans, etc.

If you want to get a ningen-dokku check, ask around for prices/recommendations, or try one of the recommended ALT clinics (start at an Internal Medicine clinic). They may be able to do the checks or refer you somewhere. Generally though, if you are taking the annual workplace check, a separate physical shouldn't be necessary unless you want additional tests done.

US-certified Physicals

If applying for jobs in the USA, or for a visa to live and work in the USA, you may have get a physical done by a US government-approved physician (i.e. a doctor with a US medical license). There is one listed in Tokyo:

Watanabe Naika clinic
Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-4-26
Iwaki Building. 4th floor
03-3574-9103

Accessible from the Shimbashi Station Exit #5. There are two doctors working in the practice, but only one of them has a US license. When calling for an appointment, explain that you need to have a health-check carried out by a US-licensed doctor.

Annual Workplace Health Checks

Every year there are government-sponsored medical check-ups in all schools, generally in the fall for JHS and April for SHS. Government employees are all required to undertake the annual health check. New JETs are exempt from taking the school health check in their first year, as they undertook an equivalent health check for their applications. All second-year and above ALTs are required to take the health check each year.

Your school nurse should tell you about your health check in advance, and warn you what to prepare. There is usually a questionnaire for you to complete, detailing your health and lifestyle habits, and any illnesses you may have had. On the day of the check-up one or two big white buses will arrive at your school. These buses contain x-ray machines that are used to examine the chest for tuberculosis. Teachers usually form an orderly line inside the school sick bay and go through each test in turn.

A word of warning ladies: the check of your heart rate and lungs is done in a different way from what you may be used to! You will be called to a curtained-off area of the school nurse's room, where the doctor and another nurse are waiting. Generally they don't wait for you to undress; some ALTs have been very startled by the nurse pulling up their shirts to start the stethoscope exam.

You should get the results of your health check in sealed envelope a few weeks later, with recommendations on any lifestyle changes you need to make (Japanese only). If any serious health problems are discovered, such as heart irregularities, diabetes, etc., you may be asked to have further checks and/or treatment.

Please see this sheet about workplace health checks for more information.

Reproductive and Sexual Health Checks

For information on STD/HIV testing, see Sexual Health
For information on cancer screening (breast and uterine), see Womens Health

Tuberculosis Screenings (for job applications, etc.)

If you are planning on leaving your postion as an ALT in Sendai, you may find that applications for jobs in other parts of the world require a TB test, just as one was required when you first came on JET.  If you need to get a TB test done for any reason, you can visit the Miyagi Anti-Tuberculosis Association.  They have two locations, one in Nakayama Yoshinari and one near Sendai Staion.   They ask that you make an appointment at least 1 week in advance, if possible.