Insurance and costs
Regular yearly gynecological checkups are covered by national health insurance. Kobe city sends a voucher for a free pap smear from participating Kobe clinics to female NHS recipients at ages 25 and 35.
Tests are partially covered depending on what it’s for and why, but STD tests are not.
Birth control is not covered by the national health insurance in Japan. Clinics can set their own prices and regulations for the pills, so some clinics may charge more/less and some may require a pap smear every year/some may not.
Types of birth control available
Universally available in convenience stores, drug stores, etc. Most Japanese couples use solely condoms for birth control.
- The pill
The pill was only fairly recently (1999) legalized in Japan, but has been gaining in popularity of late. Consult with your doctor to find something that has a similar dosage to the product you use in your home country. Typically costs 3,000 yen per month. Please note that the hormonal ring (NuvaRing) is not available.
- IUD (Intra-uterine device)
IUDs have been used as birth control in Japan for comparatively long period of time, though they are not as well-known. There are hormonal and non-hormonal types available. Typically costs 30,000 yen and involves a brief and reversible surgical procedure.
Visiting the gynecologist in Japan
Some clinics ask for an appointment and others do not, especially for your first time. In an emergency they likely can get you in without an appointment, you’ll just have to wait a while.
Many women’s clinics in Japan are in fact fertility clinics and can be focused on maternity. Expect excessive use of pink, soothing music, and so on. When you go in to have your exam, the procedure should be similar to that in Western countries, but the examination table will be covered by a privacy drape down the middle and your doctor will be on the other side of it, so you will be able to hear but not see her.
- Hanabusa Women’s Clinic in Sannomiya. The staff are very kind and friendly, and the facilities are high-tech.
- Oak Clinic, Osaka. Locations in Sumiyoshi and Namba – doctors speak English. Sumiyoshi clinic focuses on infertility and Namba more on birth control.
Abortions are widely accepted and practiced in Japan, though not discussed. Abortions are available up until the 22nd week and typically cost over 30,000 yen.
A Word of Caution
There have been a number of complaints for Doctor Tateiwa, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at Tateiwa Sanfujinka Clinic in Himeji. He is listed as an English speaking doctor, but there are reports of his having disclosed personal information on other patients. Previous ALTs ask you to exercise caution in scheduling an appointment at his office, and to seek alternative English speaking Ob-Gyns.