For a country that is known for its fast and efficient transportation system and indeed, efficiency in general, I’m surprised by how slow and inefficient the whole health system here is. That seems to be one detail they missed.
It’s 9am on a Thursday morning and I’m at a women’s clinic surrounded by at least 10 other women all wanting to see the doctor who is known for her bedside manner and no nonsense approach to female health issues. It’s refreshing in a country that is still very conservative in relation to things such as contraception.
Speaking of which, that is the reason I’m here. I want to go back on the Pill. Now in Australia this would require a doctor’s appointment of course, but it would take approximately 10 mins for him or her to see me, write out a script and send me on my way.
In Japan it will take at least 3-4 hours of waiting in a room with the first-come-first-served mentality after which they will ask me a million questions about my sexual past and health issues, many of which the doctor here is already more than familiar with. Now I am very grateful for having doctors that are so thorough and caring, but on the other hand it pisses me off that they’re not more of the wham-bam-thankyou-mam types like Australia who are more concerned with getting through their list of patients in their designated working hours.
Getting back to why it takes so long, here’s the deal. At most clinics and hospitals in Japan you cannot make an appointment. Yes, that’s correct. Let me repeat that again for maximum effect. You cannot make an appointment. My initial reaction: what the fuck or perhaps more politically correct, WTF?! Is it because of the Japanese view that they don’t want to be rude and they’d feel bad if some people managed to secure a booking before someone else? I’m not sure, but what I do know, is that even in this system where you just turn up, it’s still the same thing where the super early birds (I’m talking one to two hours before!) stake their claim for the doctor’s time and get seen to first.
Now while I’m at it (complaining I mean), I may as well start in on the whole approach to contraception. Condoms are basically it. For someone who is allergic to latex (I finally realised that stinging after sex was not normal!) and who hates using them for that very reason, unless you’re in a monogamous relationship, they’re the only option. Yes, I have yet to see the range of condoms that I’m familiar with in Australia where I can choose from ribbed, thin, coloured, flavoured, glow-in-the-dark and of course, the silicone option for those who suffer from latex issues. Sigh.
You can of course forgo them altogether, but again, unless you’re in a monogamous relationship, you then have the more major issues of pregnancy and diseases to contend with. Double sigh.
So, the Pill.
11 years ago when I first came to Japan and lived in Tokyo, I had to bring a supply of my tablets along with a letter from my doctor. I was lucky enough to find an English doctor (I don’t mean just English speaking, I mean a doctor from England) who was able to provide me with the same pill when my stash ran out. Even then though, it was rare to find and even more difficult to obtain in many cases. As he’d reached behind him to find a pack and then pushed it across the desk to me, I felt almost as though I was in some sort of illegal drug trade. I wanted to say, “You got the stuff I asked for?”
Fast forward to now and although it’s a lot easier to get, the whole process is still a pain in the butt. Hence why I’m writing this (typing this) in the doctor’s clinic as we speak.
It’s interesting to hear from some of my married friends that even in marriage, condoms are still used when they’re not trying for children. What a pain. My friends are equally interested to hear about the Pill and how it works. Many of them have been fed the information that it causes you to gain weight and one friend even said you become hairy. WTF?! I don’t know anyone in Australia who ever gained weight, but I do know that it can be one such side effect. For someone who has spent their entire life not wanting kids, I figure that it’s a small price to pay because pregnancy has the same effect but with a heap of other life-long ones too! I’m willing to take that risk.
My conclusion is that it’s misinformation that is spread by male chauvinist pigs who not only want to, but consider it their right to control women and their bodies. Fuck them I say. Women have the right to choose. I may be wrong of course. Remember to all my haters, yes, you, Pokemon people… this is just my opinion. You’re entitled to yours too.
Anyway, this rant is already long enough and I know I’ve been ranting about a number of things lately… some of which have gotten me into trouble. Oh well. Besides which, my number has just been called. I only waited an hour and a half. Not too bad… this time.