The Human Dry Dock

When you get healthcare in Japan (everyone who is here legally is legally required to sign up and buy some), at some point, when you reach a certain age, you should expect to receive offers to sign up for a comprehensive check-up that takes about half a day for the normal person. It costs extra, but different healthcare providers offer different deals, so it’s reasonable. Anyway, I think so, and I’m no moneybags.

I think the name is cute/strange, but that’s because I’m a foreigner. It seems not to raise an eyebrow or a comment from any natives I’ve talked to about it. The check-up is called a “ningen dokku.” The metaphor, as I understand it, suggests a boat that has been out at sea awhile, so that it naturally requires inspection and possibly special refitting. I guess it makes sense to think of the human body in the “sea of life” undergoing some wear and tear and requiring some time in the human dry dock to check if it is still seaworthy.

So, you sign up, get some paperwork, make an appointment, fill out forms in advance and then show up at a designated time with dozens of other people waiting for the same procedures. You check in, get your exam clothes, change in the locker room and take a seat until your name is called. Then you go station to station handing over your clipboard, giving this or that fluid, being probed, poked, stuck, squeezed, measured, attached to electrical devices, and sometimes just questioned. Some people get cameras stuck in various orifices.

Before I went I had amusingly pictured myself being hoisted up and suspended like a ship and being hosed and scraped down, you know, for barnacle removal. Only the good lord knows what I need removed, and now these Japanese doctors do too, I guess. But the actual experience was more reminiscent of that old Arlo Guthrie Alice’s Restaurant song about the draft, when he talked about going somewhere in downtown New York to get a medical exam…

“Where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected,” but don’t get “good and drunk the night before,” like he said he did.

But anyway, it was done. When it was done and I turned in my exam clothes and I paid, they gave me a voucher for a free bento from some place across the street. Nice, huh?! I got a fat letter with the results a few weeks later. My doctor got another fat letter. And… I’m finishing up “dry January.” February might get a little moist. In fact, someone might just get “good and drunk.”

2 thoughts on “The Human Dry Dock”

  1. Congratulations on a successful barnacle scraping. After a month in dry dock, you must be ready for the open seas for another year.

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