The Low Down on Sexual Health in Tokyo
Can’t speak Japanese? Just arrived in Tokyo? Don’t have native Japanese friends? Don’t fear and consider this the holy grail of sexual health information for Tokyo natives. Through hours of internet research, speaking with Japanese women and doctors, ward office information, and countless personal experiences, I have compiled a list of everything-you-need-to-know as a female in Tokyo.
1. Birth Control in Tokyo
You may already know, but birth control in pill form is difficult to get and expensive once you get it. If you have your own prescription and are able to obtain a few months worth at a time, then you can go ahead and bring it into the country. I do this every time I go back to the States as Planned Parenthood provides you with 13 months worth if you’re on a government assisted health plan (all hail that green health card). Just make sure you obtain a Yakken Shoumei 薬監証明 first. You’ll need it with you *in case* they try to question why you’re bringing so much into the country. However, in my experience, I travel with 5 months worth at a time and haven’t had any incidents occur. Still, better safe than sorry and possibly pregnant. Injectable birth control and the like, aren’t really available or popular yet so the pill and condoms are your best bet. IUDs are also not very common or popular, running upwards of 60,000 yen. I don’t have as much info on them - and forget about the arm implant or even getting it removed here.
In regards to the pill, there’s only a few brands available and the act of providing them isn’t guaranteed at all clinics. This has to do with traditional Japanese conservatism, which I could go into for hours, but I'll save that for another article as you’re probably thinking “skip the BS and tell me what I need to know.” Basically, some gynecology clinics will grill you on why you’re wanting the pill; they consider it “unreliable.” Yeah. Sure. Anyways, if they begin this line of questioning with you I suggest - as many have recommended online - to overhype how bad your periods are so they then prescribed for stomach cramps/period issues. Boom! A loophole, but not a guaranteed one. Using the pill to help with endometriosis can get it covered by National Health Insurance (hereby NHI), but you have to actually have endometriosis.
Now, how to obtain the pill. It’s not covered by NHI - let me be straight on that. And now I’m going to refer to a great article by Tokyo Cheapo, as it clearly explains how to obtain the pill here: “In some cases clinics will only give you 1-3 months worth at a time, and you may have to pay an appointment fee every time to renew the prescription. One clinic that avoids this and has an English-speaking doctor is Primary Care in Shimokitazawa (five minutes from Shibuya)—after your initial appointment you can collect a repeat prescription from reception without charge. The average cost is around 2,000-3,500 yen a month, so depending on where you’re used to, this could be pricey as hell or amazing. There are some places that will post it to you without the need for consultation, this site is able to arrange this for you.” (https://tokyocheapo.com/living/womens-health-tokyo-clinics-birth-control/)
So the pill will cost you about 2,000/3,000 yen monthly if you can get it, and you may be paying extra clinic charges. I can vouch for Primary Care Clinic in Shimokitazawa. It is the one I use for all of my gynecological needs. The doctors and nurses there are extremely good at English; private, comfortable, and it takes NHI. More on them below.
Now for Plan B. If you’re from the States like me, you’re probably used to going to CVS pharmacy and buying this thing for $50. Not the same here, sorry. Two types are approved in Japan, not covered by NHI, and you need a prescription for both; Planovar (combination) and Norlevo (progesterone only, cheaper). You obtain them from a women’s clinic and they cost upwards of 3,000 yen each, sometimes, over 10,000 depending on your clinic. Call and check online before you walk in and have to pay so much. Primary Care and K Ladies Clinic Shinjuku provides Plan B and you can be a walk-in.
My recommendation if you’re worried about cost, bring some with you from your own country if it’s cheaper there.
Pregnancy tests can be bought at most pharmacies like Matsumoto Kiyoshi and the like. They are pretty straightforward and from my experience, often in English and well-priced. Condoms can also be bought at most pharmacies, Don Quiote, Amazon, Rakuten, Wild Ones and other sex shops (think Shibuya, Roppongi and Shinjuku if you need to go shopping for them). If you need large sized ones, those can be found at large Don Quiotes, Condomania, and Amazon. You can find many brands of regular condoms (large ones are limited to Big Boys and Magnums usually). Japan is known for the .01/.02 mm Sagami Originals. Thinnest condoms in the world. Go figure.
2. STD/STI testing in Tokyo (also yeast infections/UTIs and treatment)
These take place at clinics and ward offices. I’ll be honest - Japan has really high
gonorrhoea and syphilis (30 new cases a week in Tokyo) rates. Yikes. Please use
condoms. Always. Seriously, they’re easy to find and not overpriced.
Where to get tested for free outside of a clinic:
Minato Public Health Center
Shinjuku Public Health Center
Tokyo Metropolitan Minami-Shinjuku Test and Consultation Office
Setagaya Health and Welfare Center
Itabashi Public Health Center
Chiyoda Public Health Center
Check the websites of the above places for testing schedules and what they will test for. Most aren’t by appointment and have specific testing dates. Normally, you can get tested for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis B for free. God bless.
Given that these are public health centers and they give free testing, you’ll not have privacy and will probably see everyone coming in and out. Some are even first come, first serve. If this isn’t comfortable, then you can go to a clinic and get tested. It’ll cost you between 8,000 to 15,000 yen depending on the clinic, what you want to be tested for, and how many tests you would like. Luckily, the cost will be brought down by NHI as it usually covers the basics. Check the clinic’s website or call before you go to find out what is covered and how much all of the tests you want will cost you.
In relation to yeast infections/UTIs, you can make an appointment at most clinics for an
exam (not a PAP - that’s different and has a different cost). What I mean, is a basic exam if you’re having symptoms. The doctor will take a look at your lady bits, hear you out, and decide what he wants to test you for. In my experience, I was tested for a UTI, bacterial infection, and a yeast infection after this initial inspection by Primary Care Clinic. Even before knowing my results, I was given the yeast infection pill, paid for my first visit fee and exam, and got my prescription downstairs. Not costly at all and very easy. I was then personally emailed by the doctor with the results, and came back to be treated for a mild bacterial infection. When I came back, all I had to pay for was my antibiotics prescription. I didn’t even have to meet with the doctor or setup an appointment. This is a normal visit and how clinics normally function. Also adds to why I highly recommend Primary Care Clinic.
3. Gynaecologists that take NHI and speak English in Tokyo
Now what you’re really wanting to know--where do I go to for English support and for a clinic that takes NHI?
K Ladies Clinic in Shinjuku. Services: birth control, Plan B, and pap smears all by a male doctor. English, accepts NHI and cash only.
Primary Care Tokyo in Shimokitazawa. Services: birth control, Plan B, STD testing, and pap smears all performed by a male doctor. English, accepts NHI.
Toho Clinic: Services: birth control, Plan B, IUDs and early-term abortion, and IVF treatment by a female doctor. English, accepts NHI.
Ikuaikai Ladies Clinic: Services: birth control, Plan B, pregnancy tests, pap smears and breast exams by a female doctor. English, accepts NHI.
Parkside Hiroo Ladies Clinic: Services: birth control, Plan B (very expensive though), and HPV vaccine course all can be by a female doctor. English, accepts NHI.
There’s more than what’s on my list above. Google can help and so can translate on Chrome. I’ve just narrowed it down to these based on my own experience and what friends have told me. By now, you probably know my recommendation is definitely PCT - Primary Care Tokyo.
4. Abortions in Tokyo
This isn’t something people talk about openly, but abortions are, even today, considered
to be and used as a form of birth control in Japan. You’ll need to research what clinics perform them and for how much.
**I’ve taken friends to Shibuya Ladies Clinic before - there are a few branches and all locations have slightly different policies regarding privacy, price, and up until how many weeks they will allow the abortion. You can also find information on their websites on the gender of doctors, and what is great about this clinic, is that it allows you to book under a fake name!
I can tell you that it will be a little hard to get and it will cost a lot as it’s not covered by NHI. Honestly it’s going to be around 100,000 to 200,000 yen. You will need a male cosigner unless the father is dead or out of the country or the pregnancy is the result of a sexual crime. But don’t freak out. They’re not going to try and confirm that it’s the real father. It can be faked. It’s ridiculous, believe me, I understand. Luckily you don’t need the real dad to sign this letter of consent that you bring into the clinic. You’ll usually be given an abortion pill and the procedure is considered as an outpatient one if it’s early. Anything more than 10 weeks along is going to be difficult to have terminated. Not all clinics/hospitals will perform the procedure after 12 weeks. It’ll be considered an inpatient procedure, take place at a fully functioning hospital, and be far more expensive (hospital fees plus the invasive procedure itself will cost upwards of 300,000 yen).
So please refer to the contraceptive part of this article. I can’t stress enough that the pill can be brought over and obtained here. Condoms are easily accessible and so is Plan B.
There you have it. Everything you need to know about women’s health and sexual health in Tokyo (except for post pregnancy and maternal care/giving birth. I have no experience on this and don’t know much). Many of the resources I used for this article can provide assistance. This stuff isn’t difficult to research as long as you’re using keywords such as “English” and “in Tokyo”. I wish you the best of luck, fun, and safe sex to come.