Making Sex Safe Again: Of Condoms and STI Testing in Tokyo

Hager

sti testing in tokyo

There’s nothing quite like sex. Except maybe chocolate and wine—but they do not quite expose you to the same raw thrill and overwhelming desire…d range of positions. Tokyo Cheapo knows this well—just read this guide on cheap sex. However, no matter how fun sex can be, if you’re not going about it safely, it can leave you exposed to the full range of potentially ghastly contagious side effects—more commonly known as sexually transmitted infections (STI or 性病 [seibyou]). Are you sexually active? Good. Are condoms and/or dental dams your best friends during all your sexual encounters? If yes, fantastic—you are making sex safe again. If not, let’s get you acquainted with these lovely love wrappers. By the time you finish reading they will be your best friend, we’ll bust a few sexual health myths, and provide you with info on free STI testing centers in Tokyo along the way.

Myth No. 1: “STIs are not common in Japan”

You may think this on account of the multiple national and international surveys indicating that Japan suffers from a ‘celibacy syndrome’ and that the Japanese, on average, only have sex between 17-45 times a year. The same set of surveys also indicate that approximately 40% of all Japanese men pay for sex. This would explain the US$ 5 billion (and rising) Japanese sex industry.

And where there is sex there are STIs. As of January 2017, the Japanese Ministry of Health has put together a special research team to find ways of stopping STIs given the unprecedented increase in the rates of all STIs and especially syphilis. Even our beloved Sailor Moon’s Usagi Tsukino is helping the Ministry who are distributing condoms and leaflets starring this completely qualified character to increase awareness among Japanese youths as well as adults.

sti testing in tokyo
Photo by Sailormoonnews.com

Even though compulsory STI checks are regularly done by Soaplands (Japanese-type brothels), there is an increasing occurrence of bareback (without a condom) sex. So even though the clean bill of health is shown from that month, if the lady in question has serviced several patrons that week there is no saying whether or not she is unknowingly spreading an infection. So as often advised here on Tokyo Cheapo, please avoid them. If not, please keep reading.

To give you an idea without boring you: on average this year there are 30 new cases of syphilis per week in Tokyo alone. Less than a decade ago this was only 10 new cases per week. The number of HIV infections confirmed monthly in Tokyo has also seen an increase. What is bringing this about? This may in part be related to certain prevailing attitudes towards sex and specifically condoms. Taking us to Myth No. 2…

Myth No. 2: “Don’t you trust me to be clean?”

Apparently a statement uttered many times by both men and women to avoid the use of condoms. And a prevailing sentiment here in Japan. According to a—hopefully now outdated study—as many as 93% of the sexually active youth in Japan believed condoms are purely for preventing unwanted pregnancies. Reading this women’s health section it still seems to suggest just that, and that condoms may be used “if there’s a possibility of STDs”.

So yes, in the heat of the moment unwrapping that fantastic new condom may be the hardest thing (pun intended) you do and so you instantaneously forget that 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STI by the age of 25. Next time your partner gives you those big puppy eyes asking you to put down that barrier of protection, remember the following chart:

Most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) How do I get it? (sexual transmission routes) What are the key symptoms? When do symptoms appear? Treatment /duration* Prevention
Chlamydia
クラミジア (kuramijia)
-Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
-Sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom after each use
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals – even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
-Infected semen or vaginal fluid getting into your eye
-Discharge from the vagina or penis
-Pain when peeing
-Vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex
-Pelvic pain in women
-Testicular pain in men
1-3 weeks or later Antibiotics
7 days or longer strain dependent
Condoms/ dental dams
Gonorrhoea
淋病 (rinbyo)
 -Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
-Sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom after each use
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals – even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
-Infected semen or vaginal fluid getting into your eye
-Green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis
-Pain when peeing
-About 10% of men and 50% of women don’t have any symptoms.
 10-15 days or  later  Antibiotics
7 days or longer
Condoms/ dental dams
Syphilis
梅毒 (baidoku)
 -Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
-Sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom after each use
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals – even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
-Small painless sores or ulcers on the genitals
-A blotchy rash and flu-like symptoms that may follow a few weeks later
-Swollen glands and hair loss
-Some people show no symptoms or symptoms come and go
 2-3 weeks or later Antibiotics
10 days or longer depending on stage of infection
Condoms/ dental dams
Genital warts

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

-Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
-Sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom after each use
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals – even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
-Small, fleshy growths or lumps on the genitals or around the anus, inner thigh, groin – generally painless, but may be itchy  2-3 months or as early as two weeks or not for several years No cure but warts can be removed with medicine or surgically Condoms/ dental dams
Genital herpes

Herpes simplex virus (HSV)

ヘルペス (herupesu)

-Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
-Sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom after each use
-Your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals – even if there is no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
-Small, painful blisters around the genitals
-Pain when peeing
-Itching around the genitals
-8 out of 10 people do not show symptoms.
-Herpes is a chronic infection that can only be controlled and not cured
 4-7 days or months/years later No cure but symptoms can be treated with antivirals Condoms/ dental dams
HIV
HIV / エイズ (eizu)
The following fluids coming in contact with a mucous membrane (mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth) or damaged tissue:
-blood
-semen
-pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
-rectal or vaginal fluids
-breast milk
-Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature (fever), sore throat, headache, and achy muscles or joints
-Red rash on the body
-Some people have no symptoms or the initial symptoms disappear
 2-6 weeks  No cure but symptoms are kept in check using ‘cocktail’ of antiretrovirals Condoms/ dental dams

NOTE:
1) Getting re-tested following completion of treatment is a must!
2) It is very rare for female-to-female sex to result in HIV infection—but it can happen, so take precaution, especially when sharing sex toys.

Monogamous committed relationships aside, unless someone shows you very recent certifiable medical proof that they are “clean” and of every partner they have been with since AND you have the very same proof in return, there really is no reason to take any unnecessary risks.

In case you suspect or feel/see any of the symptoms listed above please do get tested as soon as possible. Below you will find free testing locations in Tokyo. Even if you don’t have any symptoms and are sexually active, it is highly recommended to get tested 2 times a year or more. Some of these infections are asymptomatic (show no symptoms) or don’t show for a very long time, so better to be safe than spend a lot of money and feel very, very sorry.

Say What! No. 1: “Why do you keep mentioning dental dams?”

Dental dams are rectangular sheets of latex that are used to cover genitals so there is no direct mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact. So you can go down on each other without a care in the world (to the extent possible). Dental dams come in all colours, flavors and of course in various non-latex forms as well.

sti testing in tokyo
Photo by inga used under CC

Too lazy to buy dental dams? You can make your own using a non-spermicide/non-powdered condom you have—here’s how:

  1. Unwrap and unroll the condom completely
  2. Cut both the top (tip) and the bottom (rim/base) off so you are left with a cylinder
  3. Cut it once through lengthwise and spread out over desired area
  4. Enjoy

Never use both sides of a dental dam and please please avoid a DIY version made out of cling film. Also, while dental dams offer great protection against all STIs, they do not offer the same degree of protection against pubic lice (better known as crabs[毛ジラミ – kejirami]).

Myth No. 3 : “There are no free STI testing centers in Tokyo”

Seek and ye shall find—or see below for free and anonymous English-speaking centers for STI testing in Tokyo:

Where? When? What?
Minato Public Health Center
1-4-10 Mita,  Minato-ku
See link for dates and times

Or call +81(0)3-6400-0081

HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis B
Shinjuku Public Health Center
Shinjuku Metropolitan Taxation Office1F, 7-5-8 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
See link for dates
Or call +81 (0)3-3369-7110
HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis B
Tokyo Metropolitan Minami-Shinjuku Test and Consultation Office
Tokyo Minami-Shinjuku Bldg
3F, 2-7-8 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
Weekdays from 3:30 to 7 pm
Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays, 1 to 4:30 p.mCall +81(0)3-3377-0811 for an appointment
HIV, syphilis, chlamydia
Setagaya Health and Welfare Center
(Public-Health Promotion Division branch) Setagaya Common Building for Government Office
1F 4-22-13, Wakabayashi
Thursdays 9:00 to 10 pm

+81 (0)3-5432-2441

HIV, syphilis, chlamydia
Itabashi Public Health Center
Oyama-cho, 32- 15, Itabashi-ku
Call to confirm dates and make appointment +81(0)3-3579-2321 HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, hepatitus B and C
Chiyoda Public health Center
1-2-14, Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku
Generally 1st Friday of the month

Call to confirm dates and make appointment +81 (0)3-5211-8175

HIV, syphilis, chlamydia

Nearly all health clinics will be able to provide STI testing (screening panel) for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and other STIs upon request for a fee of anywhere between 8,000 to 25,000 yen. If you suspect anything and have Japanese Health Insurance the cost will be a lot less depending on the clinic. Every ward in Tokyo offers some form of free and anonymous STI testing services at their ward health centers or associated clinics on a weekly or monthly basis. Most will provide some limited information in English so it is worth visiting your local ward office or checking their websites (thank you Google Translate).

Traveling around Japan? Please note that most cities in Japan will have a Hokenjo (Public Health Center) where they will offer free HIV tests and possibly for other STIs. The waiting time for results is generally 1 week unless they provide rapid HIV tests.

STI home tests are available online; however, they require you send 1 or several blood/urine samples (small amounts) to a discreet lab. You can then check your results via their website with the test-kit login information. The two keywords for the  test results are negative (陰  insei) and positive (陽性 yousei). In the case of a positive you will need to repeat the tests at a health clinic in order to receive the appropriate medication/support.

Testing for HIV

HIV window period
You may need to repeat an HIV test in the case of a false-negative result. A false-negative result is a failure to correctly identify an HIV-infected person as HIV-positive. This usually occurs during the “window period”—this is the time between infection and accurately testing positive (i.e. markers of infection become clearly detectable). Based on the HIV tests used in Japan, the window period is typically 4-6 weeks after infection.

HIV support groups/websites/information portals:

It is important to note that HIV no longer represents the same threats as it did in the 1980s due to the amazing advancement of research and development of antiretrovirals. Early detection of HIV is important to ensure proper treatment and minimize the risk of HIV (the infection) progressing to AIDS (the disease). If you test positive for HIV, work with your healthcare professional to find the most suitable antiretrovirals for your particular situation to ensure the best possible outcomes.

  • HIV Kensa provides a lot of information regarding HIV including testing, counseling and peer support in several languages. The Japan HIV Center has a lot of information and a weekly HIV dedicated counseling hotline.

Myth No. 4: “Condoms available in Japan don’t fit”

It is important to have the right size condom. It’s even more important to stay safe and understand all condoms with a quality control certification can fit over your head (the one with two eyes). So when push comes to shove—literally—use whatever condom you have on hand. Like the ones they have available in most love hotels. The nominal width of the average condom available in japan is 5.2”/132mm so with a wee bit of condom calisthenics you can fit that bad boy over (nearly) any bad boy.

With a little more prep time you can size yourself up by following a few simple instructions to find find the most comfortable condom fit and type for your/partner’s penis size. The linked web shop ships to several countries including Japan—they also sell female condoms and dental dams. If you want condoms within 24 hours Amazon and Rakuten are at your service. Further to finding the right size, have a look at the condom thickness as well. The average condom thickness is 0.05mm—however, some prefer thinner (0.01mm–thinnest) condoms for better feel or thicker (0.1mm—thickest) condoms for extending coitus/ for use over strap-ons/ for fisting. Not surprisingly, Japan takes the crown for manufacturing both the thinnest (Sagami Original 0.01) and thickest (Goku-Atsu Black 0.1) condoms worldwide.

If you are weary of ordering condoms online (despite the guaranteed discretion on both your credit card statement and in terms of packaging) there are several locations in Tokyo—aside from local pharmacies and the myriad sex shops—that sell a fantastic range of condoms (in all shapes, sizes and flavors) and lubes (nuru nuru gel). The cheapest being Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ)—that big red, black and yellow discount store scattered all over Tokyo.

Photo by Hager

This is THE place to pick up some green tea, several packs of flavored large condoms and a Tenga masturbation cup in case the evening doesn’t quite pan out. Every shop has a different range of condoms. The big Don Quijote stores in Roppongi and Nakameguro are open 24 hours (they are even open on New Year’s Eve!) and offer the most comprehensive range of condoms and lubes including a half-curtained accessible section of sex toys/paraphernalia.

Now you have checked yourself out, gotten a clean bill of health and kitted yourself out with the necessary right-sized/flavored tools—go forth and have yourselves some fantastic safe sex!



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