Guide to Bringing Medicines Into Japan

Japan Travel Medications

Nothing can ruin a trip faster than falling sick and not being able to treat your illness. Many travelers carry over-the-counter or prescription medications to avoid any unpleasant situations. However, it’s important to note that Japan has strict rules when it comes to importing medicines, which may affect your packing list.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide step-by-step information on the rules for bringing medicines into Japan. We will also discuss what medications are prohibited and what alternatives are available locally. So, let’s dive in!

Over-the-Counter Medication

What Over-the-Counter Medications are Prohibited?

While many medications are easily accessible without a prescription in Western countries, Japan has a stricter stance on certain ingredients. The following medications are prohibited in Japan as they contain narcotic or stimulant ingredients in excess of the Japanese standard:

  • Tylenol Cold
  • NyQuil
  • Actifed
  • Sudafed
  • Advil Cold & Sinus
  • Dristan Sinus
  • Vicks Inhaler
  • Lomotil

It’s worth noting that the list is not exhaustive, and both the limits and permissible ingredients are subject to change. To stay up to date with the latest regulations, we recommend consulting the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s English language website before your trip to Japan.

What Over-the-Counter Medications Can You Bring?

Travelers to Japan are allowed to bring a two-month (60-day) supply of any permissible over-the-counter medication, as well as an equivalent amount of vitamins. This rule also applies to contact lenses.

However, if you require more than a two-month supply, you will need to obtain a Yunyu Kakunin-sho (import confirmation certificate).

Prescription Medication

Can I Bring Any Prescription Medicine into Japan?

In general, visitors to Japan can bring prescription medication without any special procedures if they adhere to the following conditions:

  1. It is for personal use only.
  2. It is not a prohibited or controlled drug in Japan.
  3. The quantity does not exceed one month’s supply.

To ensure that your medication is not considered prohibited or controlled in Japan, you should review the Controlled Substances List provided by the Narcotics Control Department.

Which Prescription Medicines are Prohibited?

Opium, cannabis, and stimulant drugs such as amphetamines and methamphetamines, including certain medications used for the treatment of ADD/ADHD (e.g., Adderall and Dexedrine), are strictly prohibited and illegal to bring into Japan.

Regardless of whether these medications have been prescribed abroad or come with a customs declaration form, travelers found in possession of these substances may face prosecution. It’s important to note that there are no exceptions to this rule.

Additionally, it goes without saying that hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and MDMA are also outright prohibited in Japan.

Does Your Prescription Involve Narcotics?

If your prescription medication involves the use of narcotics (e.g., morphine, codeine, oxycodone, pethidine, hydrocodone), you must obtain advance permission from one of Japan’s eight Regional Bureaus of Health and Welfare.

To do so, you will need to submit an import application form and supporting documentation at least 14 days before your travel to Japan.

Does Your Prescription Involve Psychotropics?

The permitted dosage of psychotropic drugs depends on the specific medication. For example, drugs like Valium do not require a Yunyu Kakunin-sho if the quantity is lower than 1.2 grams (the limit for the active ingredient, diazepam).

For a comprehensive list of drugs in this category and their permitted dosages, you can refer to the list provided by Japan’s Narcotics Control Department.

How to Prepare Permitted Medicine for Travel?

When bringing permitted medication to Japan, it’s essential to have a copy of the prescription and a doctor’s note of explanation accompanying the medication.

Additionally, the medication should be stored in its original bottle. Avoid transferring it to an unmarked container or using a bottle labeled for a different medication.

Do I Need to Apply for a Yunyu Kakunin-sho?

In certain circumstances, you will need to apply for a Yunyu Kakunin-sho, which is a special certificate of import. Here are the situations that require obtaining this certificate:

  1. If you need more than one month’s supply of prescription medicine.
  2. If you need more than two months’ supply of non-prescription medicine.
  3. If you need to bring syringes or a number of medical devices that exceed the limit.

To obtain a Yunyu Kakunin-sho, you should visit the website for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which provides up-to-date information on when the certificate is necessary. Keep in mind that the application process can take up to three weeks, so make sure to apply well in advance of your departure to Japan.

It’s important to note that overseas prescriptions are not honored in Japan. If your prescription needs exceed what you can bring with you (even with a Yunyu Kakunin-sho), you will need to seek medical assistance from a local care provider. It is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider in your home country before your trip if this situation may affect your ongoing treatment.

Summary: How Much Medicine Can I Bring into Japan?

Here is a basic framework summarizing the quantity of medicine that can be brought into Japan without requiring special permission (excluding the Yunyu Kakunin-sho):

  • Prescription medicines: One month’s supply or less.
  • Non-prescription medicines: Two months’ supply or less.
  • Vitamins: Two months’ supply or less.
  • Cosmetics/Over-the-counter treatments: 24 pieces or less per item (for external use).
  • Medical devices (e.g., asthma inhalers): One per person.

Locally Available Medicine

Where Can I Get Over-the-Counter Medication in Japan?

Japan has well-stocked pharmacies in most major metropolitan areas, making it easy to find relief for minor health issues such as coughs and sore throats.

While the brands and medication ingredients may differ from what you’re accustomed to, pharmacists can often assist you in finding an effective alternative.

Common Drug Stores in Japan

  • Welcia: A drug store chain mainly located in the Kanto and Kansai regions.
  • Matsumoto Kiyoshi: A nationwide chain with a dominant presence in the Kanto region.
  • Tsuruha Drug: A nationwide drugstore chain.
  • Daikoku Drug: A nationwide drug chain, concentrated around the Kansai/Osaka area.
  • Sun Drug: A nationwide drug chain.

Where Can I Get Prescription Medication in Japan?

For those who require specific prescription medication, various embassy websites provide a list of English-speaking doctors in Japan. You can find these resources through the British Embassy Tokyo, US Embassy, or Australian Embassy Tokyo websites.

It’s often helpful to make a call to an English-speaking doctor before your trip to discuss any medications that may have questionable content. This proactive approach can help you avoid potential issues at customs.

Official Links & Resources

By following the guidelines and regulations outlined in this guide, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience when bringing medicines into Japan. Safe travels!

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