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Understanding Medication Rules in Japan: A Comprehensive Guide

An Overview of Over-the-Counter Medication in Japan

Unlike many Western countries where various medications can be purchased without a prescription, Japan has stricter regulations on certain ingredients. Common OTC medications such as Tylenol and Advil, containing Amphetamine or Phenylaminopropane, are prohibited. However, a two-month supply of permissible over-the-counter medication, including vitamins and contact lenses, can be brought into the country. Should you require more, a Yunyu Kakunin-sho, a special import certificate, is necessary.

Entering Japan with Prescription Medication

In general, visitors are allowed to bring prescription medicine into Japan, provided that it is for personal use, is not a prohibited or controlled drug in Japan, and the quantity does not exceed a month’s supply. Importantly, substances such as Opium, cannabis, and stimulants, including specific medications for the treatment of ADD/ADHD like Adderall and Dexedrine, are outright banned. Also, commonly used inhalers and certain allergy and sinus OTC medications containing stimulants, are forbidden.

Preparation for Traveling with Medicine

When bringing medicine into Japan, ensure it is accompanied by a copy of the prescription and a doctor’s note explaining its purpose. The medication should be stored in its original bottle. Avoid storing it in an unmarked container or a bottle labeled for a different medication.

Situations Requiring a Yunyu Kakunin-sho

A Yunyu Kakunin-sho needs to be obtained in the following circumstances: if you need more than a month’s supply of prescription medicine, more than a two-month supply of non-prescription medicine, or if you’re carrying syringes or numerous medical devices that exceed the limit. It can take up to three weeks to obtain this certificate, so it is essential to have it before leaving home. Also, note that overseas prescriptions are not accepted in Japan.

What You Can Bring into Japan

Generally, a one-month supply or less of prescription medicines, a two-month supply or less of non-prescription medicines and vitamins, and a single medical device per person, such as asthma inhalers, can be brought into Japan without requiring a special permission. Visit this link to find more information on what medications you cannot bring to Japan.

Local Availability of Medicine in Japan

Japan has well-stocked pharmacies in most major metropolitan areas, ensuring easy access to relief for minor health issues. While brands and medication ingredients may differ, pharmacists can often assist in finding an effective alternative.

Understanding the Yakkan Shoumei

The Yakkan Shoumei, or medication import certificate, is critical when planning to bring medication into Japan. It must be obtained before arrival and presented to customs upon disembarkation. To secure a Yakkan Shoumei, several documents, including an application form, drug details, a signed prescription, and a flight plan, must be sent to the health inspector designated for your entry point. Learn more here.

Seeking Medication in Japan

If you reside in or are visiting major cities like Tokyo, finding OTC drugs is straightforward. With a little translation help, you can often find substitutes for your medication. However, Japanese pharmacies do not honor foreign prescriptions, so for chronic illnesses or long stays, it’s advisable to engage with a local care provider. Major cities also have clinics with dedicated English-speaking doctors on staff.

Ensuring Health While in Japan

Navigating health and medical services in a foreign country like Japan can be challenging, but with careful research and preparation, it’s possible to manage your medication needs effectively. Your health is paramount, so it’s worth taking the time to understand the Japanese medication rules to make your stay as seamless as possible.


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