Staying healthy while travelling is important and not being able to treat an illness quickly to minimize any affects on your travel plans can be frustrating. Especially in Japan, where even common medicine maybe in unrecognizable packaging and language may be an issue when communicating with pharmacists and doctors. Travelers often carry typical over-the-counter or prescription medicines with them to avoid any of these situations. However, Japan has strict rules over the importation of medicine.
Now with the coronavirus it is perhaps more important than ever to ensure you have enough medication on your trip to Japan.
Government laws and regulations change often in Japan. Please contact the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medication
What OTC medication is prohibited?
Japan takes a hard line on certain ingredients that are commonly found in over the counter medications in many countries.
The following ingredients are prohibited:
- Medicine containing over 10% Pseudoephedrine (Commonly used as a nasal decongestant products such as Advil’s ‘Cold and Sinus’, Sudafed, and Vicks’ inhalers)
- Medicine containing more than one percent of Codeine
As part of your preparations to travel to Japan, it is advisable to consult the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s English language website as the ingredients and their limits are subject to change.
What OTC medication can you bring?
You can bring up to two-months (60 days) supply of legally allowed over-the-counter medication into Japan. This also applies to an equivalent amount of vitamins and contact lenses. If more than two months’ supply is needed then a Yakkan Shomei (薬監証明) ‘Medical Import Certificate’ is required.
Can I bring any prescription medicine into Japan with me?
In general, you are able to bring prescription medicine with you to Japan without any special procedures as long as they meet the following conditions:
- For your personal use only
- An oral or an external medicine, not an injection
- Not a prohibited or controlled substance in Japan
- Up to 1 month’s supply only.
If you need more than one months’ supply, a Yakkan Shomei (薬監証明) is needed.
What prescription medicine is outright prohibited?
Some prescription medicines are outright prohibited like cannabis, opium and other stimulant drugs (such as amphetamines and methamphetamines). This includes some types of medicine for the treatment of ADD/ADHD (such as Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse) which are strictly prohibited and illegal to bring into Japan. Travellers can face prosecution if in possession of these substances, even with a foreign prescription or a customs declaration form. Even some commonly used inhalers and some allergy OTC medications such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers contain these prohibited stimulants.
Hard drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, and MDMA) are also prohibited.
Does your prescription include narcotics?
If your prescription medication includes narcotics (such as codeine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, and pethidine,) you must request permission from one of Japan’s eight Regional Bureaus of Health and Welfare.
You will need to submit an import application form along with supporting documents.
Does your prescription include psychotropics?
The allowable dosage is depended on the drug. For example, Valium does not require a Yakkan Shomei if the active ingredient, diazepam, is in quantities lower than 1.2 grams. An outline of psychotropics drugs and their allowed dosages, can be found on the Japan’s Narcotics Control Department list
How to prepare medicine you are bringing to Japan?
When bringing medication with you into Japan, it should be in the original bottle or container. Do not store in unmarked or different labeled containers or bottles. You should have a copy of the prescription and a doctor’s note explaining the purpose and instructions on use.
Can I bring injection medicine into Japan?
If it is for personal use only, you can only bring “Pre-filled Syringes” or “Self-injection Kits” used under the direction of a doctor into Japan along with the “Yakkan Shoumei.”
Example of Yakkan Shoumei above.
How do I apply for a Yakkan Shomei?
A Yakkan Shomei (special import certificate) can be applied for when:
- Bringing more than 1 month’s supply of prescription medicine
- Bringing more than 2 month’s supply of non-prescription medicine
- Bringing syringes or more medical devices than allowed
A Yakkan Shomei must be issued in advance so that it can be presented at customs and can be downloaded from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website. It is important to note that the process can take up to 3 to 5 weeks, so please ensure you apply with plenty of time before you travel.
It is also important to note that overseas prescriptions are not accepted in Japan, so if you need more medication than what you are able to bring into Japan, even with a Yakkan Shomei, you will need to see a local healthcare provider. Please also consult with your own home country healthcare provider to ensure appropriate ongoing treatment.
A guide to how much medicine you can bring into Japan?
The following medicine can be brought into Japan without a special import certificate (see Yakkan Shomei above). The rules and exceptions with prohibited ingredients, still apply.
|Prescription medicines||1 month or less|
|Non-prescription medicines||2 month or less|
|Vitamins||2 month or less|
|Cosmetics / Over-the-counter treatments||24 pieces or less per item (external use)|
|Medical devices eg asthma inhalers||1 per person|
Where can I buy OTC medication in Japan?
Japan has a wide range of pharmacies and drugstores and Japanese OTC medicine is easily accessible. For the most common large drug stores in Japan please check here. < most popular drug stores in Japan>
How do I refill foreign prescriptions?
As Japanese pharmacies do not accept foreign prescriptions and many foreign brands of medicine are not available, you will need to consult with a Japanese doctor to prescribe similar Japanese brand of medicine. To find a list of English-speaking doctors, hospitals, and clinics please check here. <This page is coming>