The Bald Traveler

Helping Geeks in their Travel Endeavors

Medication in Japan

I was not expecting to write about medication especially for a Japan planning article, but our recent trip highlighted some areas that I think need to be discussed with anyone planning on travelling to Japan.  First there are what medications can you bring into Japan, then there are medications that require a license, and finally what western medications are banned in Japan.  I will then discuss what medications you should have with you just in case you need them.

What are the Medication Rules for Japan?

Japan is the only country I have traveled to that has rules that made me go through my medication before traveling.  For a list of medications that are banned or require a license check out this web page by the Japanese Narcotics Control Agency, Drug Import Instructions. In general you can bring in 30 days supply of prescription medication or 24 doses of a topical medication, or 30 days of most over the counter medications without needing to get a license.

What is Prohibited to Bring into Japan?

Any Schedule 1 Narcotic in the US is prohibited this includes: Opiates, Cocaine, Marijuana, (including CBD oil), most ADHD medications (Adderall), etc.  Also banned are inhalers for treating asthma if they contain a stimulant, stimulants are also illegal. Pseudoephedrine is banned for import (Sudafed, Claritin-D, Mucinex-DM, etc).  Psychotropic (Diazepam, Barbital, Lorazepam, Full List here) can only be brought in with a license.  Medications that require a syringe (insulin) also need a license unless they come in pre-filled syringes.

What is this License you Mentioned?

If you are going to bring in more then 30 days supply of a medication or you need to bring in a medication that is prohibited without a license you need to get a license, it is called a Yakkan Shoumei in Japanese and you can apply on the first website I linked above.  This can take up to two weeks to get approval so make sure to apply early enough before your trip.  When you arrive you will need to show the license to the customs officer as your passport will be flagged once you apply for the license.
If you need to use a syringe to take your medication, are going to be in Japan for more then 30 days, or need to use an inhaler you need to apply for a license.

What do I Need to do For Any Allowed Prescription Medication?

Below I have a list of rules to follow:
  1. Have it in the original container with the prescription sticker on it.
  2. Do not have more then a 30 day supply in the container
  3. Have a copy of the prescription written by your doctor with your medication
You do not need to tell the customs officer that you have prescription medication but they may decide to check your bags anyway.  Having a copy of the original prescription while not necessary will help prove that the medication is legit, as I saw on some Japanese government websites that you needed to have the prescription for any medications you import into Japan, and there is some debate if the sticker Pharmacies apply to medicine in the U.S. is an actual prescription.  I feel it’s better to just ask your doctor for a copy of your prescription and it also helps if you lose your medications and need to get them replaced in Japan.

CBD Oil is Legal in the US why Can’t I Bring it to Japan?

This is a grey area at least in 2019, you can’t import CBD oil into Japan but you can buy it once in Japan.  Most services I saw would deliver it to your hotel.

What do you Recommend I Bring as OTC Medications?

From personal experience bring what you normally take at home as long as it isn’t prohibited.  I recommend bringing Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Aspirin,  Imodium, Allergy Medication, Cold Medication, and Antacids.  Finding medications equivalent to western medication in Japan was interesting.  I kept my Imodium in the same bag as my sudafed so when I removed that I also removed the Imodium.  this wasn’t an issue until a few days before the trip and someone got diarrhea and we needed to get it stopped for the flight home.  We bought 3-4 medications that were recommended as what the Japanese use but none worked for our patient. We finally found an OTC with the active ingredient in Imodium but at 1/4 the strength.  We gave the patient 4 doses to get to the expected dose and get the issue stopped.  Doing an inquiry at the drug store I found out that western strength Imodium requires a prescription in Japan. Lesson Learned.
The below is a picture of Seirogan which I describe as rabbit pellets due to their size and smell.  You drop them in hot water let it dissolve and then drink it if you can take the taste.  It did not work for our patient.
Next we tried Stoppa.  We used the entire box and it started to work but not well enough.
Then I finally got Satto which is the weak Imodium and it worked at 4 times the recommended dose. If you need it notice the Stomach on it and not the whole body of Stoppa.  Also they make a Satto-L for women but it’s ok for men also.

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