For people on prescribed medication, moving to Japan comes with additional stress of how to get your medication here. I had this problem and for the first two years when my Japanese was too crappy to get my message across to doctors, it was easier to bring medicine here or have them shipped over.
Now, I'm seeing Japanese doctors but I still think it would be really helpful to know how to bring your meds to Japan especially if you can't find alternatives here.
How to Bring Medicine into Japan
First things first, you'll need find out the following things:
- What category of medicine you're bringing?
- Is it prohibited? If yes, then just give up here.
- How many months supply?
Depending on your medicine, you will need to apply for special permission to bring (ie. import) your medicine to Japan. The special permission is in the form of a import certificate called Yakkan Shoumei 薬監証明.
When do you not need Yakkan Shoumei?
You'll probably don't need a Yakkan Shoumei if your medicine meets the following conditions:
- Personal use only;
- Not prohibited or illegal in Japan;
- Not controlled drug or item; and
- Up to 1-month supply. Or 2-months for contact lens.
In this case, you can just carry the medicine in with you no problem. Even if you do get stopped for a spot-check by airport customs, as long as you don't need a Yakkan Shoumei you'll be allowed through.
When do you need Yakkan Shoumei?
All of these must be personal use only. I only listed the ones I think are common or frequently asked. For further details, check the useful links below.
- More than 1-month supply of prescription medicine (any kind)
- Prescribed narcotics, substances, and psychotropics
- More than 2-months supply of contact lenses (classified as medical device)
- More than 24 x 1 type of cosmetic (brand not relevant)
- More than 1-month supply of injectable drugs like insulin, epi-pen
💡If you have trouble figuring out whether you need a Yakkan Shoumei or if your medicine is prohibited, you can e-mail the Ministry of Health Bureaus. Or do a Google Search, chances are someone had the same issue.
Narcotics Control Department
Application Guidance Important bits you should read from the link:
- List of Controlled Substances
- Prohibited Substances
How to Apply for Yakkan Shoumei
Step 1: Prepare Required Documents
- Fill in Form 1 Import Report of Medication
- Fill in Form 4 Explanation of Pharmaceutical Product (for each medicine/device)
- Doctor's Prescription (required info: your name, doctor's name, medicine name, medicine amount)
- Flight Itinerary or E-ticket
💡Forms available in PDF and Word format here. The Word file is a pain to use because the format keeps running 🙄 . If you're going to be doing this long term, I suggest saving a copy for future use. Just remember to update the details when re-using. If you have a printer scanner, old-school PDF print, write, and scan is less frustrating.
Step 2: Email Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare
Email the documents to the regional bureau nearest to the airport you'll be arriving at.
For Narita, Haneda Aiport, other northen airports: [email protected]
For Kansai, Chubu Centrair, Naha Airport, other southern airports: [email protected]
I recommend emailing at least 1 week in advance or earlier at peak times and Japan holiday periods. I made the mistake of emailing on 27 December, totally forgetting about nenmatsu-nenshi 年末年始 (Year End New Year). The office was closed and I ended up not being able to get a Yakkan Shoumei.
💡Once you`ve arrived in Japan it'll be too late to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei via email. Your meds will be kept at the airport until you get a Yakkan Shoumei via post, return to the airport and exchange it for your meds back.
↑ I had to do this and trust me it was a huge pain plus expensive.
Step 3: Travel and Submit
You will receive a "sealed" Form 1 Import Report of Medication. Print it out and submit for checking at airport customs together with your medicines. Make sure the amount of medicines as stated on the report and what you actually have match if not the Yakkan Shoumei will be invalid.
And that's it! You're done and free to go!
Until next time~ 💊