Here’s Where You Can Buy Medicine in Japan
Drugstores and Pharmacies are different from one another.
In Japan, there are two basic types of medicine you will encounter: over-the-counter medicine and prescription medicine. While the words “drugstore (doraggu suto-a)” and “pharmacy (yakkyoku)” generally mean the same thing in English, they are considered two different things in Japan. Drugstores sell over-the-counter medicine, supplements, cosmetics, and etc. Pharmacies, on the other hand, sell prescription drugs and require a shohosen, which is a prescription acquired from its affiliated clinic or hospital.
For general pain medication, cold medicine, and the like, you can buy over-the-counter medicine at any drugstore in Japan. Over-the-counter medicine in Japan do not fall under the Japanese health insurance so you might need to pay for it in full whenever you buy them. Take note that the dosage for Japanese medicine is different from other countries! There are also some over-the-counter medicine that cannot be issued if there is no licensed in-house-pharmacist present. So, there might be cases, in particular during late nights, when you cannot get those medicines from the drugstore.
Prescription Medicine (Shoho-yaku)
Prescription medicine falls under the Japanese health insurance system. If you are enrolled in it, you only need to pay 30% of the medicinal fees or sometimes, free for parents and children depending on the health care system of your municipality. As mentioned before, because you will need a prescription from a doctor to be able to buy medicine, the amount and dosage is already specified. If you need extra medicine in the case of continuous intake, then you would have to go to the clinic or hospital to get another prescription.
For those who will bring medicines for personal use into Japan
Keep in mind that in Japan, even some over-the-counter medicine that are produced from other countries are considered illegal. Even some inhalers and allergy medicines are not allowed so it’s always better to check.
When you plan to bring more than a month’s supply of medicine into Japan, you would most likely need to apply for a yakkan shomej. Yakkan Shomej is a kind of import certificate you need to secure before you leave your home country, and declare it at customs.
More details are provided here.
(6 July 2019)