A Foreigner’s Guide to Getting Prescription Medicine in Japan

It's not as complicated as you think.

Photo by Pixabay.

It’s hard enough to get sick as it is, so we can only imagine how stressful it can get when you’re alone and sick in a foreign country with a language barrier to boot. For most foreigners, getting sick in Japan and going to the clinic—once you know
which one to go to—or hospital for the first time is surely a memorable experience in more ways than one. But what happens after? Getting your prescribed medicine is another process.

Buying medicine in Japan requires people to understand the difference between pharmacies and drugstores. In most cases, prescription drugs are not available at drugstores, so going to a pharmacy is required for prescribed medicine. Drugstores provide over-the-counter medicines that do not require a prescription, medical supplies, and daily necessities.

Get to know the unique system of Japanese pharmacies, so you won’t go blindly into the process of buying medicine. We begin from the moment when you get the doctor’s diagnosis.

Your Doctor’s Shohousen (Prescription)

Right before you end your consultation with your doctor, they will tell you if you will be prescribed some medicine as needed. If you don’t need to take medicine, then good for you! Just wait at the waiting area, and pay for the doctor’s consultation fee before you go home. However, if you will be prescribed medicine, the clinic’s receptionist will hand you a prescription (
shohousen) as you pay the consultation fee.

Go to the nearby pharmacy to get your medicine.

Most clinics in Japan usually have an affiliated pharmacy nearby: next door, in the same building, or in the neighborhood. Approach the receptionist, and he or she will ask you for the prescription.

After that, you will be directed to wait for your name to be called. Once you are called, approach the counter and the pharmacist will proceed to give you your medicine and a piece of paper, which includes information regarding the medicine you will be given, including its side effects.

Prescription Pharmacies

As the name suggests, prescription pharmacies are places where prescription medication can be obtained. To be able to purchase this type of medicine, you need to have a prescription, which is given to you at your doctor’s appointment.

If over-the-counter medicines are needed, they are available at drugstores in Japan. Drugstores also sell medical supplies, supplements, cosmetics, etc. 


 (30 March 2020)

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