How to get medication in Japan


The Japanese word for pharmacy is yakkyoku. While there are pharmacies throughout Japan, not all handle prescriptions, and those that do cannot always provide medications that foreigners require.

Asking Shoshen? (¨prescriptions?¨), will help you determine whether or not you can fill your prescription. Foreign prescriptions cannot be filled in Japan, so if you are taking a specific medication from home you will want to bring a supply with you. Guidelines for importing medication can be found through the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare . If you take birth control or psychiatric medication you should definitely import a supply. While these medications can be found in Japan, they are rare, especially outside of major cities.

If you think your medication from home will be obtainable, you may prefer to substitute it for a Japanese version. Most pharmacists will be happy to meet with customers to discuss their needs. Like doctors, they usually speak some English.

When filling a prescription from a doctor, you will usually be directed to a pharmacy near the hospital in which you were treated.

A word about prescriptions: Japanese people are used to taking doctors´ instructions without question or comment. You may not put as much faith in your doctors. Doctors will do not mind addressing concerns, but they will not prompt you for questions. Make sure you remember to ask if you are unsure about anything.

Japanese herbal remedies

Traditional herbal remedies (kampo) are still popular in Japan, as supplements to modern treatment methods if not as replacements for it. Ginseng, Angelica, Dipsacsis and even peppermint are all commonly prescribed herbs. While you may not be open to herbal treatment to a heart condition (and understandably so), Japanese herbal medicine has proven effective in treating everything from poor digestion to sore muscles. Consider giving it a try if you experience one of these chronic ailments.

Medicinal herbs are regulated the same as pharmaceutical medication, and their use is covered by both national and private health insurance. Never attempt to treat yourself with kampo. Some of the 165 kampo herbs are toxic in large doses, and their misuse could lead to illness or death. Always consult a professional before beginning any herbal treatment programme, no matter how harmless the ingredients might seem.

Further reading

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