• Health in Japan
  • Life in Japan

Importing Medication To Japan

medication, tables, capsules

Introduction

Many people ask us questions about bringing prescription medication to Japan. Therefore, here’s our advice on how to bring your medication to Japan.

What are “pharmaceuticals” and what are the laws in Japan?

Firstly, the law in Japan defines pharmaceutical products as:
 

“Pharmaceuticals, quasi-drugs, cosmetics, medical devices…because they are linked to human life, their safety and efficacy must be tested thoroughly, and only those that gain acceptance may be distributed in the country, according to the restrictions outlined in the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Law.”

  

As a result, for someone moving to Japan, it comes down to:
 
1. Prescription medications
2. Non-prescription medications
3. Medical devices
 
As these are the three most common types of “pharmaceuticals” that most people import. 

Tourists vs Residents

The rules for importation are set up for short-term visitors and tourists.  Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s (MHLW) page “Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use” says there is no license required to import medications in the following quantities:
 

1. Non-prescription drugs: Up to 2 months’ supply (most over-the-counter medicines)

2. Prescription Drugs: Up to 1 month’s supply (most prescription medicines)

3. Drugs for External Use: Up to 24 pieces (things like creams, compresses, balms)

 
These quantities are set up for tourists and short-term visitors.  
 
Residents should enroll in Japanese National Health Insurance. Then they can get their medication from a clinic or hospital in Japan. Over 22,000 types of medication are available by prescription. Most popular medications overseas will be available.

What is a “month’s supply?”

The formula for determining a 1-month supply is:
 
number of tablets per dose X number of doses per day X 30
 
A headache tablet bottle says to take 2 tablets per time, three times per day. The total for a 1-month supply is 180 tablets.  Stay within that limit and you’ll be fine. 

Yakkan Shoumei

The Yakkan Shoumei is an inspection certificate approval issued by MHLW under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. The purpose is advanced permission for importing quantities of medication more than the amount allowed above.  The guide to Yakkan Shoumei and the application form is in the PDF file here.

How to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei

Application is not difficult. Application by e-mail. 
 
Follow these steps:
 
1. Download the PDF file
 
2. Fill in the application forms (pages 7-9) completely. Attach digital copies of foreign prescriptions for a specific patient who is bringing medicines to Japan
 
3. Send the application form by e-mail to the MHLW bureau nearest to where your port of arrival is in Japan
 
4. Receive a PDF of your Yakkan Shoumei and bring it with you when you arrive and follow certain procedures to meet entry requirements at the airport.
 
The MHLW bureaus where you send your Yakkan Shoumei to are:
 
For Narita Airport, Haneda International Airport, other East Japan airports:
 
Kanto-Shin’etsu Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare TEL: +81-48-740-0800 / FAX:+81-48-601-1336 Email: [email protected]
 
For Kansai International Airport, Chubu, Fukuoka, Naha, other West Japan airports:
 
Kinki Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare TEL: +81-6-6942-4096 / FAX:+81-6-6942-2472 Email: [email protected]

 

Important points for the Yakkan Shoumei

Timing. Apply for the Yakkan Shoumei when you know your travel date and port of entry. It should take 7-10 days .
 
AmountsThere is no limit to the amount of prescription medications that you can import on a single Yakkan Shoumei, No limit to the number of different medications.  You can combine all the medications you are bringing for the entire period you are planning. You can also combine medication and medical devices. (for example if you also have a CPAP etc.)  
 

DeclareAt the airport, the special procedures needed besides the normal customs procedures are showing your Yakkan Shoumei at the pharmaceutical affairs desk in the arrival area 

Prohibited Medications

Certain medications that might be legal in other countries are not allowed in Japan. Even with a legal prescription from a doctor overseas 

 

Such prohibited medications are:

 

      • marijuana
      • stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine
      • narcotics such as heroin, fentanyl
      • other drugs as prohibited by law and international convention

Controlled drugs

Persons who need to import controlled drugs, for example prescribed narcotics for the treatment of pain due to a medical condition, must get permission from the Narcotics Control Department, MHLW. The application form for the permission is here.  This is a separate permission from the Yakkan Shoumei.

Psychotropic medicine

Importing certain types of psychotropic medicines requires a separate permission if the total amount of the medicine imported exceeds the amount listed on this list.  

For most people coming to live and work in Japan, it’s enough to get a Yakkan Shoumei if needed and bring their medications Make sure that you follow these simple steps and remain in compliance with regulations when coming to Japan.  In the meantime, have a look at our Jobs Page for new positions that might be a great choice for you.