When coming to Japan, you can bring with you legal medication and drugs with official documentation and certificates approved by Japan’s Bureau of Health if over a certain amount. There are some common medicines to be aware of that are illegal in Japan.

Let’s break everything down for you, including detailed information on how to bring your medication to Japan and over-the-counter drugs that are available.

In our introduction, we talked a very brief and negative game about what drugs not to bring into Japan. Straight forward? Nope not at all. If you need to bring more than 1-2 months worth of legal medication into Japan, you’ll need to get a document called “Yakkan Shoumei” (薬監証明 – Pharmacy Certificate) to show with your medication at customs. You need to get this document prior to coming and landing at the airport.

But what exactly is a Yakkan Shoumei, and what drugs are legal to bring?

To obtain a Yakkan Shoumei, follow the instructions here from Japan’s Ministry of Health’s website. It will take approximately a month to finish and receive your certificate after starting the process. Below I’ve compiled a list of each classification and whether or not a Yakkan Shoumei is needed.

If you adhere to the following criteria, you generally won’t have to go through the lengths to get a Yakkan Shoumei or special procedures.

  1. Your medication is for personal use only.
  2. Your medication is not a prohibited or a controlled drug in Japan.
  3. The quantity you are bringing is below a month’s supply or dosage.


Below is a basic summary of what can be brought into Japan without having to go through special processes.

Drug CategoryQuantity
Over-The-Counter1 month supply or less
Prescription2 months supply or less
Vitamins2 months supply or less
Cosmetics24 items or less
Medical Devices1 per person

The Japanese government classifies medication by certain groups such as general (over-the-counter), prescriptions, narcotics, psychotropics, and stimulants or medical devices. Each classification is owed an allowed quantity of which you can bring into Japan based on monthly supply or dosage.

Over-The-Counter Drugs

This includes ibuprofen, acetaminophen, vitamins, and contact lenses.

  • Less than two-months supply - A Yakkan Shoumei is not required.
  • More than a two-months supply - A Yakkan Shoumei is required.

General Prescription Drugs

This includes medicine like tramadol, and contraceptive pills.

  • Less than a two-months supply - A Yakkan Shoumei is not required.
  • More than a two-months supply - A Yakkan Shoumei is required.

Prescriptions With Narcotics

If your medication has narcotics, its completely outside the realm of a Yakkan Shoumei. If you plan to bring anything that is considered a narcotic like codeine, morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, hydrocodone, or sufentanil into Japan, you’ll need a separate import form, and a doctor’s letter.

For more information regarding this form, follow the link here.

Prescriptions With Psychotropics

Whether or not you need a Yakkan Shoumei for psychotropic medicine is determined on the amount and dosage you are bringing with you. For example, if you are bringing psychotropic Zipeprol under a 9.0 gram dosage, you don’t need a Yakkan Shoumei.

Below is a chart from the Bureau of Health's official website. Please refer to this when determining whether or not your prescription needs a certificate.

Medical Devices & Stimulants

If you need to bring more than one device with you for your trip, you will need a Yakkan Shoumei. Items that are considered devices are inhalers, epi-pens, insulin pens, syringes, contact lens, and massage tools. All official websites are very vague about what is considered a device, so it’s best to send an email to Japan’s Bureau of Health and Welfare with inquiries.

Once you have everything figured out, it’s time to prepare your medicine for travel. Be sure you have a copy of your prescription, doctor’s note, and Yakkan Shoumei or Import certificate. All medication should be stored in the original box and bottle. Nothing that would raise questions or concerns. Make sure you pack your medications in your carry-on.

If your medical needs require more than what you can pack, speak with your doctor in advance as foreign prescriptions are no good in Japan.

Drugs You Can't Bring To Japan

Ok so I laid out the steps it takes to get legal medication into Japan. But what drugs will definitely land you in jail that you can’t get approved by a certificate?

Japan has a large list of drugs that are flat out banned. Most are common sense like hard drugs, but there are a few common ones that are legal and openly available in the United States that aren’t here in Japan. Let’s start up the latter again and work our way down.

Over-The-Counter Drugs

Be aware that some OTCs openly available in your home country could be prohibited and illegal in Japan. The following are prohibited:

  • Medication that contains pseudoephedrine, found in commonly in sinus relief and stimulants like Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks.
  • Medication containing Codeine.

Prescription Drugs

Although some of these drugs are becoming more acceptable in other countries, they definitely are not in Japan.

  • Medication that contains opium or cannabis.
  • Medication that contains amphetamines, methamphetamines.
  • Prescriptions that involve adderall, vyvanse, dexedrine, prozac, and viagra.

All of these will lead to an arrest at the airport with charges ranging up to drug smuggling, regardless of a doctor’s note or a Yakkan Shoumei.

In addition to everything mentioned above, I’ve prepared a list for all the additional pharmaceutical ingredients that are prohibited without the direct consent of a doctor.

What is made illegal is up to the Japanese government under the Ministry of Health, and is subject to change. For updated information, I recommend checking their website and emailing them with questions here.

Available Medicine in Japan

Another great option you have at your disposal is Japan’s many great and well-stocked drug stores and pharmacies. If you aren’t on a budget, I recommend saving yourself a headache by keeping your medicine at home. Instead, get your medicine in Japan. Now, you won’t find anything besides OTCs in drugstores, but if you are sick or in the process of getting sick, do hit up one of these places.

Ingredients in common medicine may differ than what is typically found back at home. However, from experience I can say that Japanese medicine works just as good.

Below is a list of popular drugstore chains in Japan you can trust.

  • Don Quijote - A massive and chaotic store that sells everything, medicine, clothes, food, you name it, at a discounted price.
  • Welcia - A locally found drugstore throughout Japan, you can find natural supplements and dry foods here.
  • Tsuruha Drug - A nationwide drugstore well stocked with everything that'd fit your needs.
  • Matsumoto Kiyoshi - Japan's largest drugstore in Japan, Matsumoto is striving to achieve full friendly customer service for foreigners.
  • Sun Drug - My personal drugstore for some time. You'll be able to find everything here ranging from toiletries, to cosmetics and medicine.
  • Daikoku Drug - Popular and found almost everywhere. If you're on a budget, this is the place to go with 90 yen sales on Saturdays and additional discounts with your purchase.

If you are looking for prescription medicine in Japan, you will have to consult with the Embassy of your respective country for more information. For English speakers, there are only a few hospitals with doctors that speak English or specialize in dealing with foreigners within Tokyo, and they’re quite expensive.

Here’s the following sources I was able to find on the subject.

If you know that you are going to need a prescription during your trip here, I recommend doing research on some hospitals and doctors, and getting in contact with them prior to your trip so that you can plan everything out and avoid potential issues.

Safe Travels

If you know that you are going to need a prescription during your trip here, I recommend doing research on some hospitals and doctors, and getting in contact with them prior to your trip so that you can plan everything out and avoid potential issues.

I hope the information I provided serves you well!