• Health

Importing Medication To Japan

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One of the most common questions we get from our ALTs is about bringing prescription medication to Japan. It’s a bit of a maze to navigate, but don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Whether you’re planning a short trip or a longer stay, here’s everything you need to know to ensure you get the medications you need.


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.


Yunyu-Kakunin-Sho (YKS)


The Ynuyu-Kakunin-Sho 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 YKS and the application form is in this PDF file.


How to apply for a YKS


Application is not difficult. Application is online and free.


Government page explaining YKS:




Online application system page:




Here’s a video explaining how to make an online application:


Important points for the YKS


Timing. Apply for the Yakkan Shoumei when you know your travel date and port of entry. It should take 7-10 days.


Amounts. There 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.)


Declare. At 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. The list of prohibited substances is here.


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 information page is here. This is a separate permission from the YKS.


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 YKS if needed and bring their medications. Make sure that you follow these simple steps and remain in compliance with regulations when coming to Japan.


Interested in living and working in Japan? Check out ALT jobs with Interac.

About the Author

Brian McDonough is a consultant at Interac, Japan’s largest provider of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Originally from the US, Brian has lived in Japan for over 25 years, giving him a unique perspective on the cultural differences and challenges people face when moving to Japan. He has first-hand experience of working in Japan as an American.