Bringing or Importing Medicines into Japan

Like me, you may have brought the medicines you thought you would need with you from home when you first came to Japan, but eventually those will run out and you will need to get more or find a substitute. Finding a substitute is the best way to handle this, as importing medicines into Japan should not be taken lightly, as the penalties for getting it wrong are severe.

Some items are perfectly acceptable, thin aspirin within the limits specified by the Japanese government, but other items are not, regardless of their legal status in your home country. For example, items containing codeine are OK in Canada and Australia, but if you try to bring or ship any into Japan you will rapidly find yourself in trouble.

Similarly, cold medicines containing pseudo-ephedrine or ephedrine, which are used in the manufacture of meth-amphetamines, may land you in jail. These are rules for bringing or importing prescription and over the counter medicines into Japan. It is best to substitute a Japanese brand or get a new prescription, but if you must import your preferred or required medicine, find out the law before you try.

This is especially true when trying to mail medicines, as getting stopped with an obviously personal amount of medicines at the ariport might be overlooked (or you may be arrested), but if you try to mail the same amount to yourself here in Japan, you are going to jail.

The police will allow the package to be delivered to you, and then take you into custody after you sign for it. At best, you may get off with a stern warning after serving a few weeks in a holding cell, like the teacher below, or you be deported and now allowed to return for a number of years. At worst, you will be arrested, tried, convinced and be imprisoned for a number of years.

DO NOT mail yourself medicines unless you are SURE you are within the laws of Japan to do so.
If you need more convincing:

American Teacher Arrested Adderall Medication in Japan (February 2015)
Toyota Executive Is Arrested in Japan (June 2015)

Click here to read a full story for prescription medicines you can generally bring them in to Japan with you without any special procudures.

This article is provided by Japan Info Swap.

*Japan Info Swap has been set up by the H&R Group as part of its relocation service, to assist expats in Japan by providing useful and easily accessible information to enhance daily living.  Visit theirblog or sign up for their newsletter.