Whenever we are preparing for a long trip, even if it’s just a vacation in a beautiful country, it always serves to be prepared. Many travelers who come to Japan have the packing and preparation down to a science when it comes to clothing, space saving tricks, and extra room for the ever-present souvenirs.
There is something, though, that often slips through the cracks, even for the most experienced tourists: medicines. Here we’ll introduce a selection of the kinds of over-the-counter medicines you’ll want to bring to Japan, plus tips on what else to pack in your kit – “just-in-case”!
Quick word on bringing prescription drugs to Japan
Japan can be very strict when it comes to taking into the country restricted or prohibited substances of any kind. This is true not only for obvious items like recreational drugs which might be legal abroad, but also for food, and, obviously, medicines.
Many drugs that are commonplace elsewhere may not be allowed within Japan (some notable examples are Viagra, Adderall, Dexedrine, Prozac). If you do need to take with you any kind of prescription medication (such as an Epi-Pen or insulin), you’ll need to also have with you a doctor’s note, you’ll need to fill out paperwork to obtain permission to take the medicines into Japan, and you will have to have with you at all times the permits that you will obtain.
The process can be indeed quite difficult depending on circumstances, but we have a comprehensive guide on how to and what to pay attention to in this article:
What about over the counter drugs?
As you would expect, when it comes to over the counter medication, things are not quite as complex. Still, being Japan a country with rules unique to the country itself, it will serve you to skim through the article we linked above, just to make sure and learn more details about quantity you can carry, permits (if needed), and other not-so-well known regulations.
Now, on to the recommendations!
10 must-pack medicines for your trip
Anti-diarrhea meds & antacids: Keep your tummy happy
For those travelers with digestive issues, food allergies, or simply very picky stomachs, it always helps to have some precautions with you. Unexpected bowel irritation and stomach pain can be a real trip-killer.
Especially if you’re not used to the food in Japan, pack some anti-diarrhea and antacid medications.
This is not to say that you should be weary of Japanese food, or its quality. In fact Japan ranks as one of the highest countries in the world, when it comes to food control and quality.
What could catch you off guard may be some ingredients, or spices that your stomach doesn’t particularly agree with, and that you may not be aware of, not knowing the dish.
Antihistamine and decongestants
Who doesn’t suffer from allergies to a degree or another? Many people planning their trip to Japan, decide to come when trees are in bloom (especially the famous sakura). This is certainly a good choice (the weather in spring, in Japan, is warm and welcoming and the sights are stunningly beautiful).
The downside for those with allergies is that you may end up spending your vacation sneezing from pollen, and having to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world through a layer of tears.
Pack your anti-allergen medicines! Even if your allergic reaction is usually very mild, things can change when your immune system is exposed to plants and pollen that may not exist in the same quantity in your county.
Just to be sure, have with you also a little stock of decongestants and keep those allergy symptoms at bay.
Anti-motion sickness medication
Don’t underestimate how long you will be spending on some form of transportation.
To start, depending on your country of origin, you may have to spend upwards of 15 hours on a plane, just to get to Japan.
You may be someone who loves to visit many cities when you’re in a new country. Well, that’s a lot of trains, cars, busses (and even boats) to ride.
Even if you decided to stay in one city, chances are that you will be using its transportation system a lot. Good anti-motion pills or chewing gums will help you enjoy the traveling, as opposed to dreading it.
Pain and fever relievers
Sometimes, no matter how well you plan, bad luck strikes with painstakingly precise timing.
While in Japan you may need a painkiller, or cold/fever medicines.
Of course they do exist in Japan as well, but why wonder (especially while sick) among the isles of a pharmacy trying to pick the best option among medicines you don’t know? Furthermore, some of your country’s over the counter medicines might be prescription-only in Japan.
Carry some of your own just a precaution. Chances are you won’t need them, but always better safe than sorry!
Cough drops and throat lozenges
You know that annoying sore throat and debilitating cough that sometimes keeps you up at night? Easy to keep in check with the proper cough drops. Japan has a lot of options, but, again, you probably already have your favorite brand of choice.
We tend to forget this kind of stuff because it’s so common place that, should a problem arise, we think, we’ll find a solution. That may be true, but bringing the solution with you, instead of having to look for the proper one while abroad can save you a lot of time.
Antifungal creams: Remember that you’ll be walking a lot while in Japan
While Japan’s public transportation is positively outstanding, you’ll find yourself walking around. A lot. As the humidity can be somewhat higher than what you might be used to – especially in summer – all this activity can take a toll on your feet. So, make sure to pack some antifungal and antibacterial creams or ointments to prevent or fix any kind of annoying issue you may encounter.
Not only medicines
When in Japan you will visit beautiful cities, amazing temples in metropolitan areas and outside, and eat some of the most amazing food you’ve ever had.
You will also be walking a lot, hiking, explore rural areas, mountains, beaches, and you may not always have a nice hotel to go regroup. You may be the adventurous type who loves outdoorsy vacations and activities. You may just be someone who loves to walk a lot from one location to another, instead of riding the train.
Bug repellent: Mind those Japanese bugs
It’s not uncommon to feel safe when it comes to bug bites (except for that annoying occasional itch). One thing to remember though is that while travelling we may be exposed to bugs that don’t exist where we are from, and the bite of which our immune system may not be prepared to combat.
Especially in spring and summer you may get bit by something and experience extreme itch, swelling, and even pain. Should that happen, don’t worry. Chances are that it’s nothing serious, but it may be very annoying, and certainly a mood killer. Anti-itch creams, or ointments with antibiotics will help you shrug any annoying itch off.
A small blister can make walking very hard. Having with you the right product to protect your feet and fix a small blister that would otherwise become debilitating, is the best course of action.
Similarly, you never know when you could get scratched while hiking. Maybe you didn’t mind your footing as much as you should have. Maybe you walked so much that back and feet pain are killing you.
A couple of rolls of bandages and a small pack of sterilized gauze will be all you need to continue your exploration.
Some of the most rural areas of Japan, like in many other countries, may not have some readily available bathrooms, or facilities to wash oneself up.
It’s always best to have some hand sanitizer handy (pun intended) just to have some peace of mind.
These won’t be useful only to clean yourself, should you not have other options, but also in the brutal Japanese summer months.
Summer in Japan is beautiful, but also extremely hot. Wet tissues will help you stay fresh and feel clean. It’s hard to enjoy your sightseeing if you’re constantly bothered by sweat, or simply uneasy because you don’t feel exactly spotless.
Now this is certainly something that wouldn’t slip most women’s minds. While pads are also easy to find in any pharmacy and convenience store, tampons may not be as easy to find. What also may not be available is that brand you’ve been using for the largest part of your adult life and that you feel uncomfortable replacing with another. Don’t assume stores in Japan will carry the same brands and variety that you like. Come prepared!
A lot of stuff to pack! Or is it?
Trying to be prepared for any eventuality might lead to overpacking. Despite having the need to take with you a lot of stuff, though, there are some things that you can do to make sure that you’re not filling your bag.
Pills over liquids
Whenever possible, if you have to choose between packing medicines in liquid form or pills, opt for pills. You’ll save space and they are also easier to take through airport customs and security checks.
Less is more
There’s no need to bring your whole medicine cabinet on your trip. After all you’ll be in Japan only for a limited time. For most of your medicines you’ll need only one or two pills per day. On top of that, the majority of the drugs or first-aid items you may want to take with you, will require you to only have a small amount, in case of emergency or unexpected situations.
Use empty vitamin bottles to store individually wrapped items. Not only will you save space, but you’ll also avoid them getting crushed during your trip.
Even if you choose to bring all the medicines that you may need during your trip, if you follow these suggestions, they won’t take more than a handbag worth of space in your baggage. You’ll soon forget you have them (unless you need them, and then you’ll be happy you were prepared).
Enjoy your trip to Japan and rest safely knowing that there’s nothing this trip can throw at you that you haven’t anticipated!
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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