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Japan’s drug policy is a little different than other countries, so it’s important for Australians to review before visiting. Here’s what you need to know:
The ‘zero tolerance’ drugs policy in Japan means that you could get in trouble for cough and cold medications! That’s because this country has a different definition of an illegal substance – so what might be medicine to help you get over a sniffle is an illegal substance to them. Our common cold medications often contain pseudoephedrine or codeine, both of which are banned in Japan.
Having these on your person as you enter the country gives authorities the jurisdiction to detain you and treat you as a drug dealer. Of course, you aren’t a drug dealer, so it’s important to learn what medications you should leave back in Australia as well as learn what you should do if you absolutely need to bring prescription medications with you.
Begin by looking for those main ingredients (pseudoephedrine or codeine) in the medications you’re thinking about packing – if your meds contain these, leave them at home (if you can). Typically, these ingredients are only in meds that are prescribed by a doctor or would need a special identity check with a pharmacist.
According to the embassy, if you bring any of the following medicines into Japan you will be arrested:
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Australian Embassy in Tokyo at [email protected] or call 81 3 5232 4111 (enquiry hours are between 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., Monday to Friday excluding Embassy holidays).
Japan has five categories of medications, reports the embassy – general, narcotic, psychotropic, stimulant medicine or medical device – and depending on the name, classification and quantity you will need to apply for permission/certification to bring into the country.
On top of the permission/certification, be sure to grab a doctor’s note explaining this. The note needs to be detailed and explain both your condition and what medicine you’ve been prescribed. Make sure you have this when you are going through immigration.
Now, a visitor’s permit will last you 90 days in Japan, but you are technically only allowed to bring a 30-day supply of your prescription medications with you. So if you are staying longer than those 30 days, you will need to find a doctor in Japan to prescribe you a replacement medication.
Use this guide to find a clinic to help you locate the one nearest you. To note, these consultations usually cost around $30.
Note: Information is current of March 13, 2018.