Sick in Japan? Tips for Finding Medication, Stat!


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As much as we hope to stay healthy all the time, we can't always avoid the ailments that slow down our travels.  Certain things will of course require formal medical attention, but what about headaches, upset stomachs, allergies?  What should you do to fight those in Japan?
The best answer is to bring any Over-the-Counter medications that you prefer with you on your trip.  If you have a particular brand of pain reliever, make sure to bring a bottle of that with you.  Is there a specific antihistamine that helps your allergies?  Carry that along.  [Note: be sure to check that your prescription meds are allowed in Japan before you bring them--certain pain relievers with narcotics, in particular, are banned substances]
Still, you cannot pack everything and everyone inevitably forgets something.  So what do you do in those cases?
It is important to note that while Convenience Stores in Japan can provide just about every other trip-saver out there (t-shirts, wipes, power adapters, cords, etc.), and while they do offer some herbal remedies, they are prohibited by regulation from selling pharmaceutical medications of any kind.  That said, the only places to get over-the-counter medication are a drug store or department store.
Here's a crash course so you can navigate your way to some quick remedies:

1) Finding a drug store:
Look for signs with one of the following symbols or words: 薬, くすり, ドラッグ, Kusuri, or Drug (see example below)
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2) Searching for your remedy based on ailment: Drug stores will typically have aisle markers indicating the types of ailments.  Here are the ones you're most likely to need while traveling:

アレルギ ー Allergy

風邪  (Kaze) Cold &

頭痛 (Zutsu) Headache

胃腸 (Ichō) Stomach/Gastrointestinal         

3) Asking for help: You can say each of the words above and the staff will understand what kind of medicine you need, but if all else fails, there is one Japanese word to know when you go to a drug store: itai (ee-tie).  Itai means, "Hurts," so you can point to what ails you and say, "Itai."  The staff will direct you to the medication you need.

I certainly hope you don't need this advice in the course of your travels, but I've been there and know how tough it can be to battle illness while you're trying to maximize your time in a foreign country.  Hope this helps! 

   



Mike B