Before You Go
Importing or Bringing Medication Into Japan for Personal Use
RX Medication: Japan strictly regulates medication that can be legally brought into the country. Generally, only up to one month’s supply of allowable prescription medicine can be brought into Japan. Travelers must bring a copy of their doctor’s prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug. Travelers who must carry more than one month’s supply (except prohibited drugs and controlled drugs), or are carrying syringes (pumps), are required to obtain a “Yakkan Shoumei”, or an import certificate in advance, and show the “Yakkan Shoumei” certificate with your prescription medicines at Customs.
More information on this process and necessary application forms can be found at the websites below. If you need to obtain a Yakkan Shoumei certification you should begin this process as soon as possible to ensure you receive your certificate prior to departure. Contact your nearest Japanese consulate in the U.S. for questions about this process.
OTC Medication/Vitamins: Up to a two-month supply of allowable over-the-counter medication and up to a four-month supply of allowable vitamins can be brought into Japan duty-free. Some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications, are illegal to bring into Japan.
The following medications are illegal to bring into or posess in Japan for any reason:
- Pseudoephedrine – Tylenol Cold, Nyquil, Nyquil Liquicaps, Actifed, Sudafed, Advil Cold & Sinus, Dristan Cold/No Drowsiness, Dristan Sinus, Drixoral Sinus, Vicks Inhaler, Lomotil
- Stimulants – Methamphetamine or Amphetamine (Including ADHD medications such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Vyvanse)
The following require a Yakkan Shoumei issued by the Japanese Ministry of Health to bring into Japan in any amount:
- Narcotics – Codeine, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl
- Injectable medications including insulin
Carefully review the information on the websites below and the ingredient list of any over the counter medication you are bringing with you to Japan to make sure it does not contain any prohibited stimulants.
- U.S. Embassy in Japan – Bringing Medication Into Japan
- JP Ministry of Health: Information for those who are bringing medicines for personal use into Japan
- JP Ministry of Health: Bringing Medication into Japan FAQs and Yakkan Shoumei Application Form
Medic Alert & Allergy/Medical Cards in Japanese
If you have specific allergies that are debilitating or life threatening, or if you have a medical condition that is not immediately apparent or easily identifiable (such as diabetes, severe food allergy, allergies to drugs, or epilepsy), you should wear a medic alert bracelet and notify the Nakatani RIES Fellowship of your condition prior to departure.
You can also obtain Japanese-language translation cards on a number of allergies and medical conditions that you can carry with you in your wallet from a company like Select Wisely or you may be able to find these for free online or through applicable organizations that provide support for your condition/allergy. These cards can be customized for a variety of medical conditions, allergies, or dietary restrictions/preferences. Even if you have intermediate or advanced Japanese language skills, it can be very difficult to explain your specific condition/needs in a medical emergency or in a loud restaurant. Being able to simply show the Select Wisely card ensures that the person you are communicating with clearly understands your condition, needs, or preferences.
You should also notify any roommate, housing manager, and research lab advisor and mentor of severe allergies or medical conditions so that they know what to do in case of an emergency.
Students with Disability-based Needs
The Nakatani RIES Fellowship and Rice University are committed to equality of opportunity for persons with disabilities and to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The university strives to make international programs accessible to individuals with disabilities.
We encourage all participants to talk with the Nakatani RIES program prior to departure about your needs and expectations so that we can advise you on what accommodations you can or cannot expect in Japan and at your research internship site.
Mobility International USA, an organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities around the world to achieve their human rights through international exchange and international development, maintains a wide range of useful resources for students considering studying abroad. They maintain a range of resource information for Americans Going Abroad and you can search their website for country-specific information on Japan.
Here is an overview of their current guidance on Japan:
- “MIUSA considers Japan to be a somewhat accessible country for people with disabilities. The Disabled Persons’ Fundamental Law provides protections to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities socially, culturally, economically and in other aspects of life. Many public places in the larger cities, including major museums, airport, subways and elevators feature Japanese Braille signage and tactile paths on most sidewalks. There are typically elevators or escalators at subway or train stations though these are often only located at one specific entrance or exit of the station. There are station maps that show where the elevators or escalators are located and staffed Information Desks where you can ask for assistance if needed.” For more from MIUSA on Japan click here.
Pre-Departure Medical Check & Immunizations
All Nakatani RIES Fellows are strongly encouraged to schedule a Pre-Departure Medical Check with their medical doctor and should also visit their dentist, eye doctor, and/or any mental health-care professional or any counselors you routinely see at least one month prior to departure. Be sure to obtain updated written prescriptions for all medications, glasses, or contacts. Review the CDC Travel Website for Japan with your doctor or healthcare professional and be sure to discuss how participation in this program might impact your personal health situation.
The international health insurance plan provided for you by the Nakatani RIES Fellowship does not cover any non-emergency/routine dental or eye care. Take care of all routine dental work prior to departure (e.g. cleanings, filling cavities, wisdom teeth, etc.) and plan to bring an extra pair of glasses with you abroad in case yours are lost or broken.
While no immunizations are required for entry into Japan, you should ensure that all basic immunizations are up to date. If you are under 22 you will need to show Proof of Meningococcal Vaccination Record or Waiver, as part of your enrollment in the Rice University Summer School. Some immunizations must be given 4 – 8 weeks prior to departure for them to be effective so schedule these appointments as soon as possible. You university student health center should be able to tell you if there are any discount travel immunization clinics available in your local area.
International Health Insurance
All Nakatani RIES Fellows are provided with overseas health, accident, illness, repatriation, and evacuation of remains coverage through a CISI insurance policy for the duration of their stay abroad. Participants will receive a CISI insurance card to carry with them in their wallet while in Japan and a detailed booklet outlining the coverage amounts provided. You can call the number on the back of this card at least 24 hours prior to your appointment to see if CISI can arrange for pre-payment of your medical care. However, if you are experiencing a medical emergency or CISI cannot arrange for pre-payment you will need to pay all medical costs up-front individually and then you will need to file a claim for reimbursement directly with CISI.
Note: The CISI insurance does not provide coverage for routine, non-emergency dental care or eye care.
International SOS Coverage
All Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellows will be covered by Rice University’s existing Global Assistance Program through International SOS.
Medical Services Overseas
The style of medical care abroad is largely dependent on the country. While medical care in Japan is quite good, English-speaking physicians and medical facilities that cater to Americans’ expectations are expensive and not widespread. The US Embassy in Japan maintains a list of Medical Resources in Japan that includes English-speaking clinics and doctors.
Selected participants will be asked to complete a Health Information & Emergency Contact Form. In this form, please make the Nakatani RIES Fellowship aware of any medical issues, disabilities, or special needs that you may have so that we can provide you with advice and recommendations on resources and the facilities/accommodations that you can anticipate in Japan. If you suffer from a chronic or serious physical or behavioral health condition (including eating disorders), you should consult with a health care professional before making the decision to participate in this program. We cannot guarantee access to the same kind of medical care, medications, facilities, accommodations and services that you receive in the U.S.
English-speaking Doctors & CISI Insurance
Nakatani RIES Fellows are provided with overseas health, accident, illness, repatriation, and evacuation of remains coverage through a CISI insurance policy for the duration of their stay abroad. Participants will receive a CISI insurance card to carry with them in their wallet while in Japan and a detailed booklet outlining the coverage amounts provided. You can call the number on the back of this card at least 24 hours prior to your appointment to see if CISI can arrange for pre-payment of your medical care. However, if you are experiencing a medical emergency or CISI cannot arrange for pre-payment you will need to pay all medical costs up-front individually and then you will need to file a claim for reimbursement directly with CISI.
If you need to seek medical care during the Orientation program, please notify the Nakatani RIES Fellowship as soon as possible so that we can provide you with any necessary support or assistance. During the Orientation Program in Tokyo, Nakatani RIES Fellows will be taken to a nearby International Clinic for non-emergency medical needs.
Immediately upon arrival at your research internship site, all Nakatani RIES Fellows students should speak with their research advisor or lab secretary about available medical facilities for foreigners and what to do if you should become ill or need medical care at your host lab. The US Embassy in Japan maintains a list of English-speaking doctors and clinics in cities throughout Japan. This is a useful site to review with your lab to determine which doctors or clinics are closest to the university and your housing. The university may also have on-campus medical facilities available that you can utilize as well. If your lab knows that you are going to see a doctor they will likely offer to send someone with you to help translate as necessary.
Be sure that your research lab advisor and lab secretary know which clinic you prefer to use in case of medical emergency. Please also notify the Nakatani RIES Fellowship as soon as possible if you have sought medical care so that we can provide you with additional support and assistance as needed.
Glasses and Contacts
If you wear glasses or contacts, be sure visit your eye doctor before you go and bring a written copy of your glasses and contact prescription with you to Japan. If you wear contacts, bring a sufficient supply for the summer. It is also helpful to bring an extra pair of glasses as a lost or broken pair can be difficult (and often expensive) to replace abroad. Contact solution is readily available in Japan, so just bring a one-week supply with you and plan to purchase more there. If you prefer a certain brand you may want to bring enough for all summer.
First Aid Kit & Common Medication
When traveling abroad it is always a good idea to bring a small, medical first aid kit and common medications with you. Having these supplies on hand will make it easy to treat minor illnesses and injuries. Keep in mind that most medications and medical supplies in Japan will only be in available in their Japanese versions and there will likely be no English translation on the boxes. If you have allergies or drug contraindications, it is especially important that you bring your own over-the-counter medication so you can verify the ingredients in English before taking the medication. For major medical issues or illness consult your nearest English-speaking Clinic.
Some common over-the-counter medications available in the U.S. are prohibited and illegal to bring into Japan, including those containing Pseudo-ephedrine. Be sure to check the ingredient list of any medication you plan to bring with you. Leave all over-the-counter medication in the original box/bottle in case you are questioned about it by customs.
Some items you may want to bring with you include:
- Small Flashlight or LED Key chain Light
- Small Scissors & Tweezers
- Insect Repellent (30% DEET) – Wipes are best as they can be easily carried in your bag and won’t leak.
- Anti-Itch Cream or Gel – Mosquitoes are prevalent
- Tylenol, Advil or Aspirin
- Regular Band-Aids and Blister Band-Aids
- Alcohol Wipes and Neosporin
- Pepto Bismol and/or Antacid
- Anti-diarrhea Medication/Laxative Medication
- Cough & Cold Remedies – Make sure these do not contain pseudo-ephedrine!
- Allergy Medication – Make sure these do not contain pseudo-ephedrine!
- Sunscreen & Aloe Vera Gel
Mental Health Issues Abroad
Traveling or studying overseas is not a cure for health conditions such as depression, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder, etc. Sometimes going abroad may in fact amplify a condition. A student may not have adequate access to their prescription medication or mental health professionals and facilities. In addition, culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness can deepen isolation or depression. Young adulthood may also be the most likely time for certain conditions to present (first occur) and the stress of going abroad can cause a re-occurrence of conditions you may have dealt with in the past.
Workable Plan: Before traveling, create a workable plan for managing your mental health while abroad. The availability and quality of mental health services differ widely from country to country. Mental health care coverage is included in the CISI International Health Insurance policy that all Nakatani RIES Fellows will be issued, but the availability of English-speaking mental health care counselors or professionals will vary based on your host city. Additionally, some medication that is legal and commonly prescribed in the U.S. may be unavailable to illegal to prescribe or bring into Japan. This is why it is very important that all Nakatani RIES Fellows self-declare any possible mental health issues or concerns to the program prior to departure. This will enable program staff to work with you, our insurance company, and your health services provider to put together a workable mental health plan before you go overseas.
- If you have a medical or psychological condition that may require treatment while you are abroad, discuss this ahead of time with your doctor.
- A vacation or study abroad is a great opportunity to try new things but this is not the time to experiment with not taking your medicine or mixing alcohol with medicine.
- Research the social culture of your destination to learn about how mental illnesses are viewed. Attitudes toward mental health can greatly vary between countries.
- If you are studying abroad through your university, talk to your university about access to mental health services on overseas programs. Your study abroad office can help you decide what program would be best for you.
- If currently receiving mental health services – including prescription medication – find out if those services and/or medication are available at your destination. Be sure you carefully review the Importing or Bringing Medication Into Japan for Personal Use site with your health care provider to ensure that you can legally bring your medication into Japan and submit a request for a Yakkan Shoumei (import certificate) well in advance of departure if you need to bring in more than a one-month supply of prescription medication.
- Consider the support system you’ll have in place while abroad. If possible, know ahead of time who you can consult with about your mental health. Please notify Nakatani RIES of any mental health issues so that we can provide any necessary assistance and support to you both prior to departure and during your stay in Japan.
- Your CISI international health insurance policy provides coverage for behavioral health care abroad in Japan and the US Embassy in Japan maintains a listing of English-speaking Behavioral Health Care Professionals in Tokyo and other cities throughout Japan.
- Share information on your condition with the Nakatani RIES Fellowship so that we can advise you regarding the likelihood of any necessary health care services or support in Japan and work with you, the CISI insurance company, and your health care providers to develop a workable plan for the summer.
- Be prepared for some homesickness or ‘down’ days while you are abroad but contact the Nakatani RIES Fellowship if these last more than 5 – 7 days in a row or if the symptoms are very severe.
- While you are abroad, if you experience any new or re-occurring symptom that may be a concern, share this information with the Nakatani RIES Fellowship as soon as possible so that we may assist you to the best of our ability.
Living and working abroad in a new country and culture can be very challenging and the Nakatani RIES Fellowship wants to provide you with the best support possible to ensure you have a positive and rewarding summer experience.
Eating Disorders & Food Issues Abroad
It is very easy when you are abroad to become susceptible to eating disorders or see an exacerbation or re-occurrence of any prior existing conditions. You are in a different place and the food is different. Your stomach may not agree with the types of food there, or you may feel like you’re eating too much. You may also be not eating enough if you are trying to save money on food so you can have more money to spend traveling on the weekend. Maybe you’ve never had to cook for yourself and aren’t sure what to purchase at the store to maintain a healthy diet. You may also experience depression or loneliness manifesting itself in the form of an eating disorder or food issues. If you think you may have a problem, notify the Nakatani RIES Fellowship so that we can provide you with additional support and assistance as necessary.
Please also turn to your fellow Nakatani RIES Fellows for support and encouragement during your time in Japan as they will likely be eager to explore new restaurants and types of food with you. They will also be able to better relate to your frustrations about the types of food that don’t agree with you or that you may be having difficulty with while in Japan. Remember, you don’t have to like everything you try and there may be some days when nothing satisfies you but good, old-fashioned American cuisine. Most Japanese cities have a range of international restaurants and you can find a wide array of Western food-stuffs in most large grocery stores; though Western options may be more expensive than their Japanese counterparts.
Your Alumni Mentor and research lab members will also have lots of great tips and suggestions for you on great places to eat and food to try. Don’t be shy about asking someone from your lab to go with you to the grocery store too and help you find the ingredients you need to prepare some of your favorite dishes on your own. Most labs also have times where members get together for pot-lucks or make lunch/dinner together so be prepared to bring some favorite recipes along with you to Japan to share with your new friends. Just remember, Japan uses the metric system so if you plan to bake or make very detailed or specific US recipes you may need to bring your own US measuring cups and spoons with you.
Preventing AIDS & Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Take adequate precautions to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Use latex condoms during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Do not use intravenous drugs or share needles. Be aware that tattoos, acupuncture treatments, and injections for medical or dental procedures may put you at risk. Avoid the use of locally produced immune globulin and blood-clotting factors in countries where the blood supply is not routinely tested for communicable diseases. If a blood transfusion is necessary, contact the nearest American Embassy or consulate for advice. If you are concerned that you may have a sexually transmitted disease, see a doctor immediately.
Information on contraception and contraceptives may be more difficult to obtain outside the U.S. or not available in your host country. You should inquire before you leave. If there is any chance you may be sexually active while in Japan we recommend you bring your own supply of condoms and contraceptives. Condoms are the most common form of contraception in Japan, though the contraceptive pill can also now be prescribed, though this does require a doctor’s visit/exam. If you plan to take the contraceptive pill it is best to bring an adequate supply for the summer with you to Japan.
Remember, if you are bringing in more than a one-month supply of prescription medication you will need to obtain a “Yakkan Shoumei” certificate. Please carefully review the US Embassy in Tokyo’s website for more information.