Now that the season for colds is upon us, it's good to be aware of some of the over-the-counter cold medicines that are not allowed in Japan. Medicines that contain stimulants such as Pseudoephedrine (including Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks Inhalers, and Tylenol Cold) and Codeine (including Tylenol -with-codeine series 1, 2, 3, 4, Asprin with codeine like co-codaprin, or ibuprofen with codeine such as Nurofen Plus).
Earlier this year an American teacher in Japan was sent a refill of her ADD medication, Adderall, by her mother, a physician in Oregon. This landed the surprised teacher in jail for 10 days as Adderall is one of the numerous drugs that are in common use in many countries, but restricted or forbidden in Japan.
For this reason, we are reproducing here some contents of the American Embassy in Japan's website:
Importing or Bringing Medication into Japan for Personal Use
Decisions on what medications or medical devices may be imported legally into Japan are made by the Japanese Government, and unfortunately the limited information we have available at the American Embassy and our Consulates does not include comprehensive lists of specific medications or ingredients. This information is available only from the Japanese authorities, and subject to change.
BEFORE MAILING OR BRINGING ANY MEDICATION TO JAPAN, READ THE FOLLOWING SECTION CAREFULLY. IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW JAPANESE LAW YOU MAY BE ARRESTED AND DETAINED.
Please read the below website provided by the Japanese government:
Information for those who are bringing medicines for personal use into Japan (medications, syringes, pumps, CPAP machines) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Import/Export Narcotics by Carrying by the Narcotic Control Department of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Bringing medications and cosmetics to Japan by Consulate General of Japan in Seattle
It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain Pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers), or Codeine are prohibited. Up to a two-months' supply of allowable over-the-counter medication and up to a two-months' supply of allowable vitamins can be brought into Japan duty-free.
Heroin, cocaine, MDMA, opium, cannabis, stimulant drugs including some prescription medications such as Adderall, and including some medications available over-the-counter in the U.S. are prohibited in Japan. There are no exceptions in bringing these prohibited medications into Japan, even if the medication is legally obtained outside of Japan. The import of stimulant drugs such as methamphetamines and amphetamines in particular are strictly prohibited, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. Japanese customs officials or police can detain travelers importing prohibited items. Japanese customs officials do not make on-the-spot "humanitarian" exceptions for medicines that are prohibited in Japan.
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) or a CPAP machine, are required to obtain a so-called "Yakkan Shoumei", or an import certificate in advance, and show the "Yakkan Shoumei" certificate with your prescription medicines at the Customs.
For more information about bringing medicines into Japan and how to obtain a "Yakkan Shoumei" Certificate, please visit the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare where you can also find an application form. When you make an inquiry to the Kanto-Shinetsu Regional Bureau, please do not forget to provide your fax number or your E-mail address.
Another helpful website to search for the status of a specific drug: