10 Helpful Medicines from Drugstores in Japan

10 Helpful Medicines from Drugstores in Japan

What would you do when you fly all the way to Japan and suddenly feel unwell, feverish, or have a sore throat the next morning at your hotel? 

Japanese drugstores are well-stocked with OTC (over-the-counter) medicine, which you can purchase without a prescription. You don’t have to worry about finding drugstores near your hotel or wherever you are as there are many of them across Japan. However, it’s not really common for a pharmacist to give you drug recommendations in English. 

Buying medicines in a foreign country without any help can be intimidating. So you need to learn a little bit about Japanese OTC medicines in case you get sick during your stay in Japan. 

Japanese OTC medicine might not be as effective as your regular medicine that your doctor would prescribe in your country, but you might be able to find OTC medications similar to yours in terms of efficacy which could reduce your uncomfortable symptoms.

I’ll introduce you to ten popular and helpful OTC drugs that you can find at most drugstores throughout Japan with pictures, active ingredients and bonus tips!

*Please note, if you take any medicines regularly or are pregnant, nursing, a child, or have any concerns about any medication, please make sure to consult your home doctor before taking any OTC medicines in Japan.

1. KAMPO Kakkonto

The first drug you might want to take for your mild cold symptoms is Kakkonto. Kakkonto is a traditional Japanese cold medicine (KAMPO) for the common cold and is effective for the first signs of a cold, such as chills, fevers, or mild headaches.

In Japan, it’s often said that “if you feel a cold, take Kakkonto before you get sicker.” Kakkonto is based on traditional Chinese herbal medicine and is made from seven active ingredients. Sometimes pregnant and breast-feeding women take it to treat their colds or increase breast milk output. I would say it is handy and less aggressive in terms of the risk of side effects than prescription medications.

My recommendation is that you should buy “Kakkonto Extract Granules A Kracie“ because this has a maximum amount of ingredients. You’ll see many kinds of Kakkonto at the store, so if you can’t find this one, try to look for the one with a maximum amount of ingredients, referring to the table below. Also, they have the characters “満量処方” on their box!

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 3 packets)
kakkon [kudzu]8.0g
mao [ephedra]4.0g
taiso [jujube]4.0g
keihi [cinnamon]3.0g
shakuyaku [peony]3.0g
kanzo [sweetroot]2.0g
shokyo [ginger]1.0g

For your reference, kids over 4 years old can take this one.

If you need Kakkonto for your kids under 4 years old, Krasie Kakkonto Kids” can be used for kids over 1 year old.

Bonus Tips!
KAMPO usually has a bitter taste, so you probably want to take a sip of water before taking Kakkonto and just swallow without tasting it!

2. Common Cold Medicine

If you don’t feel better with Kakkonto or your symptoms are moderate and specific from the beginning, then you should choose medicine depending on your particular symptoms. 

We have great multi-ingredient cold medicines, covering multiple cold symptoms such as sore throats, fevers, coughs, runny noses, stuffy noses, body aches, sneezing, chills, or headaches.

I would recommend “Estakkuibu Fine EX” as it covers all cold symptoms and helps you get through your day in Japan.

This medicine has a unique combination of ingredients so that it’ll work very quickly for your fever and sore throat. It’s also great effective against nasal symptoms and persistent coughs. Since it covers various symptoms with one medicine, it’s a great medication to keep handy.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 6 tablets) 
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Ibuprofen (pain reliever/fever reducer)450mg
Isopropamide6mg
Chlor-Trimeton (antihistamine)7.5mg
Ambroxol HCl(cough suppressant)45mg
Dihydrocodeine phosphate (cough suppressant)24mg
dl-methylephedrine HCl (cough suppressant)60mg
Anhydrous caffeine75mg
Magnesium oxide300mg

If you suffer from a particularly hard sore throat and cough, then you might want to try “Benza Block L Premium.”

This medicine aims to ease those symptoms, so highly concentrated Ibuprofen (pain reliever/fever reducer) and tranexamic acid (anti-inflammatory) will reduce your pain, and other active ingredients will also work for other symptoms.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 6 tablets)
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Ibuprofen (pain reliever/fever reducer)600mg
Tranexamic acid (anti-inflammatory)750mg
Pseudoephedrine HCl (decongestant)135mg
d-chlorpheniramine (antihistamine)3.5mg
Dihydrocodeine phosphate (cough suppressant)24mg
L-Carbocisteine (expectorant)750mg
Anhydrous caffeine (stimulant)75mg

Bonus Tips!
If your throat hurts badly and it’s hard to swallow food or water, try a spray for throat disinfection, such as “NODOGLE Spray. “

Its ingredient is Iodine, so spraying directly to the affected area could help disinfect your throat and contribute to easing your pain.

Honestly, it has a strong Iodine flavor, but if you put it on right before you go to bed, then you’ll feel much better in your throat the next morning!

3. Pain relievers

Pain relievers help reduce multiple pains caused by colds and fevers, so you should take them with you. You can also find  the same or similar pain relievers in Japan as you have in your country.

“Loxisonin S” is one of the standards and widely used painkillers in Japan. This medicine is an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) and is used to relieve pain from headaches, toothaches, menstrual cramps, and fevers.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 1 tablet) 
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Loxoprofen sodium hydrate68.1 mg (60 mg as anhydrate)

Bonus Tips!
You should try to avoid taking this on an empty stomach if possible in order to prevent stomach pain.

Here is the most common painkiller in the world, “Tylenol A,” which you also can buy in Japan.

This medicine uses Acetaminophen and is used to treat mild to moderate pain and reduce fever. Although the amount of Acetaminophen in our Tylenol is probably much less than those in your countries, you’re probably familiar with this medicine, so that it could be a safer choice for you.

Besides, as you know, you can take it without meals! I think this is one of your must-haves!

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 1 caplet) 
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Acetaminophen300mg

4. Stomach Medicine

I assume that one of the most typical health problems is a stomachache or a heavy stomach feeling.

“Gaster 10” is a type of H2 blocker and aims to control the overproduction of gastric acid.

Please note, this medicine is very effective for your stomach discomfort. However, since it contains an H2 blocker, it is required to consult with a pharmacist before purchasing it. It means you need to visit a drugstore when a pharmacist is available.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 1 tablet)
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Famotidine10mg

As a digestive medicine, “Selbelle” uses Teprenone (in the same quantities as prescription medication)  and helps stomach discomfort by protecting the gastric mucosa from stomach acid. 

It’s for those who have stomach heaviness, heartburn, overeating, excessive drinking, abdominal fullness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and dyspepsia.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 3 tablets) 
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Teprenone112.5mg
Atractylodes lancea rhizome dried extract (equivalent to 1.5g atractylodes lancea rhizome)150mg
Magnolia bark dried extract
(equivalent to 1.0g magnolia bark)
83.4mg

5. Allergy

Controlling your seasonal allergies or nasal allergic symptoms during a trip is crucial.

“Allegra FX” belongs to a class of antihistamines, and this is your must-have!

The strongest feature of “Allegra FX” is that it’s less likely to lead to sleepiness because an active ingredient of this medicine is Fexofenadine hydrochloride, a second-generation antihistamine which binds to histamine H1 receptors. Therefore, you can enjoy your stay in Japan without struggling with sleepiness!

Please note, you need to consult with a pharmacist in order to buy this medicine, so keep in mind that you’ll need to visit a drugstore in the daytime.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS (per 2 tablet)
*Children under 15 years old should not take this medicine.
Fexofenadine hydrochloride120mg

Bonus Tips!
The nasal spray also can help you feel better with your allergy symptoms. “Contac Nasal Spray” is known as a prescribed medicine for nasal symptoms, so you can try it with allergy medicine if your symptoms are overwhelming.

Of course, it would be great if you don’t encounter any health problems during your stay in Japan for sure! Just keep in mind that you can get these OCT drugs in Japan, and use this information when needed. Stay safe and enjoy your trip!!!

Yumi Yamashita

By Yumi Yamashita

Working in the pharmaceutical industry and living in Yokohama with her husband and two kids. Studied medical field, got medical licenses in Japan and California. Pursuing her lifelong passion for learning languages and living abroad. Enjoying yoga, fashion, outdoor activities, Montessori education, psychology, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and American TV drama series.

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