A Guide to Japanese OTC Medicine for Travelers
Got sick on your trip in Japan? Here is a guide for those who aren't fluent in Japanese but need something to get that sickness away. If you're not feeling better or getting worse, please consult a medical professional.
Apr 14 2015 (Sep 09 2020)
Ever been scared that you'll get sick while on vacation? Think about it - you traveled all the way to Japan from wherever you live, and you're snapping photos at Tokyo Tower or Kinkaku-ji or on a beach in Okinawa, but that itch in your throat from when you woke up this morning isn't going anywhere. You can't seem to enjoy your tempura. Oh dang, are you getting sick?
Fear not! Here is a simple guide for Japanese medicine you can buy from any pharmacy store, no matter where you are in Japan! The medicines are grouped by their respective symptoms. If you're not feeling any better taking these, or if your symptoms are getting worse, please go to a hospital.
Also, note that you can't buy OTC (over-the-counter) medicines at conbini, or convenience stores. You'll have to buy most of the medicines listed below at drugstores. Don't worry - they're everywhere, just like convenience stores! Just look for the sign that has the character 薬 on it (kusuri). Drugstores usually have this character written on a GIANT sign, so you won't miss it. There are, however, some items you can buy from regular convenience stores. Those will be indicated below. For everything else, you'll have to go to a drugstore.
Let's start with painkillers.
1. Bufferin (バファリン)
Bufferin can be used for head aches, cramps, hip or shoulder pains, sudden fevers, and colds. As it says in its advertisements, Bufferin won't mess up your stomach. There are 4 types of Bufferin: Bufferin A, the standard type, Buffering Premium, for extreme pain, Bufferin Luna, for cramps and other pains and Bufferin Kaze EX, for pain related to colds.
2. Eve (イブ)
Eve can be used for headaches and cramps. The size of the pill is relatively small, and won't leave a nasty aftertaste. There are 3 types of Eve: Eve A, the standard type, Eve A EX, for more intense pain, and EVE Quick, especially designed for headaches.
3. Loxonin S (ロキソニンS)
Loxonin S can be used for headaches, cramps, toothache, throat pain, hip pain, joint pain, neuralgia, muscle pain, shoulder pain, ear pain, bruises, pain from broken bones, and sprains. This medicine is stronger than the two painkillers mentioned above. It can affect your stomach though, so if you have a weak stomach, it's better that you look for other options. Also, it's relatively expensive compared to other painkillers.
Next is medicine for stomach related troubles.
4. Ohta Isan (太田胃散)
Oota Isan can be used for hangovers, nausea, vomiting, stomach acid, and stomach related discomfort. It's an herbal medicine, and comes in powder form. It smells like herbs and may need some practice to swallow, but it works wonders. This is my go-to medicine when my stomach is acting up. It comes in a can, or separate small packages.
5. Seirogan (正露丸)
Seirogan can be used for loose stools, diarrhea, food poisoning, water poisoning, vomiting, and toothache. The pills are small black, strong smelling balls, so please think of those around you when you take it. It has a strong after taste, so it's not for everybody.
Up next is medicine for bug bites.
6. Kinkan (キンカン)uka0310/Flickr
Kinkan can be used for insect bites, itches, shoulder pain, hip pain, bruises and sprains. It's a bottle filled with liquid which you apply it directly to the affected area. Great for mosquito bites.
7. Muhi (ムヒ)
Muhi can be used for itches, insect bites, rashes, eczema, nettle rash hives, heat rashes, frost bite, dermatitis, and inflammation. It comes in tubes, as shown in the image above, or bottles. Either way, you apply the paste or bottle directly to the affected area. Again, great for mosquito bites.
Coming up next, medicine for colds.
8. Pabulon (パブロン)
Pabulon can be used for common cold symptoms such as an itchy throat, a cough or a runny nose. It comes in a yellow pill or a small packaging containing powdered medicine.
9. Lulu Attack EX (ルルアタックEX）
Lulu Attack EX can be used for common cold symptoms such as throat pain, fevers, chills, headaches, a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, phlegm, joint pain and muscle pain. Comes in white, easy to swallow pills.
10. Kakkonto (葛根湯)
Kakkonto can be used for the early stages of a cold, head colds, nasal inflammation, headaches, shoulder pain, muscle pain and pain in the hand or the shoulders. Kakkonto is a herbal medicine, so it does have a distinctive smell. It comes in small packages of powdered medicine, liquid bottles, or pills.
The next three items are easily bought at convenience stores and aren't really considered as medicine, but are drinkable treatments to help with liver function - i.e., hangovers and when you know you're going to drink a lot.
11. Ukon No Chikara (ウコンの力)
Ukon No Chikara can be used for preventing hangovers. It comes in bottles, as shown in the image above, or in small packages containing powder. Take before alcohol consumption.
Ukon no Chikara can be bought at convenience stores in the health/energy drink section.
12. No Mikata (ノ・ミカタ)
No Mikata can be used to prevent hangovers. It comes in small stick type packaging containing granules, or bottles containing liquid. Take before, during or after drinking alcohol.
No Mikata can also be bought at convenience stores.
13. Heparize (ヘパリーゼ)
Heparize can be used to treat or prevent hangovers. It comes in bottles or in pills. Take before, during or after drinking alcohol.
There are different types of Heparize, some of which are only available at drugstores, but you can also purchase a drink-type Heparize at convenience stores (though the ingredients and strength may be different from the kind you buy at a pharmacy).
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.