Japan Focus: ADHD and Traveling with Medication

Missing wearing traditional Japanese clothes at shrine
Before you bring any medication into Japan, make sure to check if you require a Yakkan Shoumi from the Japanese department of health.

From time to time we get inquiries from people with ADHD wishing to study in Japan, and they are overwhelmed with the confusing maze of rules and regulations vis-à-vis their medications. Japan’s rules for medications, such as those related to ADHD or pain management, are unique, and they required a unique tipsheet.

A Yakkan Shoumei is a certificate authorizing permission for you to bring medication into the country.

How Do I Know If I Need One?

If you are taking a supply of less than 30 days of your medication, simply bring it with you in your suitcase in the original containers. Cosmetics follow a similar rule.  

If you plan to take a supply of more than 30 days of medication, then you should plan on requesting a Yakkan Shoumei. Check the ministry of health, labor and welfare website Under the related linksfor up-to-date information. They also provide contact information for all of the key airports in Japan where you can receive quick responses about medication questions.

What to Know about Requesting One

You can find updated information from the ministry of health. They have an article (in the related links section) which discusses what you should know about bringing medications into Japan.

You should plan on it taking at least 2 weeks to get the certificate from when you submit the form request to when they get back to you, even if it doesn't actually take that long. You do have the option of submitting the certificate over email, which can expedite the process.

If you are in doubt of whether or not you can bring a certain quantity of a certain medication to Japan for a certain period of time, you can email the ministry of health and inquire with them directly. Contact your nearest Japanese consulate if you need to find a more up-to-date email address. You can find the information for your nearest consulate at the list of Japanese consulates offered by the Japanese embassy, and available in the related links section.

Once you have submitted a Yakkan Shoumi application, and they have responded by approving it, you should be able to proceed with confidence. Be sure to carry your medications in the original bottles, and also include copies of all of the documents discussed in a large Ziploc bag or folder.

Pro tip: the email addresses and phone numbers of the international airports in Japan can help clarify your questions, so don't hesitate to give them a call.

What if I cannot bring my medication?

If you cannot bring your medication to Japan under any circumstances, you have a couple options.

In the case of ADHD medication, you could simply skip it for the duration of your program. Travelers participating on short-term exchanges sometimes find this to be the most expedient solution. Check with your doctor if this would be an option for you.

You can ask your doctor about an alternative medication regimen. As of 2018, people with ADHD have the option of Concerta and Strattera as alternatives to Vyvanse, Ritalin or Adderall. The selection of medications for managing pain is increasing for patients in Japan. If your insurance will cover it, make sure that you give yourself time before departure to change to the permitted medication to ensure the new medication is right for you. Adjusting to a new culture and new medications at the same time could compound your stress.

Notify your doctor as soon as you think that you might be going abroad, in case they recommend taking extra time before departure to adjust to a new treatment.

You might still have to apply for a Yakkan Shoumi to bring Concerta or Strattera with you. Another option is for the host country office to work with you to identify a Japanese practitioner to prescribe the medications after you arrive.

If you cannot make the switch before departure, make sure to schedule the initial appointment as soon as possible after your arrival, to minimize any pauses in the medication regimen.

How much will it cost

Treatment to manage ADHD can vary in price, but it is not unreasonable to expect coverage from the Japanese healthcare system. You might have to cover 30% to 40% of the cost of your treatment.

"I’ve had an easy time finding clinics and people to help, and I feel that I’m given quality treatment with psychiatrists that ask plenty of questions and that really care about how I’m doing."
- Missy MacDonald, US student with ADHD finishing her four-year degree at Tokyo international University