Kanji Cheat Sheets

Kanji Cheat Sheets
Kanji Cheat Sheets: Buying Cold Medicine in Japan
February 11, 2020  |  By GaijinPot Blog

Head spinning and temperature rising, I stumbled into the nearest drugstore in Tokyo. Luckily they’re as ubiquitous as vending machines because this was my first time getting sick in Japan.

When I pulled out my phone to check online for recommended medicine, I realized I had already run out of data for that month. Flailing around, I tried my best to explain how terrible I was feeling to the poor shop attendant who earnestly tried to listen to what the disheveled girl at the counter was trying to tell him. In the end, I was able to use my few remaining brain cells to conjure up some kanji I remembered studying in Japanese language class. Stay in school, kids.

In the end, I was able to use my few remaining brain cells to conjure up some kanji I remembered studying in Japanese language class. Stay in school, kids.

One of the scariest things that can happen to you when you live abroad for the first time is getting sick and not having any medicine on you. Finding the right kind of medicine with only a limited grasp of Japanese is like playing a scary video game like Resident Evil on expert mode. In the dark. With one hand behind your back!

Lesson learned—bring medicine from your home country with you when moving to Japan. If you do run out of your old reliables, use this chart that lays out the most basic terminology for Japanese medicine.

Runny nose鼻みずhanamizu
Cold medicineかぜ薬kazegusuri
Sore throatのどの痛みnodo no itami
Cough suppressant せき止めsekitome
2 Tablets2錠nijou
2 Capsules2カプセルnicapuseru
1 Sachet1包ippou
Powder medicine微粒biryuu
Various symptoms諸症状shoshoujou
Side effects副作用fukusayou
Do not drive after   taking this medicine運転操作をしないことunten sosa o shinai koto

Kanji for cold symptoms

First, figure out what you might be dealing with and how to say it in Japanese. Do you have a runny nose (鼻みず hanamizu)? Fever (熱 netsu)? Cough (せき seki)? A sore throat (のどの痛み nodonoitami)?

Once you’ve figured out what your symptoms are in Japanese, pop 薬局 (yakkyoku) into Google Maps to find your nearest pharmacy. Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Sun Drug, and Daikoku Drug are some popular chain stores that you can find almost anywhere. Pharmacies are quite easy to come by in Japan so don’t worry too much!

Common OTC cold medicine in Japan

These brands are trusted and easy to find.

LuluAttack EX
Precol Extended Release Capsule
Esutakku Eve Fine
Pabulon Gold A

Be wary of Kanji like 運転操作をしないこと (unten sosa o shinai koto) as it warns against driving after taking the medicine. Be sure to check the side effects (副作用 fukusayou) written on the back of the box.

After choosing your medicine, go over the instructions as the dosages differ per brand. In my case, pharmacists always try their best at explaining the directions in English and it usually gets the job done. If you have any doubts, 2錠 (nijou) means two tablets, 2カプセル means two capsules, and 1包 (ippou) means one sachet. 

If you still feel under the weather even after taking the medicine recommended above, it’s probably time to pay a visit to your local clinic. You can read more about seeing a doctor in Japan on GaijinPot Blog!

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