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Kanji Cheat Sheet: Buying Cold Medicine in Japan

Fight off that nasty bug with this guide to the most common kanji found on Japanese OTC medicines.

By 1 min read

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.

English Japanese Romaji
Pharmacy 薬局 yakkyoku
Cold medicine かぜ薬 kazegusuri
Runny nose  鼻みず hanamizu
Sore throat のどの痛み nodonoitami
Fever netsu
Cough suppressant  せき止め sekitome

Read the full article on GaijinPot Study!

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