Last week I went to a pharmacy for the first time since I moved to Japan. Marty had gone for me before and he hadn’t mentioned any of the differences. The first thing I had to do was register. They wanted my name and address. Then I had to fill in a medical questionnaire regarding any medication I was currently on, what symptoms I currently had, and what the doctor had told me about the medication I was about to be given.
I was there to pick up a prescription for the common cold. After filling in my symptoms and the required information I was then interviewed by the pharmacist. So I got to waste someone else’s time discussing my rather pathetic cold.
The pharmacist also advised me to use a book to record my medication in. This book is provided for free but you have to pay a bit extra for each prescription ( a bit being about 20 円, (15p or 22 cents)) as they print out a sticker for the book. This is an excellent idea. It means I don’t need to know the Japanese names for my medication and I won’t need to fill in questionnaires or try to explain what I am taking to someone else.
It was nothing like going to get prescription medication in Belfast. In Belfast you pick up prescription medicine in a chemist that is going to also sell over-the-counter medicine as well as everything from shampoo to face cream. In Japan these things are bought in drug stores and prescription medicine is dispensed in a pharmacy. Over-the-counter medicine in Japan is still actually behind a counter. In Belfast you can pick up pain-killers and cold medicine in a garage or a supermarket. And these are no longer behind a counter in a chemist. It does make it harder for me to buy tablets in Japan, as I need to know how to ask for them, but it does seem to be a much safer system if less convenient.