How to Import  Cosmetics, Medicine, and Health Care Items

Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act(PMD Act)

Cosmetics, medicines, and healthcare products are controlled by Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act(PMD Act). These cannot be imported by non-resident importers, and can only be imported by licensed importers located in Japan.

Importing many of these items require testing prior to import, and some high-risk products involve very long and expensive procedures.  Importers have to be liable for the product safety and must show their company name and contact information subject to the law.

Import License Not Available for Overseas Entities

Import licenses to handle pharmaceutical items require business registration in Japan, thus overseas entities are not allowed to import pharmaceutical items if they don't have location or residency in Japan.  Please look for a licensed importer to sell alcohol in Japan.

PMD Act Scope

PMD act covers 6 categories of products, and here we'll look at the 4 major categories that are commonly seen on regular consumer markets.



PMD Act defines ‘Cosmetic’ as ‘any item having mild effects on the human body that is rubbed, spread, or otherwise applied in a similar manner for the purpose of cleansing, beautifying, or enhancing the attractiveness of the human body, to change physical appearance, or to maintain skin or hair in a healthy condition’.

Example :  Soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, skin-care products, make-ups, etc.

【Quasi Drugs】

PMD Act defines quasi drugs as low-risk products aimed to

1. Prevent nausea and other discomfort

2. Prevent heat rash, soreness, etc.

3. Encourage hair growth or removing hair

4. Exterminate and prevent mice, flies mosquitoes, fleas, etc.


Subject to PMD Act, the term "drugs" refers to the following substances:

1) Substances listed in the Japanese Pharmacopoeia.

2) Substances (other than quasi-drugs and regenerative medicine products), which are intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or animals, and which are not equipment or instruments, including dental materials, medical supplies, sanitary materials, and programs.

3) Substances (other than quasi-drugs, cosmetics or regenerative medicine products) which are intended to affect the structure or functions of the body of humans or animals, and which are not equipment or instruments.

Examples : Prescription drugs, or OTC drugs including cold relief, digestive medicines, eye drops, etc..

【Medical Devices】

PMD Act defines medical devices as "machinery or appliances intended for diagnose, remedy or prenvetion of human or animal diseases, or influence in any way human or animal body structures or functions.

Examples : glasses, contact lenses, clinical thermometers, hearing aids, magnetic therapy equipment, electric massagers, etc.

Each category is classified in details by the functions and influence to the user bodies.  The processes and licenses all vary by the classification.  Please talk with your import partner to see if they have the applicable license and how you can start selling your products in Japan.


Pharmaceutical items must come with labels.

Information required include usage instructions, warning, ingredients or materials, serial numbers, expiration date, importer details, or any other subjects requested per the class.

It is also important to carefully choose the marketing words and expressions, because each category has the limit on the expression allowed to describe products.  This applies not only on the package and instructions, but also on the promotional materials and online pages.

Example of Cosmetic Labeling

Import Flow

Pharmaceutical items are imported in the following manner.

Expected Preparation Time and Costs

Obtaining import permission on pharmaceutical items is expected to involve the following costs and timeline, excluding marketing costs and time.  Cosmetics and some simple medical devices are relatively easy, but others require expensive and long procedures to ensure safety.

Cosmetics : 50,000 JPY~/ 1 month~

Quasi Drugs : 1,000,000 JPY~/ 6 months~

Drugs : millions of JPY~/ over years~

Medical Device:100,000 JPY~ or 1,000,000 JPY~/ 6 months~


<PSE Act> Other Possible Concerning Laws 

Electric massagers and other electric appliances with AC adapters are regulated by PSE Act(Electrical Appliances and Material Safety Act).  In order to become ready to sell PSE items, sellers need to experience a long process of several months or more, costing millions of Japanese Yen.  PSE process details are found here.

Retail License

License Certificate for Establishing Pharmacies)Some pharmaceutical items require retail license, in addition to manufacturing and importing.

It's important that your distributors have the necessary license to sell the products that you import to Japan.

Class   Marketing Notification or License
Cosmetics   Not Required
Quasi-Drugs   Not Required
Drugs OTC and Switch OTC Drugs Licenses for Store-Based Distribution
  Other High-Class Drugs License Certificate for Establishing Pharmacies
Medical Device Class I Not Required
  Class II, III, and IV License for Retailing and Renting Medical Devices

Notification and application for license can only be done by registered and qualified Japanese companies.

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