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Japan Narita Customs - Importing prescription medication on prohibited list

Japan Narita Customs - Importing prescription medication on prohibited list

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Old Aug 22, 12, 11:21 pm
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Japan Narita Customs - Importing prescription medication on prohibited list

Hello, let me start off by saying that I know what I would like to do is illegal, but please don't respond with moral criticism, I am asking a legitimate question and would really only like legitimate answers.

So a couple months ago I got diagnosed with ADHD and was prescribed Adderall, which has been a godsend for me, my life has improved dramatically. In a couple months I am going to Japan for a year and would like to take it with me, however it's illegal. I am coming in through Narita, and after that will take a domestic flight between Haneda and Sapporo (New Chitose). Really I am only worried about customs at Narita.

I am not going to try and smuggle them, I am bringing a 3 month supply in the prescription bottle with the label as well as a signed letter from my doctor. Should I put these in my carry-on (a backpack) or checked luggage?
My plan was to just put them in either bag and not declare them on customs forms and generally hope that no one decides to go through my bag. The customs form does not ask about prescription medication, it lists as prohibited articles: Narcotic drugs, stimulants, marijuana, psychotropic substances, MDMA etc. . My ideal scenario is that I don't declare anything and they wave me through customs. I have gone through Narita customs once and Osaka customs once and both times customs was a breeze. I have heard that they do random bag checks, but I have never seen this happen.

Generally I believe I have a good chance of making it through. I have never had my bags checked (although I don't know if they check checked luggage) nor have I had any special questioning, I am a young white male, but I don't think I look suspicious. Also, as I have to receive my resident card right when I get there (I already have my Visa), I will go to a separate line than citizens/foreigners, where they will have to process some paperwork, which could provide a good distraction from inspecting my bags.

What my question really is then is what if they do decide to go through my bag and find the Adderall? I have heard some pretty dark stories about Narita Customs if they catch you doing something illegal. If they find it I am just going to plead ignorance + show them its a legal prescription so they know I'm not a smuggler. I hope that if this happens they will just confiscate the Adderall and let me go, but I am worried that even if I plead ignorance they will arrest me or send me home with no chance of coming back.

So yeah, let me know if this is possible, if I can get pretty reassured that even if they do catch it they will let me go, I am going to try this, but if I am not sure that getting caught won't lead to prison, I won't try to do this. Thanks!
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Old Aug 22, 12, 11:54 pm
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Originally Posted by akira2472 View Post
Hello, let me start off by saying that I know what I would like to do is illegal, but please don't respond with moral criticism
I have no moral criticism or even moral comment to offer. But, I do have some points of order:

So a couple months ago I got diagnosed with ADHD and was prescribed Adderall, which has been a godsend for me, my life has improved dramatically. In a couple months I am going to Japan for a year and would like to take it with me, however it's illegal. ...

I am not going to try and smuggle them, I am bringing a 3 month supply in the prescription bottle with the label as well as a signed letter from my doctor.
My plan was to ... not declare them on customs forms... The customs form lists as prohibited articles: Narcotic drugs, stimulants, marijuana, psychotropic substances, MDMA etc.
Adderall is a stimulant and is a prohibited item in Japan. By not declaring it on your Customs form, you are making a false Customs declaration.

Also, you ARE in fact trying to smuggle them. The fact that it is for your own personal use and not for resale/redistribution, was prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical need, and is legal in the US all has no bearing on the situation. You are knowingly trying to import a prohibited item - that's the definition of smuggling.

I have never had my bags checked (although I don't know if they check checked luggage) nor have I had any special questioning, I am a young white male, but I don't think I look suspicious.
I roughly fit that description (or at least did when I first started visiting Japan), and have had my bags inspected at least twice upon entry. Once, they went through my smaller bag, including my toiletries bag, and would have found any medication that I had in there. The other time, I must have really piqued the inspector's interest, as in addition to a bag search including a search for false compartments, he had me take off my shoes and felt in between my toes! I have no idea what made them suspicious of me - for all I know, it could have been completely random. But most of the them, they search nothing, and maybe ask an extra question at most.

I guess that's the whole point of doing random searches: one never knows for sure when one will be searched, and that provides a deterrent against smuggling by those that otherwise would not fit the profile that would cause them to be searched for cause.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 12:54 am
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I am not a lawyer or an expert on Japanese law. The following is only supposition on my part, and should in no way be taken for legal advice. And you should read this before proceeding with your plan:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/...#drug_offenses

Drug offenses are taken very seriously in Japan. The worst thing that can happen to you is detainment, several months wait in a Japanese prison for a trial, and if convicted, which you almost certainly would be, a prison sentence of five years or more.

More likely you would be detained for several days, and when you were lucky enough to get in touch with your embassy, and they are sympathetic to your cause, you may only need to be detained for a few weeks before they decide to merely deport you (on your own dime) and prevent you from ever being admitted into Japan again.

And don't think that having some connections, or only having the drug for your personal use, will get you off the hook. It didn't work for this somewhat famous guy.

So obviously, I think that any attempt to bring this drug into the country secretly is a bad idea. If it is really important to you, bring it up with an Embassy or Consulate before you leave, and see if there is any legal exception that can be made for you.

Lest you think Japan is overly severe, it is still better than Singapore, where the punishment for such an offense is death...

Last edited by hailstorm; Aug 23, 12 at 1:01 am
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Old Aug 23, 12, 1:44 am
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(1) I've heard that Japanese customs don't kick up a big fuss over certain cough medicines that aren't legal in Japan - they just confiscate them and let the passenger go on her way, apparently.

(2) I know that the consequences for folks who smuggle recreational drugs typically involve jail sentences.

I doubt whether anyone on this forum can tell you for sure whether a person caught smuggling Adderall would be treated as (1) or (2) or something between the two. Safest thing would be to visit without it or not visit.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 1:48 am
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Thanks you guys

To Steve M: I agree it is smuggling, I was using smuggling more in the sense that I would try to hide it within my bag in like secret compartments or something similar, basically in a way that directly implies I am trying to sneak them in. I actually read a story about someone that tried to sneak thousands of ecstasy tablets into Japan by lining it in his bag.

I honestly before this didn't even know Adderall was classified as a stimulant, if I hadn't done some research I really would've tried to bring it in without knowing!

And I guess that might be random, or you might have something associated with your name that keeps bringing the authorities. I have only been through Japanese customs three times, but I have never seen a bag checked, someone questioned, or drug dogs. Maybe I'm just lucky though.

To Hailstorm: I don't think the Paul McCartney case really applies to my situation, he had previously been denied entry for drug charges, so they were going to specially search his stuff in the first place, and then he tried to bring a 1/2 pound of marijuana in. MJ is illegal pretty much everywhere, and even though he said its for personal use, its not medically prescribed by a doctor.

I like the Singapore comparison, cause its kinda what I based my idea on. I would NEVER try to bring Adderall into Singapore, because they are so crazy about that kinda stuff. But I can't believe that in Japan, if a young college student who planned to live there for a year brought a legally prescribed medication, although illegal, they would throw the book at him.

I guess I am looking for stories of people that have ever been detained with similar things and what the outcome was? Cause really the only stories I can find with similarities to mine are people that have brought Adderall into Japan without even knowing it was illegal/people bringing in large amounts of pills and never being asked. The scary stories are people genuinely trying to sneak illegal drugs in.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 1:59 am
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Thanks jib71

1: Yeah I've heard that too, I can't believe that customs hasn't run into tons of tourists who didn't realize their medications were illegal. If this was anything lower like codeine I wouldn't even be questioning this, but Adderall is a a special kind of medication that is much more serious. I hope if they find mine they just throw it away, besides if I don't actually get it through customs its not really smuggling, and if they can't prove I intended to smuggle it... but this is also Japan so doesn't really matter.

2. Wow, that case! 41,120 pills of ecstasy and 992.5 grams of cocaine?!?! And he tried to say the bag was not his. The case does certainly worry me, but with that much drugs I would kinda expect that.

Yeah, I actually pretty much just said no to the idea of taking them with me when I learned they are illegal, but my own mother convinced me I should do it and she actually works at an airport hahaha
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Old Aug 23, 12, 2:19 am
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Originally Posted by akira2472 View Post
Yeah, I actually pretty much just said no to the idea of taking them with me when I learned they are illegal, but my own mother convinced me I should do it and she actually works at an airport hahaha
Your mother works in a Japanese airport? If not, her experience is completely irrelevant.

All I can do is give what I think is the worst case scenario and let you decide if it's worth it.

The best case scenario is that you get away with it and you bring in three months worth of medicine for a one year stay, so it sounds like you're going to have to eventually learn to live without it anyway...
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Old Aug 23, 12, 2:34 am
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Thanks I agree, she does not work at a Japanese airport, but she does generally know how customs work (aka, if I was going the other way, out of Japan, I would never even attempt this as bags are screened at departing airports, and unless you are chosen they are not checked at the arriving airport.) and has gone through Narita multiple times, so she does have some good input. She's had similar experiences, never being searched or seen anyone searched, and she was actually surprised to learn that she brought in some illegal pain medications, which she didn't know at the time.

My prescription is a bit overpowered, so I could stretch the three months out
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:01 am
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At Narita:
- I've had my bags opened on at least two occasions
- On one of those occasions I had to pay a few hundred yen to import an item
- I've seen people being escorted away from the general customs area
- I've seen sniffer dogs near the baggage carousels
- I've met people who told me they'd had items confiscated

Of course, I don't see what goes on behind the scenes. But on the surface, this doesn't strike me as less aggressive than what I experience at US airports. At ORD last week, for example, the person in front of me I handed over her customs form and was directed to step aside for a bag inspection. I was told to go on my way.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:32 am
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I've had to open my bags every time I have entered Japan. Sometimes they just look superficially, but I've also been taken to the separate room where I even had to take off my clothes excluding the underwear. I'm a white male in my thirties and I don't generally get singled out to any special checks. I don't even know if they just wave through anybody in Japanese customs. They have huge amounts of customs counters in airports, so they can certainly handle big crowds without having to wave through (at least non-Japanese) people.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:35 am
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Wow generally people fall into two camps with Narita Customs, thats its a breeze to get through or it can turn into a complete nightmare. Generally though I have never heard of anyone trying to bring in a legal prescription, in its original bottle, with a letter by the doctor, being thrown in to jail. Always the stories people show me are people with 10,000+ pills of ecstasy who were definitely trying to smuggle it in. I think I am going to take the chance of it, I think my saving graces are that I will be getting my residence card when I arrive, so I have to go to a special customs line anyways and fill out paperwork when I land, and hopefully if I am taking the time to do all that they won't hassle or select me for bag searching. Also, I am bringing in a bunch of other pills/cremes. In total other than the Adderall I am bringing in 45 pills of Malarone and 15 pills of Ciproflaxacin as well as a tube of Tazorac and Finacea, both prescription cremes. I think on the customs form I am just going to say 'Medications' and if they ask me just start kinda listing them, hopefully the big English words will muddle together and with reassurances that they are all prescription it will be ok.

And this got me thinking... am I even allowed to bring those? hahaha
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:41 am
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Thats crazy! I posted this same question in the Asia section and people have told me they have had their bag checked, but never that they have been forced to remove clothing! I would never return after that. I have only ever gotten my bag checked once coming back from Japan in LAX and I was pretty livid.

I guess intense questioning/searching is more common than I thought at NRT. When I said waved through I didn't mean that they just let me not even go through passport checks, I still did that and talked to an immigration official, I mean that after standing in line they asked me a couple simple questions and then let me go grab my bag and I left. Customs in Japan have been the easiest for me, moreso than America (although Germany and Belgium were a breeze too), however I've never traveled anywhere with large amounts of medication hahah.

So after forcing you to strip, what happened? Did they tell you why they singled you out?
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:42 am
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What is your risk tolerance?

If I were to say, and these aren't even ballpark estimates, just numbers I'm pulling out of my ... for this mental exercise, but if were able to tell you that there was a 20% chance you would get caught, a 5% you would be detained and deported, and a 0.1% chance you would face a long prison sentence, would you consider that a risk worth taking?
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:44 am
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Originally Posted by akira2472 View Post
Wow generally people fall into two camps with Narita Customs, thats its a breeze to get through or it can turn into a complete nightmare.
I think it's a complete breeze to get through and it can turn into a nightmare. FWIW, the same can be said of customs in every country I have ever visited.

Originally Posted by akira2472 View Post
hopefully the big English words will muddle together
If they take an interest in the medications, "big English words" won't put them off the scent. Have a story and stick to it.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 3:59 am
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Hailstorm -

I guess I'd like smaller than that plus an added category. 20% chance I could be caught, 19% chance they would just confiscate it but let me in, 1% chance they would detain and deport me, .01% chance I face a long term prison sentence.

jib71 -

True. And with the story, I mean, it has to happen based on what they ask me. But hopefully, I put down medication on the customs form (though I don't know where... cause it doesn't have medication listed nor a section to add a note) and when they ask me about it I just assure them it is all prescription and I have a letter from my doctor to have it and they are only for personal use. If they ask specifically what it is, I'll list the names, Malarone, Citroflaxacin, Adderall, Tazorac and Finacea. If they spark up at the Adderall then I hand it over, act dumb and plead for forgiveness. Generally though I don't think they will have all of these names memorized, and if I can get it through the customs guy with saying the name of it and then they decide to search my bag, at least I can say I was let through but it all depends on the course of the conversation, I'll try to stay as vague as possible until I basically will just have to give in.

I think it'll work, and if I get detained I don't think they will throw the book at me. But this remains to be seen, I am not 100% sure I will do it. And I of course invite more suggestions/criticism.
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