I’ve made my first two month milestone living in Japan with approximately a three month supply of insulin. So far so good!
I’ve lived in Japan for about a year in my pre-diabetic college years, and now I’m applying everything I learned ten years ago to the present. It’s my first time living in Japan since I was diagnosed with T1D and my first time living in Kagoshima, Japan.
So to all the people who are planning to take either a short vacation or a long haul trip to Japan, I’ve put together my first installment of information that I’ve learned in the past 60 days or so.
The first topic will focus on daily diabetes supplies that you can (nor cannot) buy in Japan.
Basic Diabetes Supplies (not including insulin or testing strips):
If you plan on staying in Japan for a long period of time, it would probably be best to switch to pens if you’re using vials / syringes. Syringes in Japan are nearly impossible to get, and most clinics don’t carry them. Pen needles are readily available, but may require a prescription in some circumstances. One issue might be the gauge of the pen needle… More on this in a future post!
Note: I have found blood glucose meters (as well as pen needles) for sale on amazon.jp. The problem with amazon.jp, you need to have a registered address in order to make a purchase. The benefit is the price- many pharmacies are so overpriced… words can’t explain. ╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻
And speaking of overpriced products, I’d -highly- recommend bringing as many alcohol swabs (or have a relative send some with care packages) as possible. I think I pay less than $2 for a box of 100 stateside (Topcare brand!). In Japan, the going rate has been 500 yen for a box of 60. If you’re worried about wasting money on common supplies, I’d do the following:
1- use alcohol swabs only when necessary.
2- wash hands with soap as a habit for checking blood sugar (don’t waste the alcohol swab)
3- save those hand towels (shibori) that you get at restaurants, convenient stores, etc and use those to wash your hands when you’re away from soap and water (rather than using an alcohol swab).
On the flip side of all these expensive product is at least one bright spot!. What every diabetic should know about Japan is that if you walk into a pharmacy and ask for glucose tabs (ie- budou), you’ll get it. Free. Some places have them in tablet form, but most have glucose in powder form (in 10g packets). I haven’t run into a clinic or pharmacy that sells glucose tabs yet- they either don’t have them or they give them out for free. I feel awkward asking for free glucose so I typically walk in and ask if they sell glucose, and in response they hand me a bunch.
I think I covered all the supplies that I could think of. I’ve already came up with a few future topics, and I’m also hoping to meet other T1Ds here.