HealthyTOKYO surveyed three drugstores at the bustling Tokyo International Airport*, also known as Haneda Airport, to discover the top five OTC drugs for visitors in Japan and the purchasing preferences of foreign visitors.
We assumed that visitors from Asian countries would have different preferences from those from the West when it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and the data supported this hypothesis.
Specifically, we asked these retailers to rank the five OTC drugs Asian visitors and Western visitors purchase most frequently, and then we examined the differences in consumer behavior.
Top five most purchased OTC drugs—Western visitors
1. Sleeping aids
Top five most purchased OTC drugs—Asian visitors
1. Mentholated eyedrops
5. Pabron Gold
The most popular OTC drugs for Westerners are various brands of sleeping aids, anti-inflammatory pain relievers like aspirin and Ibuprofen, the fever-reducing pain reliever Tylenol, and a heartburn relief remedy called Gastol.
The consumer preferences of Asian visitors are quite different. They tend to purchase drugs to relieve stiff necks and back pain, both in patch (Roihi-Tsubokō) and in tablet forms (Nabolin). Instead of buying anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing medicine, visitors from Asia buy cold medicine such as Pabron Gold. And in direct contrast to the sleeping aids Westerners buy, Asian visitors purchase vitamin-energy drinks such as Alinamin.
Most interesting, though, is their fondness for expensive mentholated eyedrops, which in addition to lubricating and soothing red, tired eyes also provide a general sense of alertness. While ubiquitous in Japan, mentholated eyedrops can be hard to find elsewhere. Their popularity has spread to neighboring countries, and Asian foreign visitors stock up on them before returning home.
*Airports Council International has ranked Haneda as the world’s fourth-busiest hub in terms of passenger traffic since 2012. The airport handled over ten million foreign visitors last year alone.