Finding Neosporin in Japan

I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but sometimes I fall down and get boo-boos. Nothing too serious; mere flesh wounds. But scraped knees are the Archduke Ferdinand of bodily injuries, quickly triggering something much worse if you aren’t careful.

To avoid land wars in Europe or serious infections, it is best to attend to the healing of injuries right away with effective medicines. Growing up in the United States, I could always rely on mom to salve my wounds with such first aid products. And her miracle cure of choice was Neosporin. Just squeeze an oily dab of the stuff onto a Band-Aid, secure it over the owie, and in a few days that patch of skin would be back to its original non-gaping condition, ready for more childhood roughhousing.

As an adult, I made sure to keep a tube of Neosporin—known more generically as “triple antibiotic topical ointment”—in my medicine cabinet. When I moved to Japan and found an empty medicine chest, I went looking for this essential balm. But as you might expect, I couldn’t find anything here with that name. The Japanese give non-English names to just so many things.

Before I go further, I must reveal that I have no medical training whatsoever, other than successfully opening aspirin bottles with childproof caps. If you have a cut that looks at all serious, back away from this web page and get yourself to a qualified doctor.

Neosporin is not available for sale in Japan, nor is the similarly popular Polysporin cream. From what I have seen online, the closest alternative to these treatments is Baramycin Ointment (バラマイシン軟膏), a topical product which seems to be only available in prescription form. As with the western alternatives, it combines an antibiotic with something-or-other sulfate. I have never purchased this medicine, so I can’t speak to its efficacy.

Instead of relying on internet gossip, I asked my wife (also not a doctor) what I should use in Japan. She grew up here and apparently was subject to just as many childhood skin injuries as I was. Which is strange, since we always agreed that I was the klutz in the family.

Clumsiness aside, she recommended two alternatives for Neosporin. The first one is Oronine H (オロナインH軟膏). Originally developed as a disinfectant by the Standard Oil Company (now Chevron), it was reformulated by scientists in Japan for use as a topical skin treatment. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t contain an antibiotic, but instead a manmade antibacterial—apparently those things are different—so it is not quite like Neosporin. But in this age of increasing antibiotic resistance, that might not be the worst thing in the world. Still, Oronine is not a cure-all. A summary I read said it should not be used for bug bites or severe burns.

My wife’s second recommendation, and the product that I usually saw whenever I opened the medicine cabinet, is Terramycin Ointment (テラマイシン軟膏), a sticky yellow paste that seems to get the job done. This one does contain an antibiotic, Oxytetracycline, although it isn’t the same as the bacteria-murderers found in Neosporin.

Which one should you use? I tend to grab the one that is closest to the box of bandages. In your case, you shouldn’t ask me, because what do I know? I’m just a guy with a blog. Instead, seek out your doctor or pharmacist.

[Image Credits: Alexas_Fotos /]

Tim Odagiri

Tim Odagiri is an author, software developer, and the host of Japan Everyday. He has published more than a dozen books and hundreds of articles covering technology, current events, and now life in Japan. Find his latest books at

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