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Article: How to deal with UTI while living or traveling in Japan

In this article, you will read about what you can do to treat a UTI while you are living or traveling in Japan.

Being in Japan does come with its inconveniences for a foreigner.

It is not easy to go to a GP and get antibiotics as you do in your home country.
Neither is the over-the-counter (OTC) medicine you use available in Japan.

In this article, I hope I can share some things you can try yourself.

Reading time: 13 minutes (130 wpm).

What are the symptoms of UTI?

For an overview of the symptoms of UTI, see the Medicalnewstoday.com article.

I had a bladder infection, this is one type of UTI. 
The characteristic of that is when the bladder is emptied, the end of peeing, it hurts.

In the next paragraph, you can read about my process.

I did not visit the doctor nor did I take antibiotics.
On day nine I was considering it since it lasted more than one week and I was not recovered.

I had been using home remedies and over-the-counter medications.

Always keep the option open to take antibiotics though.

We don’t want it to end in a kidney infection.
This happens when the bacteria move up to the kidneys.

Summary process

These were the days that I had to deal with the problem.

Day 1: Sun, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee, bloating, belly & muscle aches, foul-smelling pee
Day 2: Mon, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee, foul-smelling pee, [start of Kampo medicine 1]

Day 3: Tue, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee
Day 4: Wed, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee, [start of Kampo medicine 2, stopped 1]

Day 5: Thu, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee, arrival Chinese medicine “Ba Zheng Pian” 
Day 6: Fri, urge to pee, cutting pain end of pee, [start Chinese medicine, stopped Kampo]

Day 7: Sat, less cutting pain end of pee, no urge to pee.
Day 8: Sun, foul-smelling and cloudy urine, less cutting pain end of pee, no urge to pee. 

Day 9: Mon, no cutting pain end of pee, no urge to pee
Day 10: Tue, menstruation, no cutting pain end of pee, no urge to pee. 

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are a quick and effective way to rid the bacteria.
Within 2-3 days of starting the treatment, you should become symptom-free.

As you know, antibiotics have their disadvantages. 
Becoming antibiotic-resistant.
As well as also destroying the good bacteria together with the bad bacteria.

Some women, like me, would like to wait for a week using other methods.
See the article: https://www.livescience.com/37121-antibiotics-uti-urinary-infection.html

Finding a doctor that can speak English in Japan can be tricky.
You cannot get antibiotics without a doctor’s description.

However, it is possible. 
The last option is to get a friend, a relative or someone to interpret for you. 

2. Home remedies

I tried home remedies mainly the first day to see if they work.

After one day with no improvements in getting better, I stopped messing around.
But I got some discomfort released though.

1. Drink lots of water

How easy it is to get it: very easy.

At least 2 liters a day, to flush out the bacteria.
This one I keep doing diligently for the whole period.

The effect was a longer peeing process and less pain at the end of peeing.
With little water, the pain is more severe.

2. Baking soda mixed with water drink

How easy it is to get it: relatively easy.

Mixing baking soda with water and drink this.
I drank this twice a day for the first day.

Although I felt it soothed the bladder, my discomfort level was decreased. 
I had mixed feelings it will help to heal me.

3. Apple vinegar mixed with water

How easy it is to get it: relatively easy.

Drink a glass of apple vinegar mixed with water.
Same like baking soda, it soothed the bladder, I felt less discomfort.

But I doubted if it will heal me. 

4. Cranberry juice with no sugar

How easy it is to get it: difficult.

It refrains bacteria sticking to the wall of the urinary tract so that it can be flushed out by peeing.

This one I did not try out.

First of all, it was not easy to get it, not all supermarkets have it.
Best to try the more expensive supermarkets who have imported products.

Secondly, is it is super expensive.
A bottle I found in “Seijo Ishii” supermarket was sugar-free, pure cranberry juice and it costs 1260 yen.

This is 10.50 euros, 11.56 USD, 8.97 pounds, 17.05 AUD, 18 NZD. 

3. Alternative medicine

Since I wanted something without antibiotics, I tried herbal medicine.

Please keep in mind that it’s good to keep track of the symptoms.
When the symptoms are worsening into pelvic pain, fever, etc, it is necessary to visit a doctor. 

Before we go into Kampo medicine and Chinese medicine, let’s look at D-Mannose tablets.

D-Mannose tablets

How easy is it to get it: difficult.

It is a type of sugar that functions like the cranberry juice.
There are a lot of positive reactions from people taking these tablets.

However, these tablets are not easy to find in Japan.
So far ordering it online like iHerb or Amazon is the solution.

Compared to the Netherlands, you can get it easily in any drugstore.
There is no need to order it online.

I have not tried this one.

Kampo medicine

In Japan, Kampo medicine is very popular. 
It is based on Chinese medicine.

Kampo medicine 1 Kracie brand

How easy is it to get it: very easy.

In every drug store, you can get this Kampo medicine for UTI.
You can also order online at Rakuten.

It is of the brand Kracie.

It was recommended by the store staff. 

There is also a blue package version, that one is more for urging to pee.
This one emphasizes more on the pain.

One package is for four days of usage.
I prematurely stopped after the second day, before finishing the package.

The reason is I still feel the same, not really big improvements.
So I tried another Kampo medicine.

Kampo medicine Jinsensan

Kampo medicine number 2.
I found this medicine on the internet specifically for UTI.

How easy is it to get it: very easy.

You can buy this one in every drugstore.

The dosage is for four days, 12 sachets with powder.
The powder you put in your mouth and take water to swallow with it.

I took this on day 4.

After one day, I noticed dry mouth and throat.
The reason is that the medicine is quite “heating”, it has cinnamon in the ingredients.

Heating in the Chinese medicine concept is the ability to dry out and warm up.
With too much fire in the body, it causes symptoms of sore throat, acne, etc.

Again, after two days I stopped prematurely as I did not see huge improvements.
And the main reason was my Chinese medicine Ba Zheng Pian arrived!

I wanted to give that a try.

Chinese medicine

Guang Ci Tang brand Ba Zheng Pian

According to Chinese medicine, a UTI is caused by damp heat in the bladder.
Once there is dampness and heat in the bladder, bacteria are more like to grow there.

How easy is it to get it? Difficult, need to order it online and wait.

I ordered Ba Zheng Pian 八正片 of the brand Guang Ci Tang on the first day, Sunday. 
It had to be shipped from The States and the quickest delivery was 4 business days.

On Thursday I received it and started taking it the next day, on day 6. 
I had no side effects like sore throat and dry mouth or any other effects.

One bottle has 200 tablets, 5 tablets each time, three times a day.
It can last for 13 days.

It said the first results can be seen between 3-10 days.

Like the other medicine, I noticed some improvements on the first day, but not symptom-free.

Then I changed to take a double dosage halfway day 7. 
Instead of 5 tablets each time, I took 10 tablets each time.

This double dose is encouraged in an acute phase.

After taking the double dosage, I noticed more of the effects. 
There were even more improvements and almost all pain was gone by day 8 and onwards.

Eventually, I was healed.
It was true that after 3 days I saw the first results of being symptom-free.

3. Food and drinks

During the recovery, it is good to eat certain food and drink aiding in quick recovery.
And refrain from certain food.

What to drink?

  • Plenty of water is recommended, as mentioned before, it flushes out the bacteria.
  • Sugar-free cranberry juice, the reason was mentioned earlier on in “2. Home remedies”.
  • Peppermint tea for removing heat and Camilla tea to soothe the pelvic area.

Drain dampness according to Chinese medicine:

  • Raspberry leaf tea (herbal tea with no caffeine).

And don’t drink:

  • Coffee, alcohol, and caffeine irritate the bladder.

What to eat?

  • Probiotics like Greek yogurt contains good bacteria.
  • Fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut contains good bacteria.
  • Blueberries and cranberries; prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.

Drain dampness according to Chinese medicine:

  • Corn, barley, basmati rice
  • Alfalfa sprout, button mushroom, caper, corn, pumpkin, radish, turnip
    Removes damp-heat: Asparagus, celery, Chinese cabbage
  • Papaya, umeboshi plum
    Removes damp-heat: Blueberry, cranberry
  • Aduki, lentils
    Removes damp-heat: Kidney
  • Eel, tuna
  • Aniseed, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, nettle, parsley, white pepper
    Removes damp heat: Tamarind

And don’t eat:

  • Acidic food like lemon, lime, oranges that irritates the bladder.
  • Spicy food, this irritates the bladder.


If you like, you can first try to treat a UTI with home remedies and alternative medicine.
However, this approach is slow and can be risky.

If the bacteria grows and goes to the kidneys, a more severe UTI infection can develop.
This is definitely not what you want to experience.

In that case, only antibiotics are the solution.
Antibiotics are an option to keep open and be alert on how the body condition develops.

As for alternative medicine. 
They might work and the process can be slow.

Also, Chinese medicine, which I have my faith in the most, is not available in Japan.
It needs to be shipped from abroad and requires waiting time.

This is not helpful in an acute situation in which you prefer not to suffer for days.

In that case, the Kampo medicine I used for the first few days can be taken.
These are very easy to buy.

If that helps you to solve the problem, that would be wonderful.
If not, then antibiotics or try out another herbal medicine.

During the days that the discomfort was too much, I took aspirin to numb the pain.
Also, I discovered sitting cross-legged helped in lessening the discomfort I felt.

Good luck and get better soon!



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