Quick guide: Know and understand food allergies In Japan


Until only a few decades ago, there were no strict guidelines regarding food labels and allergies in Japan. In many cases, it was assumed that common sense directed food choices (given that you knew your allergies), thus oftentimes limiting people with allergies in a big way. Today, however, most restaurants as well as stores in Tokyo offer lists of their food/ingredients and can offer detailed explanations of what foods are allergy-safe from certain ingredients.

The same can also be said for supermarkets. Most food products are labeled by their manufacturers with a list of allergens that are either part of the food or produced in the same factory as the food. The content of these labels is based on government standards and lists ingredients that the foods contain or may have come in contact with, the same as those found overseas.

Unfortunately, as with most food labels in Japan, this information is typically only available in Japanese. But worry not: Here is the information you need, supported with examples of different food labels so that non-Japanese speakers can safely shop — and enjoy — every bit of Japan’s cuisine.

If you aren’t sure whether a given product contains any of the following allergens, print this page, find a clerk at the grocery store and ask kono shohin ni ○○ ga haiitemasuka? (この商品に○○が入ってますか?), just to be sure. And if the staff can’t tell you, then you might want to skip that product. So, here they are.

Japan’s Top Allengens


The top seven

This listing will state whether the product contains any of the following ingredients, which are classified as severe allergic-reaction-causing foods in Japan. These are typically the “emergency reaction” foods, that can cause immediate anaphylaxis and should be avoided at all costs by those with allergies.


Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

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Informative article that will surely be of help to people with allergies that are not so fluent in Japanese. It is very fortunate that the labeling of allergens has improved a lot, but unfortunately some of those allergens are almost universally present in some kinds of foods, so people that are allergic to pork for example can have a quite difficult time finding ramen they can eat in the supermarket.

Hopefully in the future alternatives will become more common.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I guess it's better than nothing if you are completely on your own planning your trip to Japan without any outside help. But I'm not entirely sure how helpful that card of "allengens" (sic) with English labels actually would be.

I'm trying to imagine what happens if you grab something random from a conbini shelf, point the clerk to the pictogram of "buckwheat" and blurt out the given sentence in broken Japanese. If I didn't know the English term I would probably draw a blank about what you actually mean.

My strong advise would be for you to find someone in your circle of acquaintances who can write up a small card for you in Japanese, very specific to your individual allergy ... or your eating preferences (vegan, vegetarian). You can then show this card in shops and restaurants. I have done it for a few friends, some of them allergic and others vegetarian, and they found it very helpful.

(Also, unironically, good luck with buying and/or ordering food in Japan if you're allergic to soy, buckwheat, fish, or shellfish.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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