Food Allergies and Dietary Restrictions in Japan

gaijinpot.com -- May 13
There are many vegans, vegetarians and people who otherwise have to avoid certain types of food for medical, religious or other reasons living in Japan. It’s not impossible to cut certain products out of your life, but it is more difficult in Japan than in other countries.

It might be surprising that a country that prides itself on soy products and healthy living puts meat in practically everything. While veganism and meat-free options are becoming the norm in Western countries, it’s still considered niche in Japan—especially outside the big cities.

Some restaurants might not be accustomed or willing to change an order. Others don’t consider fish as meat, so your “vegetarian salad” might come sprinkled with fish flakes. Thus, if you have an allergy or dietary restriction, you’ll likely need to specifically mention it to the restaurant before ordering.

Reading labels is very important if you have any restrictions on what you can eat. There are many ingredients in traditional Japanese products and dishes that could catch you off guard. Check out our article on supermarket shopping in Japan for a comprehensive list of food terminology.

There are only seven possible food allergens that companies are legally obligated to list if they are included in recipes. Search the label for アレルギー (allergy) or 含む (fukumu,“may include”).