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Food allergies/travel to Japan

Annapolis, Maryland
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83 posts
14 reviews
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Food allergies/travel to Japan

We are considering a big family trip to Japan, but my husband is concerned that my son who has food allergies to wheat/gluten, nuts, egg (he can eat a little egg when mixed into meatloaf or similar, but not fried egg directly), sesame, will have difficulty finding food he can eat there. We prefer not to have to cook ourselves. One concern is soy sauce often has wheat in it. Opinions/Restaurant suggestions would be appreciated--we would be fine with fast-food or chain restaurants if they would be better in accommodating his food allergies. My son would be fine with eating steak or hamburgers or deli meat while there. Or do you think we should not go to Japan and chose somewhere else to travel to? We do not speak Japanese, but would write up food allergy cards and learn some key phrase, which we have done in past when we went abroad (one time) Thank you.

Ise Sueyoshi
$$$$, Japanese, Seafood, Asian
Han no Daidokoro Kadochika
$$ - $$$, Barbecue, Asian, Korean
Han no Daidokoro
$$$$, Barbecue, Japanese, Steakhouse
Chicago, Illinois
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2,530 posts
28 reviews
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1. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

There are lots of threads on tripadvisor about this, so please search. One note: you'll find gluten-free restaurants in Tokyo, but that won't be common in smaller cities.

Japan
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2. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

Do some prep and you will be fine. Check the gluten/celiac traveler web page http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/japanese/

Also, Japan takes its ingredients very seriously so you are much less likely to find good restaurants mixing wheat/flour into rice, wasabi or good soy.

Annapolis, Maryland
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83 posts
14 reviews
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3. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

Thank you both for your replies. We will definitely bring the allergy cards. From reading past posts, it seemed that food allergies were not as prevalent or accommodated in Japanese restaurants, but perhaps they are now more recently. Do you find that Japanese restaurants would be willing, for example, to not use soy sauce in a dish since it contains wheat?

Japan
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732 posts
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4. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

It is very difficult to avoid gluten in Japan. Even more so when you cannot read the ingredients. Personally, i would find a place to stay where you can cook. Even if you can find a way to ask for food to be specially prepared, you never know about cross contamination issues. People here really don't get what gluten is. There is a facebook page for gluten free travel (gluten free expats- I believe is the name) where many people post about restaurants they have found. I am celiac and I NEVER eat out in Japan!

Japan
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3,831 posts
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5. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

I have toured with several celiacs and eating out was not a problem - we had done our research and provided some of the places we stayed with advance warning (one place even found us gluten free bread for the included breakfast which was nice).

Massachusetts
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306 posts
50 reviews
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6. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

I've also traveled with someone who is gluten and dairy intolerant. We did our homework, she had a list of options, and it was not much of a problem. The buffet breakfast at big hotels had ingredients clearly labeled and were really good for her. Luckily she loves sashimi and some places had tamari for her. She brought quite a supply of gluten free snack bars and nuts, but hardly ate any of them.

West Hartford...
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134 posts
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7. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

I think it would be really difficult to avoid wheat in all its permutations as a filler and ingredient. Perhaps contact major hotels in advance and ensure they can accommodate you before booking. Bring your own soy sauce so you could try sushi/sashimi without worry. Perhaps consider a tour with a guide who can help with communication?

Los Angeles, CA
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161 posts
53 reviews
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8. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

I would create an allergy warning card in Japanese. I have a son who is allergic to nuts. Last time I visited my family in Japan and dined out quite a bit, I was surprised how much their attitude towards food allergies have changed since I lived there 30 years ago.

Some larger chains will have a whole binder that contains allergen information. However, you probably won't have the same experience if you go to a smaller, moms & pops owned type restaurant (which is a lot more common in Japan). So I would stick to a larger chain or even American chain. Most wait staff won't know much information but probably will bring the binder so you can look. (most likely will be in Japanese though). It's very challenging when you can't speak the language. :(

I don't know if you can cut and paste without fonts getting messed up but here you go:

私はセリアック病です。厳密なグルテンフリーの食事療法に従わなければなりません。

小麦、ライ麦、大麦、オーツ麦、オートの含まれている料理は避けなければならないので、教えてください。

また、卵、ゴマ、落花生アレルギーもあるのでご了承ください。(this part says i'm allergic to eggs, sesame and nuts)

Good luck!

Los Angeles, CA
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161 posts
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9. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

And one thing I will have to say about Japan. Most restaurant won't carry soy sauce alternative things. Specially smaller, individually owned restaurants. A LOT of things are pre-made, for example, ramen soups are cooked for hours ahead of time. So there are just so too many things that they can't just "replace". I know this because I cook a lot of Japanese food at home. So many Japanese cuisines use many different ingredients to get that perfect flavor.

It will be challenging. But with careful planning and research, I think it's do able. It's just that the food options will be very very limited. :(

Annapolis, Maryland
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83 posts
14 reviews
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10. Re: Food allergies/travel to Japan

Thank you so much for the suggestions and for the allergy card help (which we will definitely use and incorporate). It is good to hear that the attitude toward food allergies has changed over time. I have been looking into chain/American restaurants. It seems that Subway and McDonald's are there, which he can eat the deli meat and hamburger (without the bread). I have also found a Chipotle type chain (that is Australian) that is in Japan. I found a Japanese fast food chain whose name I forget that sells hamburgers on rice cakes/rice flour cakes, which I have emailed to check if suitable for my son. There seem to be a lot of Denny's there, too, and at least in the US, their steak if Gluten-free. Any other suggestions of other Japanese/non-Japanese chains to look into would also be appreciated.

Thank you.