How to cope with allergies in Japan

I myself am subject to food allergies and that's what leads me to develop the topic today. This hypersensitivity to certain foods affects more and more people, especially children and babies, and must be taken very seriously. However, many travelers in Japan do not sufficiently master the Japanese language and therefore take risks or prohibit certain dishes for their own safety. I obviously support this difficulty, and through this post I want to deliver some keys to better deal with food allergies in Japan.

You should know first of all that the Japanese, for a while now, have given great importance to allergies. Numerous brands show on their products a list of the most common allergens (in Japan) and indicate if they are an ingredient in the composition or if they were used in the same factory. The law requires to show seven of them, but manufacturers are often more comprehensive.

Furthermore, empirically I can attest that restaurant owners generally take more seriously your request for information on the presence or absence of food that you are prohibited in their dishes. While in the West, the server sometimes tend to answer that "it's fine" without even checking, and obviously without measuring the potential danger, Japanese people will ask the chef who often will check thoroughly and even confirm with you. That's not systematic obviously, but once again, the quality of service and the Japanese sense of good work generally do wonders !

With the following translations, I propose a transcription which can be understood using our Kana method.

Vocabulary and Japanese food labels

In Japanese, "allergy" is spelled and pronounced :


I'm allergic to ___ ( ___ and ) :

私 は___ ( と___ )アレルギー が あります
Watashi wa ___ ( to ___ ) arerugi ga arimasu

This person is allergic to ___ :

この 方 は___アレルギー が あります
Kono kata wa ___ arerugi ga arimasu

I / he / she can not eat it :

食べて は いけません
Tabete wa ikemasen

The "ingredients" on a label (or "list of ingredients") :

材料 or 原材料名
zairyou or genzairyomei

Contains traces of ___ , ___ :

___ , ___を 含む
___ , ___ o komu

Manufactured in a facility that also manufactures products based on ___ :

本製品 の 製造 ライン で は, ___を 使用 した 製品 も 製造 しています
honseihin no seizou rain dewa ___ o shiyoushita seihin mo seizou shiteimasu

This ___ was conveyed by means also used to transport ___ , ____ :

___の 輸送設備 等 は___ , ___の 輸送 に も 使用 し て い ます
___ no yuzo setsutou wa ___ , ___ no yuzo ni mo shiyoushiteimasu

Medication :


Translation of allergenic ingredients

In Japan, the law requires that products using one or more of these seven food types indicate it on their labels :

  • egg : 卵 / たまご tamago
  • milk : 乳 / ちち or ミルク chichi or miruku
  • wheat : 小麦 / こむぎ komugi
  • buckwheat : そば soba
  • peanut : 落花生 / らっかせい or ピーナッツ rakkasei or pinattsu
  • shrimp : えび ebi
  • crab : かに kani

These are 材料7品目 zairyou nana hinmoku, the seven most common but also the most dangerous allergens responsible for angioedema or anaphylactic shock which can result in death.

Often, the labels also contain traces of other potentially dangerous products for food allergies :

  • gluten : 麸质 fushitsu or グルテン guruten
  • soy : 大豆 / だいず daizu
  • sesame : 胡麻 / ごま goma
  • almond : 杏仁 / きょうにん or アーモンド kyounin or aamondo
  • pistachio : ピスタチオ pisutachio
  • cream : クリーム kuriimu (sometimes 乳制品 nyuuseihin)
  • cheese : チーズ chiizu
  • butter : バター bataa
  • rice : 米 kome
  • fish : 鱼 sakana
  • crustaceans : 海产食品 kaisanshokuhin or シーフード shiifuudo
  • cocoa : ココア kokoa
  • apple : りんご ringo
  • banana : バナナ banana

Attention: Kanji (Japanese characters) can be combined, for example soy milk is written 豆乳 / とうにゅう tonyu. If you are lactose intolerant, avoid anything that contains the kanji 乳, regardless of their associations.

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Posted by Gael
Editor in chief
Gael is founder and responsible for Kanpai's publication. In love with Japanese culture, he travels to Japan regularly since 2003 and shares his information and tips.
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