Although this is not applicable to me, for many people coming to another country can cause anxiety because they have allergies. Sometimes allergy some minor things like hay fever for example however some people can have major anaphylactic reactions to certain products.
This post is to fold the first post this post will be a guide on how to navigate Japanese food labels and restaurants. The second part of this post will be an awareness post on allergies in Japan.
Under Japanese law there are 7 foods or ingredients that must be labelled on food packaging and these are: shrimp (えび), crab (かに), wheat (小麦), buckwheat (そば or 蕎麦), eggs(卵), milk (乳), and peanuts (落花生).
There are more foods that may cause a deathly reaction and an epipen to be used and that is the first problem: what are you allergic to? Because there are so many other allergens, you must look up in Japanese, ideally before you travel, what you are allergic to. A handy phrase would be:
______アレルギーがあります。I’m allergic to_____.
A person I know who moved to Japan is allergic to bananas and must be careful with any confectionery product because it’s an ingredient that is used everywhere.
In restaurants, the 7 allergens will be listed in Japanese on the menu if not apparent e.g. “egg salad” contains egg. If you are allergic to anything else, research before you arrive. Most menus are available online and even if you only have the ingredient that you are allergic to, you can usually see if they have it.
Additionally you can ask! If you don’t speak Japanese, use the phrase above and the waiter/waitress will help you out.
In addition to the 7, there are an additional 20 ingredients that can voluntary be put on packaging. These 20 can roughly be separated into 4 groups: nuts (walnuts, cashews etc), fruits (oranges, bananas etc.), meat (pork, fish roe etc.), and other (gelatine). This is down to the manufacturer of each product and you need to be aware of this fact when buying food.
Furthermore, there is always a risk of cross-contamination because even though there are extremely high standards of food manufacturing in Japan, allergies seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
The reaction to allegies
Japan is becoming more aware of allergens and allergies as the number of sufferers increases globally. One brilliant example of this is Mos Burger. This fast food chain has released a range of low allergen products in an effort to allow people with severe allergies to still enjoy their food.
According to the ministry for health, it is estimated that around half of the Japanese population have some sort of reaction to some foods.
Japan is known for having a hey fever problem and there are many medications for this and others. There are 5 types of medicines for allergies in Japan:
• General allergy medicines (the best I would say is Claritin EX [loratadine 10mg] which is a pharmacy only product, or contac Z [cetirizine HCl 10mg]- if you can take these. There are many other ones but the list of contras(contra indications e.g. Don’t take if you have X or not for people who are Y) does get quite long.
• Eye drops. Many people use medicated eye drops to stop an inflammatory reaction occurring.
• Eye washes. None medicated option to clean the eye of irritants
• Nadal sprays. To stop the airways reacting to allergens or to prevent this reaction
• Epi pen.
I hope this guide is helpful if your travelling to Japan.
Thank you for reading and happy exploring.