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Peanut and shrimp allergies 2011/9/3 15:23
Hello! I will be staying in Japan for a year soon and wanted to know of any Japanese foods I should take into consideration for staying away from as I have allergies to peanuts and shrimp (other seafood is fine).

For example Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, etc.

I'll mainly be in Hiroshima in case anyone is familiar with the dishes there.
by bworrell  

rather than that 2011/9/3 17:58

Rather than remembering the names of all the dishes containing peanuts and shrimp, just remember these 5 words;

ピーナツ (peanuts)
ピーナッツ (peanuts)
落花生 ("rakkasei" meaning peanuts)
エビ ("ebi" meaning shrimp and prawns)
海老 (same as above but in kanji)
シュリンプ (shrimp)

Have someone reliable, such as your host parents or guarantor, translate the phrase "I am allergic to peanuts and shrimp." on a card and carry it around. While you're at it, have the above words confirmed. Don't rely on anonymous translaters on the internet like me.

When eating out or shopping food, look at the ingredients to make sure you don't see those Japanese words, and present the card to the waiter.

Peanuts and shrimp is like garnish here in Japan. They are not too difficult to avoid, but some dishes contain them while others don't. The good thing is that they are ranked in about the top 10 allergens for allergic people in Japan, so I'm sure it would be relatively easy to make yourself understood.

By the way, I assume you are not allergic to crab.

Bon Appetit!
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

... 2011/9/3 19:45

The above poster is absolutely right about carrying a card with you.

Be careful though because the general awareness of food allergies, especially to things like peanuts and seafood, is much lower in Japan than in the US, for example.

So, things may not be listed in the ingredients but actually are used in very small amounts. Restaurants often use these ingredients for "kakushi-aji" (hidden flavor) and the wait staff usually have no true idea about what's going on in the kitchen.

You should avoid family restaurants and in general large restaurants. Smaller, one-person spots like izakaya or teppan-yaki are better if only because usually one person is in charge of both preparation and cooking so he/she knows exactly what's on/in the menu.

It's only in very recent years that Japan has begun indicating cross-contamination warnings on some consumer products.

Also, do not trust convenience store labels or store employees. The labels are not 100% accurate and employees will give you best guess answers. The only way to get reliable nutritional information for conbini food is to ask a corporate employee (guys in suits who oversee franchises) or contact the corporate headquarters directly.

Many people spend time in Japan comfortably with severe food allergies but you have to assume the worst and do as much as you can to prepare your own food.

Lastly, if in a pinch, McDonalds is a good last resort option. Their nutritional information is reliable. They have surprisingly strict food preparation regulations and their cooking areas are designed specifically to maintain guidelines.
by kyototrans rate this post as useful

Thanks! 2011/9/4 07:58
Thanks for all of the information, it was very helpful. I think I'll be just fine getting around, the only worry I'd have is the garnish or toppings, but I can speak a decent amount of Japanese already and it's usually obvious if there are peanuts on top.
by bworrell rate this post as useful

Speaking from experience 2011/9/4 13:47

I would say that it is a bit misleading say that things may not be listed in the ingredients.

The law states that it is the duty of the retailers to list the top 7 allergens including shrimp and peanuts if they are included in the ingredients, and I feel that this is generally properly done even if the allergens are only included in the soup stock.

But I do admit that there are always human errors, and some restaurant owners may not have enough awareness. So if your allergy is very severe, you need to be caucious.

Actually though, the so-called "family restaurant"s and large chain restaurants are the more reliable ones as they usually have established a system and manual to make sure they keep themselves aware of allergens. I would worry more about chefs running their own business. Some are extremely aware, while some are not.

However, my son's egg allergy was serious enough to keep us with the doctor for more than 2 years in the early 90s and my husband is allergic to shrimp and crabs, but we never had a problem making ourselves understood. We did a lot of traveling, too, and it was fine. We do speak Japanese (we are natives) but no complicated explaining was ever necessary.

But the great thing is that this son of mine is now grown. From the years of experience, he and his father can see for themselves if an allergen was accidentally included or not. I'm sure you can, too.

Just find yourself a good doctor in Japan if necessary, and I'm sure you will do well.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Correction 2011/9/4 13:50
Sorry, I meant to write "misleading to say."
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Basic Understanding 2011/9/4 20:02
Thank you. The impression I've received from you all regarding how I should look out for my allergies seems to be the same as how I would do it here in America.

Which is basically just let any servers know what I can't have if I'm dining out, check the ingredients on the back of groceries I'm unfamiliar with and have an epipen around in case of emergency.

I'm guessing the concerns about not knowing if something is 100% peanut free is similar to how some packages in America say "may contain traces of peanuts".
by bworrell rate this post as useful

. 2011/9/5 15:40

Labels often mention that an allergen is used in the process or the same factory or that one of the live ingredients eats an allergen regularly.

Either way, just look out for those Japanese words I posted previously. Also, I forgot to note that "ebi" can also be written in hiragana えび

Additional to this, remember the word
アレルゲン (allergen)
Sometimes a label would say that none of the top 7 allergens are used in a merchandise.

If you notice any of these words, ask the store clerk to read it or simply ask if "ebi" and "peanuts" are included. Be sure you tell them you have
アレルギー ("a-re-ru-gii" meaning allergy).

And way back to the topic, most ready-made okonomiyaki has shrimp in it, but most takoyaki doesn't. But there's all kinds of fillings nowadays, so watch out.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

GMO 2011/9/7 15:38
Look out for GMO products -commonly spliced with peanut gene. Although it might not be one of the ingredients, you might be allergic to these products automatically on a micro-level.
by Donaldl rate this post as useful

GMO 2011/9/8 00:30
"Genetically-modified organisms" in Japanese is indicated as 遺伝子組み換え. It is the duty to mention it on the label if this is used. However, all the labels I've noticed so far says 遺伝子組み換えではない which means "No GMO used."

By the way, needless to say, one of the most reliable places to shop and dine for allergic people are the organic food stores and restaurants.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

Organic? 2011/9/8 12:52
I'm sorry, but I must say that a lot of the organic restaurants and supermarkets in Japan, at least in the areas I've lived, are a joke.

"Partially organic", as in, we use some organic ingredients or throw on an organic garnish and label ourselves organic, is very common. Most "organic" supermarkets have a small percentage of organically grown vegetables and free-range meat products but the majority of their products and "healthy looking" to go along with the drab, hemp decor of the store to make it look more "organic".

One of the interesting things about living in Japan is that there are many opportunities to by produce directly from the source, or much closer to the source, than I ever experienced growing up in Chicago.

Even in Tokyo, depending on the neighborhood, there are routes for buying from trusted sources.

My point is, if you have severe allergies, or if you just want to experience a new level of health, buy whole foods from trusted sources and prepare your meals yourself.

In the end, there are very few people in business that take and maintain the high moral and ethical standards when it comes to organic production.
by kyototrans rate this post as useful

yes 2011/9/9 19:10
By the way, needless to say, one of the most reliable places to shop and dine for allergic people are the organic food stores and restaurants.

Uco, you are right. Unlike many major countries, Japan has one of the strictest regulated label certified food products. Organic means 100% organic. Soil is tested for organic produce after left barren for 7 years to allow all chemicals to leach off from previous crops. Farm is located away from pesticide and chemical fertilized sprays or GMO. Moreover, organic farm produce tastes sweeter, and skin is micro-thin-you will taste the difference-you will have the confidence in getting the real stuff.
by Donaldl rate this post as useful

Sorry for the confusion 2011/9/9 22:25
I'm sorry, to avoid confusion, what I meant was that a lot of allergic Japanese travellers in Japan tend to rely on shops/restaurants in the order of the following;

1. Organic (shizen-shokuhin) shops/restaurants

2. Large organizations that work on detailed manuals

3. Small places run by indivisuals

I'm not at all saying that all organic places are reliable. I'm saying that if you are travelling and you don't know people/sources directly and you need to choose from random shops and restaurants without recommendations, that would be your order of priorities. And the reason organic places are respected is because they tend to know what you're talking about when you speak about allergy.

By the way, "shizen-shokuhin" is not to be confused with "kenko-shokuhin" which is usually suspicious. Also, again I would like to mention that indivisual owners are often very aware and educated about allergy. It's just that it would be difficult to distinguish these owners when you are a stranger in town.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

word translations 2011/9/10 06:24
I noticed there was one mis-leading part in my previous message, so I would like to clarify as follows;

"organic" in Japanese is 有機 (yuuki).

自然食品 (shizen-shokuhin) means "natural foods" and usually consists of a lot of organic material.

健康食品 (kenko-shokuhin) means "health foods" but usually are suppliments and special drug-store-oriented foods.
by Uco (guest) rate this post as useful

food allergies and japan 2011/9/12 06:41
well, the previous posters gave you great info. i'm just adding my 2 cents...

i have a very very sensitive allergy to fish. not shellfish like you but the opposite. basically, if i have fish i will asphyxiate and die. imagine how scary that can be in a place where fish and fish stock is added to many foods! but obviously i survived and it wasn't that hard to avoid dishes that would set off my allergy. just ask what's in the dishes and how it was prepared. i found out that some things that didn't technically have fish in them as a main ingredient actually had fish or fish stock as a hidden flavor...a no no for me.
also, let people know what your allergy is and what will happen if you consume food you are allergic too... waiters and cooks took me more seriously after they realized i would die if i accidently had fish and they'd remember that 'hidden flavor' was used and warn me about it. sometimes, in the small restaurants, they would make my dish with different ingredients just for me!
by hopuchan (guest) rate this post as useful

shrimp allergy 2011/9/23 15:52
I too am allergic to shrimp. I watch out for tempura (it is often included in set meals), and okonomiyaki (often incudes dried shrimp).

Wherever I go I say "ebi no arerugi ga arimasu" and most restaurants are accommodating.

Check out my book if you are coming to Japan for a year, it will help you even if you are not in Tokyo.

by YukariSakamoto rate this post as useful

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