Dining Out in Japan

A collection of handy things for eating out in Japan.

Filed under:  restaurants japan travel

Food packaging labeling for allergy-causing substances in Japan


Last year I uploaded a series of printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan. This is a follow-up of sorts to this, with some information about food package labelling and allergy-causing products.

There are 7 substances that must, by law, be indicated as being present on packaged foods that contain them in Japan. I've listed them below in this order: English: kanji: hiragana or katakana: roma-ji.

Then there are 18 other food substances that are recommended to be indicated if they're present.

About oranges - I do wonder if it includes satsuma and clementines and mandarins and such, which are called oranges in the west but are called 蜜柑 - mikan - in Japan. I guess logically it should. Anyway, if you are allergic to oranges including the 'mikan' kind watch out for the オレンジ label.

Here are two examples of allergy-food labels. This one just shows the 7 must-show substances, with a black dot under the ones that are in the food. (Remember that Japanese can be written horizontally left to right or vertically.)


The one below shows all 25 substances in a grid, with the ones that are in the product indicated in black. I think this one makes more sense and would like to see it standardized.


The point is to always look for the words that indicate whatever you are allergic to, even if your personal Kryptonite is not included in the substances listed above. And when in doubt, pull out one of your allergy-communicator cards and ask someone. Just pointing to a package, then showing your card, and saying, "OK?" with a helpless look on your face will be enough, I promise. Many people in Japan are quite happy with helping hapless visitors.

If you can read Japanese, there's an informative PDF on the Japanese government's Consumer Affairs Agency (消費者庁) site about allergy-causing food labeling: link to PDF.

See also: my related Quora answer here for a couple more labels.

The cute samurai warrior cat(?) character up top is the mascot of a non-profit food safety consumer hotline (Japanese only I'm afraid). Of course they have a cute mascot - it's Japan, what do you expect? ^_^

Filed under:  japanese japan allergies packaging

Printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan

IMG Dining out card

If you have any dietary restrictions, communicating them clearly can be an issue, especially when you don't speak the language. Here are a selection of print-and-cut sheets to bring along with you when you travel to Japan.

Each U.S. letter or A4 sized sheet has 10 business card sized cards that state a particular dietary requirement. You may want to show this to your server at a restaurant, or your host (if s/he speaks Japanese) so that they can explain things. If you're invited to someone's house for dinner, or you will be a house guest, you may want to give or send the appropriate card to your hosts in advance.

I've kept these cards as straightforward and simple as possible. If you have multiple allergies or eating restrictions, please combine the various cards as needed.

Usage and distribution: All of the PDFs listed on this page are free to downland and print. Please keep the link at the bottom of the page. Do not re-distribute by uploading the files to another site and so on. If you find these useful and want to spread the word about them, please point back to this page.

I think I have covered the most popular dietary restrictions here, but if you see one that is missing please mention it in the comments. I'll make the most requested ones as time allows. (Update: I've added several more, plus a fill-in-the-blank-with-your-allergy card.)

A caveat

Please note that ultimately, the responsibility of avoiding foods that can adversely affect you belongs to you, the consumer. These cards do not transfer that responsibility to the restaurant or whoever is serving you, but just helps them to help you.

The "I don't eat meat" card


Download PDF:

The "I don't eat meat or poultry but fish is ok" card for pescatarians


Download PDF:

The Vegetarian card (lacto-ovo)

See this page for tips on being a vegetarian or vegan in Japan. (Note, if you can relax your restrictions to allow yourself to have dashi, your life will be a lot more easier in Japan in practical terms.)


Download PDF:

The Vegan card (no lacto-ovo)

See this page for tips on being a vegetarian or vegan in Japan.


Download PDF:

The Wheat Allergy card


Download PDF:

The dairy allergy (lactose intolerence) card


Downlaod PDF:

The Nut Allergy card


Download PDF:

The Shellfish and Shrimp Allergy card


Download PDF:

The Soy Allergy card


Download PDF:

The fill-in-the-blank allergy card

Since it's impossible for me to cover every single food ellergy that people have, here is a fill in the blank card. Just look up the name of the food you are allergic to in Japanese (Google Translate is handy for this) and write it in the blank. Using roma-ji (writing out the word using the alphabet) is fine - everyone in Japan can read roma-ji. Even writing in the English word for whatever food you need to avoid is ok too.


Download PDF:

Some foods mentioned by people in the comments in Japanese in roma-ji:

The No Alcohol card

Keep in mind that if you absolutely must avoid alcohol, even if cooked, then you may have a hard time eating out in Japan and need to avoid traditional cuisine (washoku), even if it's vegan (i.e. shojin ryouri or Buddhist cuisine). See why and how alcohol is used in Japanese cooking.


Download PDF:

(Update: Food packaging labeling for allergy-causing substances in Japan.)

Filed under:  restaurants vegetarian vegan japan travel health and weight loss printables allergies