In March 2008 (over Spring Break) I will be visiting Tokyo and Kyoto with my husband and our two daughters for 10 days.
The problem: Our daughters (ages 11 and 14) are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and all legumes including soy protein products such as a miso and tofu. As you can imagine, this trip will be very challenging for us. Our daughters wear Medic Allert Bracelets and carry Epi-Pens.
Why are we coming to Japan? My daugthers are in love with Japanese pop culture, Manga, Anime, and Japanese food. They BEGGED us to go there "next Spring break." We have travelled to many places around the world as a family, so I figured that with enough planning, it could be do-able. Nevertheless, I'm extremely nervous about this.
Let me explain about legume allergy: a person is usually allergic to the PROTEIN that is present in the legume. In case you didn't know, peanuts are legumes. Soybeans and green peas are legumes. They are all part of the same botanical family to some extent.
We live in the San Francisco Bay area and eat Japanese food all the time.
My daughters CAN eat teriyaki sauce and soy sauce, because the protein is removed in the fermentation process. But the protein is still present in tofu, miso, soy flour, and of course soybeans themselves. For example, my daugthers eat sushi, chicken kaarge, katsu, teriyaki meats, tempura shrimp and some veggies, and plain rice. They cannot eat miso soup, salads sprinkled with peanuts, edamame, meats marinated in miso, or anything that blatantly contains the soyBEANS or tofu products. Or, of course, any type of nuts or nut oils.
Noodles made from beans (mung beans, which are a legume) are also a problem.
Fortunately, my girls are NOT allergic to sesame seeds or sesame oil!
Because we are not Asian and do not know the Japanese language, we plan to have a series of cards made that explain, in Japanese, about their food allergies.
Here's what I'm most concerned about: that waitresses or chefs will not fully understand the seriousness of the allergy. From what I've read, food allergies are not widely encountered or understood in Japan. I'm afraid that waitresses and/or chefs will just smile and nod to placate us...putting our kids in danger. Of course, we plan to only stick to familiar foods...no "food tasting adventures" for my kids. If need be, they could subsist on rice, sushi, fruits, and some packaged foods we'll bring. Or we could resort to McDonalds (for example) or Italian food.
I'm not sure exactly what our food allergy card should say to communicate the seriousness of the issue to waitstaff or cooks. How can we communicate that this is a serious issue that is life-threatening to my kids, not just a silly food preference?
If any of you have had experience with this issue, I would love to hear from you. I need your advice and suggestions.
For example, someone on an Expat forum told me last month to avoid curry houses in Tokyo, because many Japanese curries are made with peanuts. This is the sort of thing I need to know. I am also a bit confused about noodles and noodle soups. Not sure which types of noodles are made from beans. Also not sure which types of soup bases/stocks would tend to be made with miso or contain tofu.
My kids may wind up eating a lot of English/American or Italian food while in Japan. Are these other ethnic foods usually true to ingredients? For example, do they ever put soy in hamburgers (McDonalds, Johnny Rockets, etc) or does soy or nuts show up in American or Italian cuisine where you wouldn't expect it to?
I want to thank Kristin, the forum moderator, for helping to approve my membership on this terrific forum.
I appreciate any help or advice any of you can give me.
Edited by FoodAllergyMom, 30 November 2007 - 07:10 PM.