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Japan with Soy/Peanut-Allergic Kids


FoodAllergyMom
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I really hope that you guys can give me some assistance.

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.

Thank you,

Lynn

Edited by FoodAllergyMom (log)
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I can't help with you stuff in Japan, but I can commiserate with you. My 10 year old is peanut, tree nut, sesame, shellfish, squid and coconut allergic, and he fairly recently outgrew soy and egg allergies.

We're Japanese-American (I'm half, DH is full), and trying to find imported Japanese products that were safe for my son was something of a crap shoot.

What I would do in your shoes is to find someone who can write in Japanese, and translate one of those food allergy dining cards.

Cheryl

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Just to be sure, your children aren't hyper-sensitive to legumes? i.e. they can eat food that has been prepared in the same environment as legumes, as long as there are no legumes in what they're eating? (Or for example, if you ate a legume and then kissed them, they wouldn't have a reaction?)

I'm finding these days that a lot more restaurants are more sensitive to food allergies in Japan. Some places signs that note which common food allergens are contained in their dishes (like wheat, egg, soy).

That being said, you might be better off sticking to places that specialize in the Japanese foods your children can eat (like tonkatsu places--but avoid the sauces which may have miso, or tempura places), or also Japanese family restaurants which may be more likely to have those signs I mentioned above. You just may end up eating at Italian, Indian, Turkish, etc. places more than Japanese to be on the safe side, but I think you will be able to get at least some Japanese food.

I forgot to mention, make sure you get the kanji, katakana, and hiragana for the foods your children are allergic to. Even at bakeries, you won't find much romaji (English alphabet), so if you have the ingredients written down in Japanese, you can check them against labels or such.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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DAIZU-ARERUGII = soy allergy

(totemo binkan = very sensitive (to soy))

(inochi ni sawaru = life-threatening)

SHOKUBUTSU-ABURA = vegetable oil, usually contains soy

MAME-RUI = legumes

NATSU-RUI / KI-NO-MI = nuts

BIRYOU = trace, tiny amount

I'm allergic to soybeans too, and to a lesser extent, other legumes and various nuts.

The baddies are green soybeans (pure evil!), whole soybeans (of course), fried tofu (more because of the oil or the heating than from the actual tofu), and toasted soybean powder (kinako), with cotton tofu (drained tofu, "momen-doufu") trailing a way behind. Silken tofu (kinugoshi-doufu) is somewhat more allergenic.

Properly fermented soy products cause me much less grief - that includes soy sauce, miso, and natto (in the amount that I eat them, anyway). Dark red miso (aka-miso, hatchou-miso) is made mostly or entirely from soybeans, with little or no added rice or barley. If they are fermented for less than 2-3months though, the protein is not broken down properly.

Badly made cheap soy sauce is not fermented, so it's worth carrying a substitute soy sauce.

Soy-free "soy" sauce - best known brand is "Daizu-non Shoyu" (There is also a "daizu-non Miso"). These are made from things like barnyard grass, foxtail millet, sesame seeds etc.

If you like to PM me your address in Japan, I'll buy you a bottle and post it to your hotel ready for you (there's a healthfood shop near where I live).

EATING OUT OPTIONS favored by Japanese soy-allergy sufferers

Sushi shop and bring your own soy sauce (because neither soy oil nor soy sauce is used in the preparation of the sushi, BUT don't buy negi-toro (chopped tuna fillings or toppings) as they often have soy oil mixed with them).

Italian restaurants (but watch the salad dressing - and some salad bars use a little oil to prevent raw vegetables from drying out).

Other words to know (collated from a Japanese soy allergy site:

VERY STRONGLY ALLERGENIC

Soy = daizu

Black soybeans = kuro-mame

Soybean oil = daizu-abura. Sesame oil (goma abura) MAY have traces of soy.

Green soybeans boiled in the pod = eda-mame

Tofu lees = okara

Soy milk = tounyuu

Nuts = natsu (likely to be fried in soy oil, same danger for tempura or other fried goods)

Peanut butter = piinatsu-bataa

Vegetable oil = sarada-abura (salad oil), shokubutsu-abura (vegetable oil)

Therefore...tempura, margarine (maagarin), mayonnaise (meyonneezu), crisps (poteto-chippusu), donuts (donatsu), popped-rice snacks (pon-gashi) also need to be avoided. Assume that cakes with cream may have oil in them too. Some fish products - mirin-boshi or dried fish usually with seeds sprinkled on them, and some smoked fish. Tunafish sandwiches (tsuna-sando) and tunafish onigiri (sea-chicken onigiri, tsuna-mayo onigiri). Dried fruits often coated with soy oil (dorai-furuutsu). Nori - yaki-nori or plain grilled laver seaweed sheets is OK, but aji-nori/ajitsuke-nori (seasoned laver sheets) or Kankoku-nori (Korean seasoned laver sheets) usually have oil on the surface.

STRONGLY ALLERGENIC

Chocolate=chokoreeto

Cookies = kukkii

Snacks = sunakku-gashi

Senbei = fried senbei (age-senbei)

Instant foods = kappu-raamen (instant noodles)

Fried items = furai, also watch out for meatballs, fried potatoes etc

Fried tofu = aburage

Curry = karee (soy oil)

RELATIVELY ALLERGENIC

Toasted soybean powder = kinako (used in confectionery, light brown powder)

Azuki = azuki, anko (bean jam - watch out for youkan (beanjam jelly) or manjuu (baked or steamed goodies with beanjam inside them)

Beancurd = tofu

Dried beancurd = koya-doufu

White beans = ingen-mame

Green beans = saya-ingen, guriin-biinzu

Snow-peas = saya-endou

Green peas = guriin-piizu, endou-mame

WEAKLY ALLERGENIC

Fermented sticky soybeans = nattou

Fermentend soybean paste = miso

Soy sauce = shouyu

Beansprouts = moyashi (daizu-moyashi are soybean sprouts, usually mung bean sprouts are used). I think it's best to avoid beansprouts, as individual sensitivity varies.

UNKNOWN

beanthread vermicelli = harusame

emulsifiers = nyuukazai (canned milky drinks, cocoa)

flavorings = kouryou which include soy elements/derivatives (daizu-seibun)

Substitutes:

(pure= junsui, 100% = hyaku-paasento))

olive oil = oriibu-abura

Rapeseed oil = natane abura

Safflower oil = benibana abura

Sunflower oil = himawari abura

Imo-youkan = sweet-potato jelly, substitute for bean-jam jelly, make sure it's not WHITE BEAN beanjam jelly or shiro-youkan. I think green tea youkan is also made from white beans).

Tokyo Disneyland

Hokusai, Polynesian Terrace, Eastside Cafe all have children's meals that are low-allergenic (free of the most common allergens) - some list these on the menu, some are available on request, according to a blog I checked.

Family Restaurant Chains

Seems that almost all have a "low allergy plate" (tei-arerugii pureeto") mostly aimed at children with allergies. Usually spaghetti, hamburger steak, curry.

OOPS! I checked some more and they don't include SOY in their list of "5 top allergenic foods" so you would need to check separately. However there is a good chance that family restaurants with low allergy plates can deal with soy allergy.

I think some take-out sushi places have low-allergy packs, but unable to confirm.

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I would suggest that whatever card or message you might use, you can never be really sure that you've been understood fully. So if there is any question of life-threatening problems, consider it your responsibility to prevent them, not the card's or the restaurant's. I know that probably sounds really obvious, but it's far better to be safe than sorry. Personally I wouldn't want to just flash a card and hope for the best, except, maybe, at a 5-star hotel. Ambulances don't seem to move too fast here (a leisurely 25-30 mph seems to do it -- when you're in Tokyo, check this out for yourself), so you definitely don't want to be relying on one of those to save your bacon.

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I don't think waiters/waitresses will smile and ignore you, I think they are more likely to usher you out of the restaurant!

The problem is that buying food at the convenience store is likely to be just as risky. It's possible that family restaurants (big chains) will be your mainstay, but of course they tend to be more common in suburbs or residential areas than in downtown areas. If you care to PM your hotel locations, I can send you a map with the closest family restaurants marked.

You must be ready to deal with the fact that soybean oil is the most commonly used (=cheapest) vegetable oil, so anything that contains oil or has been fried is a risk, unless you are in really specialist restaurants.

People with really severe soy allergies in Japan tend to avoid eating out, period. Or they stick to sushi, as I mentioned above. With Italian restaurants, check that it's olive oil, not the dreaded "vegetable oil" that is being used.

However, if you think you can deal with it, why not post the things you want translated and either another Japanese eGullet member (hint hint) or myself in consultation with my husband (who is also a career translator) will send you what you want. The problem is that Japanese fonts may not display on your computer, so it may be necessary to post hard copy to your hotel.

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FAST FOOD

Information from various blogs, websites

Macdonalds (2006)

frying oil is soybean oil plus some kind of suet

The Macdonalds Japan allergy page lists no items as free of soybeans or not fried in soybean oil.

Wendy's (2006)

frying oil is 100% palm oil

Mos Burger

Drinks OK except for Coffee Milk

Kid's Menu Chicken Vegetable Rice Burger OK

Green salad OK

Apple (Ringo) Jelly OK

Kodomo Niko-niko (fruit and vegetables)

Toast OK

Convenience Stores (7-11)

Lists soybean as ingredients in frankfurters, yakitori (grilled chicken) and all the oden ingredients I checked (oden is various stuff simmered in broth, will still be in stores in early spring).

There are rumors that vegetable oil is used to prevent rice lunchboxes and onigiri (rice balls) from drying out, but I can't confirm this. You should check with counter staff, and if I can find out, I will post again.

*Calpis drink and corn soup both contain soy products as emulsifiers.

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You must be ready to deal with the fact that soybean oil is the most commonly used (=cheapest) vegetable oil, so anything that contains oil or has been fried is a risk, unless you are in really specialist restaurants.

People with really severe soy allergies in Japan tend to avoid eating out, period. Or they stick to sushi, as I mentioned above. With Italian restaurants, check that it's olive oil, not the dreaded "vegetable oil" that is being used.

It's not that much different in the US when it comes to the use of soy oil... it's by and large one of the cheapest oils here too.

That said, according to experts, most (but not all) soy allergic individuals can tolerate soy lecithin and heat pressed soy oil, as they are practically devoid of protein.

The only decent substitute that I ever found for soy sauce here in the US is something a health food company calls Ume Plum Vinegar... yup, it's the brine from umeboshi. :laugh: Salt content is the same as the Kikkoman shoyu that is made here in the US.

Cheryl

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Thank you all so much for your suggestions and comments so far! Please keep them coming! I will respond to individual posts in a few days.

In the mean time, here is a general reply to a couple of posts:

Regarding soybean oil -- My kids do not seem to have a problem with soybean oil. I assume that this is because the protein has been removed in the process of making the oil. I'm not sure if soybean oil would be different in Japan -- or if cheaper versions of the oil would in fact be more allergic. All I know is that they eat foods with soybean oil and soy lecthin all the time and have never had reactions to them.

Regarding responsibility -- I am well aware that ultimately the responsibility for our kids' wellbeing lies on the shoulders of me and my husband. Here at home, my kids don't eat any packaged foods without ingredients listed. And when we eat out, we always "ask", and we order foods that have a low likelihood of containing soy or nuts, such has pasta, burgers, pizza, salads, etc.

Initially I was not in favor or visiting an Asian country because of our kids' allergies. My husband and kids put a lot of pressure on me, pointing out that we have been all over the world (New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada, Hawaii, Caribbean, various US States, France, London, Ireland) and nothing has ever happened. What makes this the MOST challenging trip is the lack of common character set -- and we don't read Japanese! It's a much tougher language barrier than we've ever been up against before, and it makes me very nervous.

We have been extremely lucky because our girls have never had a life-threatening reaction and have never been rushed to the hospital. In fact, they have never had to use their Epi-Pens. We discovered the allergy when my older daugther began mysteriously vomiting after eating "something" at around 18 months old. She would eat the mystery food and suddenly vomit about 20 minutes later. That was it. No hives, nothing else. We finally narrowed it down to peanuts. We had her tested by the allergist (skin prick test) and sure enough, peanuts and other types of nuts and legumes were off the scale.

She didn't develop the soy/legume allergy until later. In fact, she used to love tofu. Then it started making her throat itch around age 4. Then other foods containing soy protein made her throat itch and her lips swell. That was when I discovered that soy and peanuts are botanically related and have avoided it ever since. (The allergist never pointed this out to me...I'm still upset with him about it). At that point, I began doing a lot of research on my own to educate myself about "legumes." I know a LOT more now than I did 10 years ago. If I had known all this information back then, I would never have let my daughter eat tofu!

My older daughter hasn't had a reaction to peanuts since she was 3 years old, mainly because we have avoided the allergens very carefully. Her younger sister accidently took a bite of a peanut butter cookie at age 5, and after that she also tested positive to the exact same things...peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes.

The allergist tells us that we cannot rest on our laurels about this. Just because they have never had an anaphalyactic reaction so far doesn't mean it won't happen in the future. He tells us that it could happen at any time, for no apparent reason. In other words, if a food only made her thoat itch now, it might cause a serious reaction in the future with no warning. As a parent, you can understand how this terrifies me. So we try our best to keep them away from foods that could cause a reaction and possibly make things worse.

We are also extremely fortunate that our girls do not react to allergens being "in the air." They do feel a bit queasy if they smell peanut butter strongly, but that is all. If they touch peanuts, they do not have a reaction. If they did, we could never travel anywhere. I know people like that -- they cannot take any airplane trips!

We are crossing our fingers that our girls will grow out of their food allergies. My husband hates nuts, particularly peanuts, and had "mystery vomiting" when he was a child. He has never been tested, but we assume he HAD peanut allergy. But now he can eat some peanut and it doesn't affect him. He still hates the smell and wouldn't voluntarily have a peanut butter sandwich, for example. So we are hoping that our daughters follow suit. They say that 20% of people do outgrow it. I hope we're in that percentage!

Edited by FoodAllergyMom (log)
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You're braver than I am... I stopped flying with the kids after Jason's allergies were diagnosed because the thought of being up in a flying tin can full of recycled air after 100 people open their peanut bags was just too much for my nerves.

Jason has outgrown roughly half of his food allergies, but we're treating the remainder as lifelong.

He has had 2 anaphylactic reactions, but they were to things that we didn't know that he was allergic to at the time... an antibiotic and squid.

Cheryl

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Hi Lynn,

I am glad you were able to make it onto the boards. I knew you would get some great information here as a couple of our members deal with allergies themselves.

Since neither my husband nor I and my 3 kids have any allergies I have never had to deal with this in restaurants but I have noticed more and more labeling of products with possible allergens in the past couple years.

Though it may end up being very long, I recommend writing down almost every individual food that may be a problem rather than a broad category like just daizu (soy bean). I would keep several copies of this as well. In chain style family restaurants there is a good chance that the waitress will have no idea what is in the food and she may need to take it back into the kitchen to check.

On two different occasions I was eating with 2 different vegetarian friends and they both stressed quite clearly 'no meat' yet one was served a salad with bacon and the other was served a soup with bacon, luckily this was not an allergy but sometimes the waitresses really don't have a clue.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Mom of Little Foodies, plum brine is a great idea (my homemade stuff is dreadfully salty, so I never thought of that, though I use a home-made mashed ume "sauce" that isn't dried like umeboshi).

Fish sauce (pronounced nan-puraa in Japanese, or rarely, gyo-shou) also *shouldn't* contain soy.

I'm glad to hear that FoodAllergyMom's daughters don't have really severe problems - otherwise traveling here would be dificult and very worrying!

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The funny thing is that I didn't initially buy this umeboshi brine as a shoyu substitute, I bought it because I thought it would be tasty sprinkled over fresh cucumber (and it is). It was after doing that, that it occurred to me that it would make a good substitute for small amounts of shoyu.

When I was about 10, my mom brought home a small jar of umeboshi for the first time, and I think I ate half the jar in one sitting. I love the stuff. :laugh:

It never occurred to me to try fish sauce as a substitute.

Cheryl

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You're braver than I am... I stopped flying with the kids after Jason's allergies were diagnosed because the thought of being up in a flying tin can full of recycled air after 100 people open their peanut bags was just too much for my nerves.

Just a general comment regarding legume allergies and plane flights. I recall that Singapore Airlines actually provides a nut free flight (for all passengers) should they be advised of a passenger with severe allergies. Perhaps other airlines do the same?

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You're braver than I am... I stopped flying with the kids after Jason's allergies were diagnosed because the thought of being up in a flying tin can full of recycled air after 100 people open their peanut bags was just too much for my nerves.

Just a general comment regarding legume allergies and plane flights. I recall that Singapore Airlines actually provides a nut free flight (for all passengers) should they be advised of a passenger with severe allergies. Perhaps other airlines do the same?

The airlines in the US are kind of hit or miss in that regard. A handful of airlines don't serve peanuts at all, some that will accommodate by not serving peanuts to a "zone" around the allergic passenger, and some that will make accommodations sometimes. There is at least one domestic US airline which will remain nameless that refuses to make accommodations and have actually kicked peanut allergic passengers off of flights.

Cheryl

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I'm no expert on anything in this topic, but I was just wondering, FoodAllergyMom, if you have the means to hire a personal tourguide/translator to accompany your family for at least part of your trip--somebody on the spot to explain the allergy issue in terms that restaurant staff would understand. It might be worth it just for the peace of mind. Good luck to you and your family--have fun!

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http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ may be able to help finding interpretation services. Considering the complexity of your needs it may be worthwhile. Also, it may be possible to find a student or friend-of-a-friend who can accompany you to restaurants for just transportation and food costs.

I remember that such services were available at FoodEx (for exhibitors and attendees) and the cost for non-professional interpreters were not unreasonable.

It's quite unusual for restaurant staff to make the leap between a list of allergens or unacceptable ingredients to non-trivial cases, too... As a vegetarian, I've noticed that shrimp (ebi) isn't considered meat or fish, katsuo-dashi (bonito soup stock) is too much trouble to avoid, and that unexpected surprises are pretty common (like a salad covered with a cracker made mostly of dried shirasu, tiny fish, not mentioned in the menu description in Japanese at all). With your soy allergy, some restaurants might skip miso soup, but not think about the small amount of miso from a miso pickle or eggplant side dish.

Substitution requests aren't generally entertained in Japan, either, though this seems to be slowly changing.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had wanted to reply sooner but I've been really busy. My husband and I run a home-based business and he was travelling last week, leaving me to do everything myself -- no time for extra stuff!

Anyway, I really appreciate everyone's help in this matter. It's very confusing.

I'm not sure if it would work out to have someone actually accompany us to restaurants, as we have no idea exactly where we'll be eating at any given time. My husband is opposed to the idea of a stranger being with us (although I don't have a problem with it). I was pitching the ideas of hiring a tour guide but he doesn't like that idea. He has been to Tokyo and feels that we can get around by ourselves. I wish he wasn't so stubborn on this matter. We've argued about it on and off for the last few months.

I expect that we'll probably eat breakfast at our hotel, so once we get our hotel kitchen squared away with the food allergy information, that should be good. We plan to stay at a very good hotel like the Royal Park Hotel or the Dai-ichi Hotel (haven't made the reservation yet but will soon).

Lunch and dinner will most likely be when we're out and about seeing the sights. This is when it will get complicated. We plan to stick to foods we're more familiar with, such as sushi, rice, and grilled meats that aren't marinated. Or non-Japanese food like hamburgers or pasta. I'm sure we'll also take packaged stuff from home with us in a backpack, just in case.

Are there translation services that are available by phone? I'm thinking about a service I can call, where I tell them in English what needs to be said, and then give the phone to the chef to hear the translation. Ideally, it would be good if I could establish a relationship with the translation company so that they know "my story" in advance (to save time explaining it every time). Am I just pipedreaming, or does such a service exist?

I'm also trying to decide whether to get the "food allergy card" made by one of the companies that makes them, or to have some of you guys (or a translation service) help me make a custom card. The ones you buy from various companies are rather limited in what they say.

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I have to wonder about the effectiveness of the cards.

Personally, I think there is no substitute for having a native speaker there to reinforce the seriousness of the issue, AND to make sure that your needs are being taken seriously and properly conveyed to the kitchen. A native speaker gives you a much better chance of accomplishing the above.

I can't help but think that some restaurants won't take your needs seriously enough, since they tend to be less used to accommodating special needs/requirements.

I don't think you need a tour guide, but a dinner companion/friend would be a good idea for your major meals, and could also enhance your overall dining experience.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Are there translation services that are available by phone? I'm thinking about a service I can call, where I tell them in English what needs to be said, and then give the phone to the chef to hear the translation. Ideally, it would be good if I could establish a relationship with the translation company so that they know "my story" in advance (to save time explaining it every time). Am I just pipedreaming, or does such a service exist?

Coincidentally, I saw some information on this service recently. I think there was a pamphlet at the airport or something. When you need translation services, you call a number, and then the phone gets passed back and forth between you and the person you're communicating with, while a person on the other end interprets for you. At the time, I thought, "Who would want to use a service like this???" but now I can see the need. When I drop my mother off at the airport in January, I'll see if I can find the info again. It might be useful, though, if you were to also rent a cell phone while you're here, so you'll always have access to a phone. I'm sure the places you'll be would let you use their phones, but if they're very busy, they might be less enthusiastic about the idea.

I'm also trying to decide whether to get the "food allergy card" made by one of the companies that makes them, or to have some of you guys (or a translation service) help me make a custom card. The ones you buy from various companies are rather limited in what they say.

I think you'd be better off finding a translator where you are, and having the card made there. Then you can be as specific as you want to be. You could just have the person write or type it on a piece of paper--it doesn't even have to be a card. Then have several copies made and have them laminated, too.

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I think that the only possible and safe solution will be to plan well advance where you will stay and eat, otherwise you may put your daughters in danger.

I totally agree with helen on these points:

I don't think waiters/waitresses will smile and ignore you, I think they are more likely to usher you out of the restaurant!

The problem is that buying food at the convenience store is likely to be just as risky. It's possible that family restaurants (big chains) will be your mainstay, but of course they tend to be more common in suburbs or residential areas than in downtown areas. If you care to PM your hotel locations, I can send you a map with the closest family restaurants marked.

You must be ready to deal with the fact that soybean oil is the most commonly used (=cheapest) vegetable oil, so anything that contains oil or has been fried is a risk, unless you are in really specialist restaurants.

People with really severe soy allergies in Japan tend to avoid eating out, period. Or they stick to sushi, as I mentioned above. With Italian restaurants, check that it's olive oil, not the dreaded "vegetable oil" that is being used.

However, if you think you can deal with it, why not post the things you want translated and either another Japanese eGullet member (hint hint) or myself in consultation with my husband (who is also a career translator) will send you what you want. The problem is that Japanese fonts may not display on your computer, so it may be necessary to post hard copy to your hotel.

If you could provide us with your itinerary, maybe we could give you some information about allergy-taiou (=accommodating) inns and restaurants, which aren't many, so you can make a memorable, safe, and homey journey.

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  • 6 months later...

We are planning a family vacation to Japan in November for about three weeks, staying mostly in the south on Shikoku, with trips planned to Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. While we are obviously looking forward to going, none of us have any idea of what to expect.

My daughter has a severe allergy to peanuts. To my (limited) knowledge, peanuts are not a huge part of Japanese cuisine, but could someone shed some light on this for me? Are food allergies taken as seriously over there as they are where I live?

We will (mostly) be in the company of a local, so I do not anticipate language being a barrier very often.

Thanks,

-- Matt.

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Allergies are tricky in Japan, but if your restrictions are pretty simple, things should be manageable.

Restaurants may not be as well equipped to understand or accommodate allergies as in the US.

Peanuts are mostly used in snacks in Japan, but it's possible you may find peanut oil in some foods.

We are planning a family vacation to Japan in November for about three weeks, staying mostly in the south on Shikoku, with trips planned to Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima.  While we are obviously looking forward to going, none of us have any idea of what to expect.

My daughter has a severe allergy to peanuts.  To my (limited) knowledge, peanuts are not a huge part of Japanese cuisine, but could someone shed some light on this for me?  Are food allergies taken as seriously over there as they are where I live?

We will (mostly) be in the company of a local, so I do not anticipate language being a barrier very often.

Thanks,

-- Matt.

Edited by JasonTrue (log)

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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We are planning a family vacation to Japan in November for about three weeks, staying mostly in the south on Shikoku, with trips planned to Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima.  While we are obviously looking forward to going, none of us have any idea of what to expect.

My daughter has a severe allergy to peanuts.  To my (limited) knowledge, peanuts are not a huge part of Japanese cuisine, but could someone shed some light on this for me?  Are food allergies taken as seriously over there as they are where I live?

We will (mostly) be in the company of a local, so I do not anticipate language being a barrier very often.

Thanks,

-- Matt.

Someone else asked a similar question not so long ago. I will try to find a link for you. Here it is. It may or may not be useful in your situation.

Edited to add link.

Edited by Cadbury (log)
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