Eating gluten free in Japan is immensely difficult, as I wrote about at length. It's my hope that the following lists will help other people with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance to navigate Japan's difficult culinary landscape.
Please note that the following lists are intended to be a resource, but are not guaranteed to be exhaustive. Additionally, restaurants may change their menus, policies, and staff, so care should be taken before eating at the establishments recommended below.
Ingredients to Avoid
- Anything with "mugi" (麦) in the kanji:
- wheat (komugi; 小麦)
- rye (raimugi; ライ麦)
- barley (oomugi; 大麦)
- malt (bakuga; 麦芽)
- starch syrup (mizuame; 水飴)
- hydrolized vegetable protein ( タンパク加水分解物)
- food starch (denpun; デンプン or 澱粉)
- most soy sauces (shoyu; しょゆ; 正油)
- many vinegars (su; 酢) used in sushi rice
- dashi (だし or 出汁)
- mirin (みりん or 味醂)
- sanbaizu (三杯酢), a combination of soy, mirin, and vinegar
Other Words to Look For
- Gluten free: guruten furee; グルテン フリー
- Allergen, allergy: arerugen, arerugii; アレルゲン、アレルギー
- Without: nashi; なし
- "Without specific ingredients": 特定原材料を含まない
Where to Shop
- Sanno Grocery, a gluten free online grocery store
Where to Eat
- Coco Ichibanya, a nationwide curry chain who include a full allergen list and an allergen-free curry in all their stores.
- MosBurger, a nationwide burger chain with wheat-free hot dogs and hamburgers, targeting children
- Cafe Littlebird / Japan Crepe sharing a storefront in Harajuku, Tokyo. Both shops' entire menus -- including curries, sandwiches, and crepes -- are Celiac safe.
- Sushi Chu in Hachioji, who quickly learned the details of wheat allergies and always prepare my food separately.
- Gluten-Free Expats Japan! Facebook group
Celiac Explanation Card
I have Celiac Disease; therefore, I have a gluten allergy.
Gluten is a vegetable protein in "mugi" [a kanji in various glutenous grains].
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and malt.
If you have a "Wheat Free", that's all I need.
If you don't have such a menu, please see the reverse of this card. [image below]
Please take care not to cross-contaminate my food.
I apologize for any inconvenience.
These items aren't OK:
The below items contain gluten.
-anything with "mugi" (wheat, rye, barley)
-"unspecified vegetable starch"
-hydrolized vegetable protein
-fry oil which has already been used
These items are dangerous.
The below items can contain the ingredients listed above (in the red box). Please check their ingredients.
Do you have anything to add to these lists? Please leave a comment below!!