Take our user survey here!
Photo:
Live

Gluten-Free Eating in Japan

Do you have a gluten allergy and are traveling or living in Japan? Here's a quick guide to help you navigate restaurants and supermarkets.

By 4 min read

Japan is often described as a foodie’s dream destination. Still, it’s a dream that can often feel like a nightmare for visitors with food allergies and dietary restrictions, and gluten-free visitors are no exception. Rates of celiac disease (セリアック病) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) are far lower in Japan than in other parts of the world, meaning that gluten-free diets are generally not well understood or catered for.

Moreover, although wheat is legally required to be listed on restaurant allergy guides and food packaging, other gluten-containing ingredients such as barley and rye may not be highlighted.

However, the number of options for those with gluten allergies in Japan is growing. From adapted versions of iconic dishes like ramen and okonomiyaki to bakeries selling delicious homemade rice flour bread, we’ve put together this guide to dining, shopping and enjoying a safe gluten-free stay in Japan.

Japanese Phrases to Know

Photo:
The seven ingredients manufacturers are legally obligated to list in Japan.

Here are some useful Japanese phrases when asking about gluten-free food in a Japanese restaurant.

English Japanese Romaji
I have a gluten allergy. 私はグルテンアレルギーです Watashi wa guruten arerugii desu.
Is this gluten-free? これはグルテンフリーですか? Kore wa guruten furii desu ka?
Does this contain wheat, barley, rye or oats? これは小麦、大麦、ライ麦、オーツ麦が入っていますか? Kore wa komugi, oomugi, raimugi, ootsumugi wa haitteimasuka?

Kanji to Know

When shopping in the supermarket or convenience store, always check the label for the following kanji, which indicates gluten-containing ingredients.

English Japanese Romaji
Wheat 小麦 komugi
Rye ライ麦 raimugi
Barley 大麦 oomugi
Oats オーツ麦 ootsumugi
Soy sauce 醤油、しょうゆ shouyu

Eating Out

Photo:
Don’t let your allergy ruin your trip!

Restaurants and cafes for gluten-free diners in Japan can be split into three categories:

  • Exclusive Gluten-free Restaurants: These are fully certified as completely gluten-free, ensuring safety for individuals with celiac disease or significant gluten intolerance.
  • Places with gluten-free choices: You’ll find gluten-free and regular dishes in these establishments. However, be cautious about possible cross-contamination issues, and it’s advisable to inquire with the staff.
  • Regular restaurants and cafes: Most places in Japan typically do not serve certified gluten-free options and may be hesitant to modify dishes. Exercise caution if you have celiac disease or a significant intolerance.

Finding Gluten-Free Restaurants

If you have celiac disease or significant gluten intolerance, it’s advisable to seek out dedicated gluten-free establishments when dining out. As these restaurants are still somewhat rare and often in high demand, planning and securing a reservation is recommended.

A convenient resource for finding gluten-free-friendly restaurants in Japan is the Find Me Gluten Free website and app, covering most major cities. This platform categorizes gluten-free eateries by location, specifying whether they are entirely gluten-free, and provides customer ratings and reviews.

If you opt for a restaurant that isn’t completely gluten-free, communicate your dietary needs to the staff to ensure a safe dining experience. In Japan, even restaurants labeling certain dishes as gluten-free on their menus may handle food in a way that poses a risk of contamination. You can find a printable card explaining your dietary restrictions in Japanese here.

Popular Gluten-Free Restaurants in Japan

Photo:
The options are out there if you look.

Here’s a selection of some of Japan’s best dedicated gluten-free restaurants. They’ll have options for vegans and vegetarians, too.

Gluten Free T’s Kitchen (Tokyo)

An essential stop for all gluten-free visitors to Tokyo, T’s Kitchen serves iconic Japanese dishes such as ramen, gyoza, tempura and okonomiyaki and desserts.

7-8-5 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo - Map

Where Is a Dog? (Tokyo)

A friendly cafe serving various Western and Asian-inspired cuisines and selling homemade rice bread, bagels and muffins.

103 Suno Ecru, 2-24-9 Musashino, Kichijoji Honcho, Tokyo - Map

Choice (Kyoto)

A downtown Kyoto restaurant serving Western dishes. Customers highly recommend their gluten-free pizza.

1F Suzuki Keiseigeka Bld., 89-1 Ohashi-cho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto - Map

Uno Yokiko (Kyoto)

This Gion restaurant specializes in plant-based soy-milk ramen, a fresh twist on a Japanese classic.

40 Kameicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto - Map

Anosaki Konosaki (Osaka)

A central Osaka restaurant serving Japanese and Western-inspired dishes and sweet treats. The fried chicken and waffles are especially popular.

1-2-5 Nakazakinishi, Kita Ward, Osaka - Map

Shopping

Photo:
Supermarket items are obligated to list some ingredients, like wheat.

Here are some general tips when shopping for gluten-free ingredients in Japan.

  • Supermarkets: While Japanese supermarkets generally lack a dedicated free-from section, some chains carry gluten-free ingredients like gluten-free pasta, buckwheat noodles, rice noodles and gluten-free soy sauce alongside regular options.
  • Convenience Stores: Konbini often offer gluten-free snacks such as salmon or pickled plum onigiri (rice balls), nori (dried seaweed) flavored potato chips or daifuku (rice cake with a sweet filling). Always check the label for allergens.
  • Import and International Stores: Chains like Jupiter, Seijo-Ishii, and Bio c’Bon are reliable sources of gluten-free pasta, noodles and snacks, but shopping there regularly can be expensive.
  • Online: Websites like iherb can be excellent for purchasing gluten-free ingredients and snacks not readily available in Japan, typically shipped from overseas.
  • Dedicated Gluten-Free Bakeries: While rare, they are the go-to places for gluten-free bread and other baked goods, making them worth seeking out.

One way to figure out where to find gluten-free products in your area is to visit the Gluten-Free in Japan! Facebook page and search for your location. Users regularly share gluten-free finds from places you may not have thought to explore otherwise.

Finding gluten-free food in Japan can feel tough, but with a little searching, you’ll find it. What do you think? Have any favorite gluten-free restaurants in Japan? Let us know in the comments! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA - Privacy Policy - Terms of Service

Related

Live

How to Get a Driver’s License in Japan

Tips on the process and English-speaking driving schools.

By 5 min read 2

Live

Is June the Worst Month in Japan?

What month is filled with rain, high humidity and plenty of bloodsuckers? Welcome to June in Japan.

By 5 min read

Live

A Guide to Volunteering in Japan

Are you looking to offer your services to a volunteer organization in Japan? Check out the foreigner-friendly opportunities below!

By 5 min read