Travelling to Japan With a Peanut Allergy 101

Travelling with an allergy can be a tricky thing, especially in places where you don’t speak the language. A bit of research and preparation can go a long way in these cases, though, because it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared.

People with peanut allergies exist in Japan, too, so you won’t get funny looks or people who disregard you when you’re there. While it’s not the most common allergy, these types of allergies are on the rise. (I’ve been told the rise in food allergies in Japan is because of pregnant mothers eating too much convenience store food, but that could just be a rumor…)

Peanuts are not a part of traditional Japanese cuisine, so it’s a bit easier to travel to Japan than, say, Thailand. However, it’s growing in popularity, especially in use of sweets, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re unsure.

“Peanut” and “allergy” are both imported words, so they sound very similar to the English equivalent. I’ve tried my best to write a pronunciation guide, which I know will get some angry comments, but I feel that people who don’t know Japanese will have the easiest time with this type of pronunciation.

Peanut – ピーナッツ (“Piinatsu”) Pronounced roughly like pea-not-sue (pronounced like the English words)
The traditional Japanese is 落花生, but most people just say “piinatsu” and you will be understood.
Allergy – アレルギ (“Arerugii”) Pronounced roughly like aah-rare-ooh-gee (pronounced like the English words)

You should also prepare an allergy card, if you don’t already have one. Print out a card with something similar to:
私は重度のピーナッツ(落花生)アレルギーです。ピーナッツやピーナッツを含む料理、ソースや調味料の類は危険なので一切食べられません。
(I am very allergic to peanuts. I cannot eat peanuts, dishes containing peanuts, or dishes containing peanut seasonings or sauces.)

There are many different allergy cards online as well, in case you want a premade version.

You should also prepare beforehand. Travel insurance is a good idea, especially if an accident happens and you need to go to the hospital. There, you can get treatment for a reasonable price. You can also prepare by bringing antihistamine medication, though be careful about importing certain types of medication and certain quantities into Japan.

The ingredient lists are located on the back of packaged foods, but sifting through all that Japanese can be a bit tiring on the eyes, so it’s easier to simply ask an employee by showing them your card. Like previously mentioned, watch out for baked goods, but also be careful about ramen.

Sifting through all that can be a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with the language!

Overall, there shouldn’t be very much difficulty navigating in Japan with a peanut allergy, especially if you’re prepared and don’t mind asking for help. It’s not an ingredient used very often in Japanese cooking, but you should watch out just in case.

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