My husband, our two daughters and I are planning to visit Tokyo next Spring. Here’s the problem: my daughters are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes (legumes include soy protein such as edamame, tofu and miso and many types of beans, peas, and lentils). They carry Epi-pens and wear Medic Alert bracelets. They are ages 14 and 12.
As you can imagine, their food allergies make life very complicated. We are very careful about what they eat and where they eat. We are always reading food labels.
We are familiar with most common Japanese foods and frequently eat in many local Japanese restaurants near our home in the San Francisco area. But I am very worried about visiting Japan because I'm not sure whether the food will be made differently than it is here. I’m not sure which foods may have hidden soy protein or nuts. Someone recently told me to avoid curry houses in Tokyo, because almost all the curry recipes use peanuts -- I did not know that. I was grateful for that information. That is the type of information I need to know.
My daughters CAN eat soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, because the protein is removed in the fermenting process. So, they do eat many Asian foods here in California. They love sushi. In Tokyo, they would like to try Ramen noodles (for example), but I’m not sure if they are made in a broth containing miso or soy protein. I’m worried about meats that may be marinated in miso, or noodles made of beans they are allergic to.
I’m also not sure how the Japanese food served in Japan would be different from similar foods served here in the USA. From my travel experience, foods are sometimes made with different ingredients in the indigenous country because the available ingredients are different.
Obviously we will be dealing with a language barrier in Japan. I plan to have a card made which translates the allergy information into Japanese (to show at restaurants), but I am still worried that people may not truly understand what it means. I am also worried that waitresses may smile and nod and not really talk to the chef -- not truly understanding the importance of the situation -- that this is not a preference or an annoyance -- this is LIFE AND DEATH for my children!
I would hate to take them to Japan and have them eating at American chain restuarants like McDonalds. Can you help me identify potentially “safe” types of restaurants and foods for them in Tokyo? Or what types of foods or restaurants to stay away from?
I REALLY appreciate any assistance you can offer. In addition to Tokyo, we hope to visit Kyoto for a day or two.
Thank you so very much!
-a Mom in California
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