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HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Old Oct 31st 2007, 2:02 am
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Default HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

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. 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. For example in Thailand some dishes are made with tiny pea-like eggplants – which are not available in the USA.

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 worried that waitresses,for example, may smile and nod and not really talk to the chef -- not truly understanding the importance of the situation.

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. We also hope to do an overnight trip to to Kyoto while we are there.

Thank you so very much!

-a Mom in California
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 5:38 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by allergymom View Post
I am worried that waitresses,for example, may smile and nod and not really talk to the chef -- not truly understanding the importance of the situation.

I lived in Japan for ten years and I have to say that this is something you should be concerned about.

You might want to look at www.bento.com It's a general food guide for Tokyo but features a health food section.

How long are you planning to stay in Japan?
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 5:53 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by allergymom View Post
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.

Ramen comes in a variety of types and the two most popular are 'soy' (or shoyu) and 'miso'.

Ramen with miso is called 'miso ramen' and is pretty easy to avoid....but I'm not an expert and can't say for sure if shoyu ramen is 100% free of nuts.

A lot of ramen shops have 'secret recipes' so you better make sure they understand your allergy card.

You might want to get in touch with www.telljp.com they are a volunteer helpline for people in Japan and offer a general information service (in English)

Last edited by Avid; Oct 31st 2007 at 5:58 am.
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 6:00 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by Avid View Post
Ramen comes in a variety of types and the two most popular are 'soy' (or shoyu) and 'miso'.

Ramen with miso is called 'miso ramen' and is pretty easy to avoid....but I'm not an expert and can't say for sure if shoyu ramen is 100% free of nuts.

A lot of ramen shops have 'secret recipes' so you better make sure they understand your allergy card.

You might want to get in touch with www.telljp.com they are a volunteer helpline for people in Japan and offer a general information service (in English)

Thank you for answering my post! My husband and I were talking about our trip last week and were thinking of finding some sort of translation service we could contact by phone when we were there. Somebody we could call, explain the situation, and they could speak to the chef on the phone. Is that what telljp is?

I understand that our cell phones would not work in Japan, so we would need to rent some for our stay. We will be in Japan for about 10 days.
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 6:01 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by Avid View Post
I lived in Japan for ten years and I have to say that this is something you should be concerned about.

You might want to look at www.bento.com It's a general food guide for Tokyo but features a health food section.

How long are you planning to stay in Japan?
I actually wrote to the editor of Bento.com twice. He has not answered me back yet.
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 7:16 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by allergymom View Post
I actually wrote to the editor of Bento.com twice. He has not answered me back yet.
I can speak and understand Japanese Because I’m a mix British and Japanese. Something I can help you???
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Old Oct 31st 2007, 10:04 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

Originally Posted by allergymom View Post
Is that what telljp is?
'telljp' is a helpline that is half Samaritans and half general advice. I'm sure they'd be happy to advise you in your situation.

10 days isn't such a long time and you can definately enjoy your holiday. You just have to be extra careful.

Are you staying at a major hotel? The concierge would be another useful port of call.

I'll PM you some possible leads.
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Old Nov 1st 2007, 5:22 am
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Default Re: HELP! Japan with kids allergic to peanuts, soy. Help!

I would advise going to your local Japanese restaurant and asking one of the Japanese staff there to write down what foods your kids can't eat and, importantly, why. Presumably they are very conversant in English and will be better able to understand the problem- in japan you will quickly discover that your average Japanese punter will neither speak nor understand a word of English. They will also find it very difficult to understand that anyone does not want to eat anything with soya bean, tofu etc in it (like me going to china and trying to explain that, no, vegetarians do not eat pork!).
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