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Japan with a fish allergy?

Bothell, WA
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Japan with a fish allergy?

I want to start out by saying, yes, I understand that people in Japan do not eat exclusively fish.

My husband and I (along with my father, who lived and worked in Japan for many years) are thinking of spending a few days in Tokyo and Osaka, plus a few stops in between, next year. My husband has a serious (but not life threatening) allergy to fish. He can have shellfish, but nothing that swims.

Beyond learning how to explain this in Japanese, does this seem like an easy thing to deal with? My father is a big foodie, and I think has visions of taking us to some fancy places. Will my husband be able to find things to eat in the rtizy and not so ritzy spots?

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Destination Expert
for Tokyo
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1. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

Fish is used in preparation of all sorts of Japanese food, in the form of soup base (dashi) for soups, stews, sauces, dipping sauces(for tempura, cold noodle,.....), steamed egg custard, garnishing (shaved bonito flakes on top of tofu, okonomi yaki "pan cake"...).

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2. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

I don't know anything about this company, but you can order a laminated card to show waiters, store clerks or whoever. http://www.selectwisely.com/

Their single-allergy card asks if the food contains fish, but a waiter might not think of the dashi as fish. Maybe the Strongly Worded Card?

Search Japan Forums for ALLERGY to see other discussions of this problem.

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3. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

Yes, fish allergy is a big problem for someone with severe allergies. As mentioned before, it really is used in everything! Things you would never expect. And yes, your restaurant servers will not know that so much is fish based! I have even found that some vegetarian dishes will have fish broth or flavorings.

Search for previous posts, because others have solved this problem. If you find some of the older posts regarding this question, send a private message to the people who have this experience and ask for advice.

Our community is here to help!Ask questions, get advice and more from travellers like you.
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4. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

Great advice from Japantravelteacher about sending Personal Messages to others who have asked the same question; they most likely aren't monitoring the forum and haven't seen your post. When you get back, please post a message telling us how it worked out.

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5. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

Make sure to get some emergency medication for allergy from your doctor before travelling.

Good luck.

Tokyo, Japan
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for Hakone-machi, Minato
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6. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

A friend from Canada came over one year. She was allergic to just about everything -- seafood, seaweed, anything from the sea, various oils (especially those she couldn't read), cats (so she couldn't come to my house), plus she was a vegetarian/veggan. She wanted the authentic Japanese izakaya experience, but there was nothing she could eat, except for cucumbers with miso, and cold tofu without the bonito shavings as garnish. She doused it soy sauce (the tofu was swimming), and we gave her a lot of sake.

If your husband can eat meat, he will survive. Yakitori, tonkatsu, yakiniku (Korean BBQ), and even ramen as most of the soup stocks are made from meat/chicken. The vegetables are very good -- but he'll need to eat them raw. Cooked veggies are most likely cooked with "sea based" (dried bonito savings, dried fish, and/or kelp) soup stocks.

If you spend a night at a real temple, your meals will be animal free.

Oh -- and don't tell your husband, but shellfish can actually "swim."


New York
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7. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?


>>> My father is a big foodie, and I think has visions of taking us to some fancy places. Will my husband be able to find things to eat in the ritzy and not so ritzy spots? <<<

There are many fancy and not-so-fancy "non-Japanese" (Italian/French/American/etc.) restaurants in Tokyo/Osaka, where your husband can find non-fish things easily.

If your father wants to take you guys to a fancy "Japanese" restaurant, I’d recommend you try “Shojin Ryori” (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). You can find some Shojin Ryori restaurants in Tokyo at


Cambridge, Canada
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8. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

We spent considerable time independently travelling through Japan. My partner doesn't like/want/hates to eat fish, including fishi tasting Nori.

Of course it is not an alergy, but strong dislike. We had no problem with eating. There are chain food stores which are selling only "rice bowl" which means bowl filled with rice and topped with perhaps pork, beef or curry. It does come with Miso soup but every meal does. There are other obvious meals not containing fish i.e. fried pork snitzel (sliced) on rice, chicken dishes.

Our Japanese friend wrote note for us to carry and show when we would not feel sure there is no fish in meal:



(first line is re anything from sea, second Nori (seaweed)). All meals are displayed outside of eateries/restaurants, even pictures on fast food places, so you can look first. We took time to check and didn't need our sign at all. No problem.

I am not sure how strong his allergy is - under any circumstances he should carry his med-stuff with him at all times.

Good Luck.

9. Re: Japan with a fish allergy?

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