If you’re strictly on a gluten-diet, visiting foreign country can be a challenging journey.
Japan offers a wide variety of excellent food choices and is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations among many food lovers. However as a person on a gluten-diet, it becomes a different story as it steeply narrows down the choices we can make meal after meal. You will be surprised to find that many foods here uses wheat as a batter for deep frying and such.
If you’ve been on a gluten-free diet, it should be easy enough to tell whether something is wheat based or not. But it’s not easy to know if any wheat is used in seasoning especially if you’re in a foreign country not knowing the language.
In a nutshell, do avoid anything that is seasoned with soy sauce or miso. Many people find it surprising that most store bought soy products contain some degree of wheat which is added in the fermenting process.
Here in this article, I will share some of my favorite gluten-free products in the hope that you will get around in Japan without too much trouble with eating.
When I first started my gluten-free diet to address skin problems I was having, it was almost shocking to find that most soy sauce you can find in stores contain some amount of wheat. It’s probably not a lot of wheat but if you’re diagnosed with Celiac and on a strict diet, it would be wise to avoid it completely and choose gluten-free alternative.
Below is what I use daily which you can get it on Amazon Japan for about $5 USD.
Plan ahead and have it delivered to your hotel so you can bring it with you while navigating around Japan. It will be a great companion for you when you eat in Sushi restaurant, for example as most likely they won’t have any gluten-free soy sauce. Below you will find my affiliate link to Amazon. I will get a small kick back with your purchase and it won’t cost you anything extra.
Fruit is always a great snacking alternative, but if you have a craving for a pack of chips while your stay in Japan, you will want to make sure that you know what you’re getting.
Many potato chips are purely potato based which is good but the problem is with the seasoning. They most likely contain some amount of wheat. ‘小麦’ is the Japanese word for wheat and this is the word you will want to remember and watch for when shopping food in Japan. It will be rare to find a product that explicitly claims that it’s gluten-free but if the product doesn’t mention ’小麦’, it means it’s wheat-free which leads to a possibility of being a gluten-free product.
This is potato chips by Calbee and it’s wheat-free.
This is an almond based cookie that’s gluten-free.
Onigiri (rice ball)
There are literally convenience store everywhere in Japan. But sadly, you won’t find many gluten-free products other than natural products like fruits. But maybe you’ve heard enough of how good convenience store foods are in Japan, especially Onigiri (rice ball) which is one of the most popular convenience food that is healthy and quite filling.
Many Onigiri types you will find contain soy sauce as seasoning and as mentioned above, you generally want to avoid soy sauce if you have no tolerance of gluten. Instead, choose Onigiri that only uses salt as seasoning. One I can recommend is Salmon flake Onigiri. It’s only salted so the chance is high that it’s gluten-free.
Good thing is that you won’t starve in Japan as there is rice everywhere. Obviously rice is a great gluten-free alternative to bread. And thankfully, you will find rice dish in most restaurants even in Ramen (noodle) shops. It’s just that you want to be careful with what you’re getting along with the rice.
Soba (buckwheat noodle)
‘十割そば’ should be the next word you want to remember. It means 100% buckwheat soba noodle.
Noodles are not very friendly food choice for gluten-free eaters. I love noodles but because they’re mostly 100% wheat based and I know that consuming it will give me another sleepless night with itchy skin, I grew to just not look again.
But you don’t have to just give up on noodle in Japan. There are many Soba restaurants here. Soba is naturally gluten-free but the issue is that a lot of Soba you may come across in Japan will contain quite a bit of wheat which is used to make the noodle more tangy texture.
Luckily, there are also quite many Soba restaurants that offer 100% buckwheat. You just want to watch for the word ‘十割そば’.
Below you can get 100% buckwheat dry soba noodle, you can take home with you.
On the contrary to many Indian or South Eastern Asian curries, most Japanese curry products or curry dish in a restaurant contain high volume of wheat. It’s something I want to avoid next to noodle. It’s a shame because I used to love Japanese curry. So if you have a craving for curry, choose Indian or South Eastern Asian curry and also make sure that they’re gluten-free.
You can also try instant green curry in a packet which is wheat-free.
Gluten-free places for your itinerary
I have another a blog website which I exclusively write about gluten-free diet and there’s a Google Map page where I share all gluten-free places I know that you can try out while your stay. The website is only in Japanese but you should be able to navigate around the map page just fine. The web page is glutenfreely.jp/map I hope you have a pleasant time in Japan!