Japanese Vocabulary: Allergies and Other Food Issues 

 January 27, 2021

By  Sohail Oz Ali

During your time in Japan, you will no doubt come across situations where you will need to express your specific preferences or condition in terms of food. 

Many people are allergic to certain foods, have intolerances and painful reactions to certain ingredients or just don’t like certain types of dishes. If you are studying Japanese, most textbooks will have a food and restaurant section with vocabulary for ordering or buying foods but the specific language for expressing your dietary needs might be lacking. 

So hopefully this article will help you learn some important phrases and vocabulary you need to ensure you can receive food that is proper for you.

Japanese Words and Phrases for Food Issues: Allergens, Intolerance and Preferences

Japanese Vocabulary and Phrases for Food Allergies

Probably the most important and dangerous is allergens. Humans might be allergic to a variety of things like dust, pollen, dander or foods. Food allergies can be quite serious and deadly. 

Some of the most popular food allergies are peanuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, wheat, and soy. Many people have various allergies to fruits, vegetables and meats, and the reaction can be slight like runny nose, cough, headache or itchiness to more severe like hives, bloating, trouble breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of consciousness and death. 

For this reason, you might want to learn and remember the Japanese words for products that you are allergic too as well as the symptoms.  Here is a list of important vocabulary:

Allergen アレルギー物質Arerugii Bushitsu
Allergy アレルギーArerugii
Peanuts ピーナッツ Peenatsu
Eggs Tamago
Milk 牛乳Gyunyu
Shellfish Kai
Wheat 小麦 Komugi
Soy 大豆 Daizu
Runny nose 鼻水 Hana mizu
Cough Seki
Headache 頭痛 Zutsuu
Itchiness かゆみ Kayumi
Hives 蕁麻疹 Jinmashin
Bloating 誇張 Kochou
Trouble breathing 呼吸困難 Kokyu Konan
Vomiting 嘔吐 Otou
Diarrhea 下痢 Geri

And if you would like to explain you have an allergy and ask if something contains a specific product you can say:

I am allergic to eggs. Does this food contain any eggs?私は卵のアレルギーあります。この料理に卵入ってますか?Watashi wa tamago no arerugii arimasu. Kono ryouri ni tamago haitemasu ka?

How to Talk About Your Food Intolerance in Japanese

Food Intolerance is a little different from allergies as it attacks the digestive system whereas allergies affect the immune system. This means whereas even a small trace of food may cause a reaction with an allergy, it generally takes larger amounts to affect someone with a food intolerance. Also, the symptoms might be similar but a lot less dangerous. 

Some common food intolerances are lactose, gluten, caffeine, wheat, artificial additives like color or sweetener and histamine which is present in many pickled and cured foods. 

Once again, some of the effects of ingesting these products to those with a food intolerance could be irritable bowels, headache, bloating, skin irritation, malaise and/or nausea. 

As Japan uses a variety of ingredients in their meals, sometimes it is hard to tell what ingredients are in a dish. Japan is also famous for many pickled vegetables and side dishes called tsukemono so for those allergic to histamine, this would be a common food to avoid. 

So knowing the words of these intolerances and how to ask if a food contains them is a good idea. 

Food intolerance 食物不耐性 Shokumotsu futaisei
Lactose intolerant乳糖不耐症 Nyuutou Futaishou
Gluten 麩質・グルテン Fushitsu/Grutenu
Caffeine カフェイン Cafeinu
Wheat 小麦 Komugi
Artificial sweeteners 人工甘味料 Jinkou Kaminryou
Artificial colors 人工色 Jinkou Iro
Histamine ヒスタミン Hisutamin
Pickled food 漬物 Tsukemono
Irritable bowel 過敏性腸 Kabin Seichou
Headache 頭痛 Zuttsu
Bloating 誇張 Kochou
Skin irritation 皮膚刺激 Hifu Shigeki
Malaise 沈滞 Chintai
Nausea 吐き気 Hakike
I am lactose intolerant. Does this food contain dairy products?私は乳糖不耐症です。この料理に乳製品入ってますか?Watashi wa Nyuutou Futaishou desu. Kono ryouri ni Nyuseihin haittemasu ka?
Is this food gluten free?この食べ物はグルテンフリーですか?Kono tabemono wa guruten furee desu ka?

Japanese Vocabulary for Food Preferences 

And finally, you might not be allergic or intolerant to food but you just might have specific preferences that you have. Certain food you often avoid whether it be for religious reasons, health reasons or personal taste. Certain meats or vegetables or seasonings might not sit right with you or your palate. 

For that reason, you might want to ask what a specific dish includes, whether you can get the meal minus that ingredient or if you can replace it with something else you prefer. Knowing how to express your preferences in Japanese would be helpful for the person making your meal to ensure you have a positive dining experience in Japan. 

Here are some important phrases you can use when asking or stating your food preferences.

Ingredients 材料 Zairyou
Salt Shio
Sugar 砂糖 Sato
Meat Niku
Pork 豚肉 Buta-niku
Beef 牛肉 Gyuu-niku
Chicken 鶏肉 Tori-niku
Fish Sakana
Salty 塩っぱい Shoppai
Sweet 甘い Amai
Spicy 辛い Karai
Health reasons 健康上の理由 Kenkou-jou no riyuu
Religious reasons 宗教的理由 Shuうkyou-teki riyuu

Some Useful Phrases to Use

Excuse me, what ingredients are in this?どんな材料が入ってますか?Sumimasen, donna zairyou ga haittemasu ka?
I’d like it without celery, please.セロリなしでください。Celery nashi de kudasai.
Can I replace the onions with tomatoes?玉ねぎのかわりにトマトを交換できますかTamanegi no kawari ni tomato wo koukan dekimasu ka?
Can you make this non-spicy?これを甘口できますか?Kore wo amakuchi dekimasu ka?
I can’t eat pork. Does this contain pork?私は豚肉食べられません。これは豚肉入ってますか?Watashi wa buta-niku taberaremasen. Kore wa buta-niku haittemasu ka?
Please add less sugar?砂糖を少なめにしてください。Sato wo sukuname ni shite kudasai.
Is this food halal?この食べ物はハラールですか。Kono tabemono wa hararu desu ka?

As you can see, the more vocabulary you can learn, the easier it is to adjust the phrases and ask about food and it’s compatibility to you and your needs. The phrases can be adjusted to fit the type of food or allergy or intolerance you have and a lot of the words are similar in English with a slight change in pronunciation. 

Food and eating out on vacation is a fun and amazing way to experience a new country and new culture so I highly recommend going out of your comfort zone and trying new foods and ingredients. But at the same time, you should be aware of your limitations, especially if they might cause you health issues or discomfort. 

Hopefully, this gave you a good idea of how to express yourself and your needs in Japanese in terms of food issues. Make sure to keep studying and increasing your Japanese skills so you can have smooth and effective communication with Japanese people. 

Sohail Oz Ali

Sohail Oz Ali is a Canadian Youtuber, author and blogger who has lived in Hokkaido, Nagoya and now resides in Chiba. Between visits to Karaoke and revolving sushi restaurants, he enjoys walking his dog, watching Japanese love dramas and teaching English. You can also find him roaming the streets of Japan looking for the next big Japanese trends.

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