Printable cards for communicating dietary restrictions in Japan
If you have any dietary restrictions, communicating them clearly can be an issue, especially when you don’t speak the language. Here are a selection of print-and-cut sheets to bring along with you when you travel to Japan.
Each U.S. letter or A4 sized sheet has 10 business card sized cards that state a particular dietary requirement. You may want to show this to your server at a restaurant, or your host (if s/he speaks Japanese) so that they can explain things. If you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, or you will be a house guest, you may want to give or send the appropriate card to your hosts in advance.
I’ve kept these cards as straightforward and simple as possible. If you have multiple allergies or eating restrictions, please combine the various cards as needed.
Usage and distribution: All of the PDFs listed on this page are free to downland and print. Please keep the link at the bottom of the page. Do not re-distribute by uploading the files to another site and so on. If you find these useful and want to spread the word about them, please point back to this page.
I think I have covered the most popular dietary restrictions here, but if you see one that is missing please mention it in the comments. I’ll make the most requested ones as time allows. (Update: I’ve added several more, plus a fill-in-the-blank-with-your-allergy card.)
Please note that ultimately, the responsibility of avoiding foods that can adversely affect you belongs to you, the consumer. These cards do not transfer that responsibility to the restaurant or whoever is serving you, but just helps them to help you.
The “I don’t eat meat” card
The “I don’t eat meat or poultry but fish is ok” card for pescatarians
The Vegetarian card (lacto-ovo)
See this page for tips on being a vegetarian or vegan in Japan. (Note, if you can relax your restrictions to allow yourself to have dashi, your life will be a lot more easier in Japan in practical terms.)
The Vegan card (no lacto-ovo)
See this page for tips on being a vegetarian or vegan in Japan.
The Wheat Allergy card
The dairy allergy (lactose intolerence) card
The Nut Allergy card
The Shellfish and Shrimp Allergy card
The Soy Allergy card
The fill-in-the-blank allergy card
Since it’s impossible for me to cover every single food ellergy that people have, here is a fill in the blank card. Just look up the name of the food you are allergic to in Japanese (Google Translate is handy for this) and write it in the blank. Using roma-ji (writing out the word using the alphabet) is fine - everyone in Japan can read roma-ji. Even writing in the English word for whatever food you need to avoid is ok too.
Some foods mentioned by people in the comments in Japanese in roma-ji:
- All fish -> sakana or sakana-rui (or just write FISH)
- All seafood -> gyokai-rui (or write ALL FISH, SEAFOOD, SHRIMP, etc)
- Strawberries -> ichigo
- Kiwi fruit -> kiwi
- Pork -> butaniku
- Onions (the round kind) -> tamanegi
- Green onions, onions - the edible allum family in general: -> negi, negi-rui
- Peanuts (although this is included in the general nut allergy card above): rakkasei OR pii-nattsu
- Buckwheat -> soba
The No Alcohol card
Keep in mind that if you absolutely must avoid alcohol, even if cooked, then you may have a hard time eating out in Japan and need to avoid traditional cuisine (washoku), even if it’s vegan (i.e. shojin ryouri or Buddhist cuisine). See why and how alcohol is used in Japanese cooking.