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Owiemytummy

Planning long stay in Japan, looking for advice or someone telling me I'm crazy

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Hey! 

I've been diagnosed with celiac disease for about 10 years. I've traveled a lot (but only in the US and EU) after the diagnosis. I've been "glutened" once during these trips (it really sucked), and I honestly don't know if it was due to trace amounts or if it was due to a lot of gluten, so I am unsure of exactly how tolerant I am. I am very strict in my diet, so that was the only "glutening" I've ever experienced after the diagnosis.

I'm planning on going for exchange studies in Japan for half a year, and I've been reading up quite a lot on all the risks that come with Japan. I have always been steadfast in my will to travel despite having celiac disease, although I've got to say a part of me is worried. I have read few of the posts about Japan, and I find that there are many knowledgeable people in this community, so I thought I'd ask a few questions that I haven't found any answers for here yet:

1. If I arrive in Japan, let's say, 2 weeks before the actual studies begin, do you think I might be able to find my way in the supermarket so that I'll be able to cook everything myself, and bring it to school, or am I oversimplifying this problem (trace gluten in all raw ingredients for example)?

2. What is the "eating out culture" like in the country? If it turns out to be way too cumbersome for me to eat out often, will this hamper my ability to make connections with people? 

3. I've heard two conflicting stories about how Japanese chefs react to a celiac person's special requirements: Either they feel disrespected and unwilling to accomodate, or they will be extremely helpful and take the request very seriously. Which one would you say is the most true? :)

Alright, I guess that's it for my questions, but I'm also very interested to know if you have any information that you think I should know.

What I do know I will do for sure is make a list of the kanji for all the gluten-related ingredients, get the best "I am celiac, please don't kill me"-card on the market, search the entire area around the campus and where I'll live for 7-11:s and restaurants, and make a list of what I may eat there.

 

I'd be thankful for any answer :)

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So I'm curious about your statement that you were glutened once but you are not sure if it was from trace/cross contamination or a macro amount. Why would you not know that if you reflect on what you had eaten that led up to the illness that accrued? I think it is very important under the circumstances to get a better handle on how sensitive you are. Please don't misunderstand me to be saying that if you prove to be relatively asymptomatic to small amounts of gluten then you can safely ignore CC. Just because we do not experience symptoms does not mean the small amount of gluten is not doing harm to the gut. But if you must travel and eat out then at least you should have an idea of what you can tolerate before you will be incapacitated due to illness.

Will you be living in quarters with refrigeration and cooking appliances? If so, consider taking along or having shipped there some gluten free food items. One of  the problems is that Asian food makes heavy use of soy/mandarin sauce and that usually has wheat in it. At restaurants you might request simple food items like broccoli or green beans, steamed rice and plain chicken cooked in their own clean pans. You might make up card written in Japanese explaining that you must avoid wheat that you can give to chefs requesting this.

What is the context of this visit to Japan? Education? Business? Pleasure?

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21 minutes ago, trents said:

So I'm curious about your statement that you were glutened once but you are not sure if it was from trace/cross contamination or a macro amount. Why would you not know that if you reflect on what you had eaten that led up to the illness that accrued? I think it is very important under the circumstances to get a better handle on how sensitive you are. Please don't misunderstand me to be saying that if you prove to be relatively asymptomatic to small amounts of gluten then you can safely ignore CC. Just because we do not experience symptoms does not mean the small amount of gluten is not doing harm to the gut. But if you must travel and eat out then at least you should have an idea of what you can tolerate before you will be incapacitated due to illness.

Will you be living in quarters with refrigeration and cooking appliances? If so, consider taking along or having shipped there some gluten free food items. One of  the problems is that Asian food makes heavy use of soy/mandarin sauce and that usually has wheat in it. At restaurants you might request simple food items like broccoli or green beans, steamed rice and plain chicken cooked in their own clean pans. You might make up card written in Japanese explaining that you must avoid wheat that you can give to chefs requesting this.

What is the context of this visit to Japan? Education? Business? Pleasure?

Well, the meal itself could both have had a lot of gluten in it or a little, that's why I don't know. It was a fish soup, and I don't know if they reused a cross-contaminated pot or actually put in ingredients containing gluten. I had a reaction about 45 minutes after eating it. 

Figuring out my sensitivity is a good idea. How should I do it, any tip? I don't want to get too much of a foggy brain from eating gluten as a test because I have to study hard, but I can't see any other way.

The context is education, and what I'm studying requires a lot of effort and focus, so it wouldn't be good for me to get sick. There is a possibility of the university offering a personal stove and refrigerator.

Thank you for answering.

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Start eating foods that intentionally do not contain gluten but that are not labeled gluten free. Things that may say on the label, "produced on equipment that also processes wheat, tree nuts . . . ," etc. A good example would be Quaker Oats. Another example would be bacon and eggs cooked on a restaurant grill. Things that are likely to be cross contaminated in agricultural production, storage, transportation or processing or preparation.

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Next year will be my 40th year of working  & lecturing in Japan. 20 of those with celiac. I also  went to culinary school in Tokyo so  I know a little about how chefs there thinkl  Many dont realize shoyu is  wheat,  they  assume its soy beans.  Dependsiong on where you go to  eat,  carry  bottle of gluten free soy sauce or braggs aminos that you can use.  YOu can find them  in  department store basements, sometimes  in  Lawson Natural shops,  The  trick for me was learning how to eat local foods  and order  correctly  in  Japanese.  Even  of you  say ko mugi allergy   they  may give you barley tea to drink.  It depends on the type  of place you go.   Few places  have juwari soba,  100% soba.  Some places say 80%  is juwari but it will get us sick for  sure so  you have  to make sure  haku%   (100) juwari

Sushi and rice balls are generally ok but not in   family mart,  7-11 or lawsons. Most  convienince shops  contain  wheat with the rice.

Yuba places are exspensive  but you cook at the table.  Stay  away  fromn t he junk food like takpo yaki,  friend noodles , ramen, udon etc. also most salad dressings have  wheat or soysauce added.,  The  gluten-free soy asuce or shoyu  an be made with 100% daizo or soy beans.  Learn to read the    japanese labels and  you should not have problems.,   In Izakaya type places   there are  many things to  eat -- miso is ok but only if made with kome koji  aka rice. mugi koji is barley.   If you get a fried fish  you can  ask for shio dahke with salt instead of  shoyu,  again tell them  shoyu Allergie  ( all er ge) .. Takes a little time but once you get it it, youll put on  20  lbs in no time.  ANother thing  to get is kara age but with katakuriko potato starch instead of  pankpo -- bread but you have to  explain to use   fresh abura -- oil .  Somepaces will tell you   knpw   but  when you  find good ones  smile and  try  nihongo,  it should be ok.  Its a great experience there,  Wish I coudl  go back in time and do it again.  Still  until this year  was spending  3-4 months in japan every  year. 

Ken


"Ryo tatereba mi ga tatanu"

If we try to serve both sides, we cannot stand our own ground.

Japanese proverb

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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5 hours ago, Owiemytummy said:

heres your specific  questions

1. If I arrive in Japan, let's say, 2 weeks before the actual studies begin, do you think I might be able to find my way in the supermarket so that I'll be able to cook everything myself, and bring it to school, or am I oversimplifying this problem (trace gluten in all raw ingredients for example)?

learn the kanji for ko mugi -- wheat   Omugi  barley

find your own soy sauce -- they  have a really  good sorghum shoyu at some  markets like LIFE -- What schoo and where will you be in TOkyo. Might be able to tell you some spots close by

 

5 hours ago, Owiemytummy said:

2. What is the "eating out culture" like in the country? If it turns out to be way too cumbersome for me to eat out often, will this hamper my ability to make connections with people? 

depends if your drinking or not. Many small neighborhood places  people want to talk  or practice  english  usually a fun time.  USed to go to Karaoke and sing some Japanese  songs I learned -- always good for  a  free drink  or 2 or 3

 

5 hours ago, Owiemytummy said:

3. I've heard two conflicting stories about how Japanese chefs react to a celiac person's special requirements: Either they feel disrespected and unwilling to accomodate, or they will be extremely helpful and take the request very seriously. Which one would you say is the most true? :)

no different than the US or  other  countries.,Some cxhefs will send  runners out to stores  to find you  somethingt youc an  eat  while others  dont want to bother with you.,  It depends on  where you are.  FOr example if you go to the izakaya ibn Jimbocho, Uohyaku, the staff and owner dont speak english but ive had some fantastic meals there  with fresh veggies meats sauces  all sorts of stuff.  If you went  and   said  kens byoki   they know  it was  the same problem as me. 

Yeah work on the language    youll  get it !

 

good luck

ken

5 hours ago, Owiemytummy said:

Alright, I guess that's it for my questions, but I'm also very interested to know if you have any information that you think I should know.

What I do know I will do for sure is make a list of the kanji for all the gluten-related ingredients, get the best "I am celiac, please don't kill me"-card on the market, search the entire area around the campus and where I'll live for 7-11:s and restaurants, and make a list of what I may eat there.

 

I'd be thankful for any answer :)

 


"Ryo tatereba mi ga tatanu"

If we try to serve both sides, we cannot stand our own ground.

Japanese proverb

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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My advice is the same when living in the USA or any other country: just avoid eating out, restaurants, and most packaged, processed food in markets.  Just buy and prepare ONLY fresh fruits, veggies, and meats/fish.  (Perhaps there are local farmers' markets nearby the place where you will be staying.)  Only then, can you be absolutely confident you will be avoiding gluten exposure.  Also, eating in a foreign land is so much harder if you aren't fluent in Japanese and can't read packaged labels.  Even if packaged food and restaurant dishes are labeled "gluten-free" ...can you be sure it is TRULY gluten-free (i.e., Does Japan have the rigorous gluten-free certification system that exists here in the USA)?? 

I understand you don't want to offend your Japanese hosts/friends, but IMO it's far too stressful to find out the hard way by risking eating out, esp. if stuck in a country with few (if any) celiac disease medical specialists who can assist if you get sick and need help.  If you absolutely cannot avoid eating out, instead of saying "celiac disease" (which confuses so many people unfamiliar with it and strict diet rules)...perhaps you can just explain that you have a medical condition which limits your diet, and leave it at that...Of course, this entire discussion may be rendered moot with the recent global spike in pandemic cases as more and more countries begin to close restaurants and return to quarantine.  

Also, make sure you plan and prepare in advance any meals or snacks you will need during a long flight.  Some airlines claim they offer gluten-free meals, but I wouldn't gamble my health on it....:).   

Bon Voyage!! You are probably much safer during this raging pandemic in Japan.

 

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Man, so far these answers have been very helpful, so thank you very much! I'll probably head back to this post quite often to have it as a basis for all my planning. Also, Ken, your specific info from your travels in Japan is absolutely invaluable.

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Things you can eat

米(御握り、寿司)玄米、あわ、きび、ビーフン、ライスヌードル、あわ麺、きび麺、グルテンの入っていないパン、グルテンの入っていないシリアル(コーンフレーク、ライスフレークなど)、ポップコーン、とうもろこしのトルティーヤ、とうもろこし、キンワ、そば(蕎麦100%)、じゃが芋、さつまいも(sweet potato)

 

Things you can't eat

noodle(うどん・パスタ・そうめん・そば(not 100%)

Sweets(ケーキ・クッキー・ まんじゅう(饅頭

Bread pizza( パン  ピザ パスタ デュラム・セモリナ、クスクス、ビール、そうめん、マカロニ、、)

fried food 天ぷら(天婦羅),唐揚げ、てんぷらの衣、フライの衣、フリッターの衣、フライドポテト、

Powder foodお好み焼き、たこ焼、文字焼き

Seasoning,and sauce(醤油・穀物酢,カレールー、シチュールー、ホワイトソース、ソース、ケチャップ、ドレッシング、など)

Drink  ビール(beer)・麦茶

Chinese powder food 中華麺、 餃子、 春巻き、中華饅頭 ワンタン(雲吞) シュウマイ(焼売

curry カレーシチュー

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On 11/25/2020 at 6:31 AM, Owiemytummy said:

Man, so far these answers have been very helpful, so thank you very much! I'll probably head back to this post quite often to have it as a basis for all my planning. Also, Ken, your specific info from your travels in Japan is absolutely invaluable.

great list in kanji that Kane posted below,  again  alot is built on the relationships. There are many Indian restaurants in Tokyo and 90% are fine if you know the food and what to  order. A lot is built on the relationships   you   make  in  Japan.   Where  will you  be?  I  might  know  someone close who can   show you around a  little.

5 hours ago, kane8907 said:

Things you can eat

米(御握り、寿司)玄米、あわ、きび、ビーフン、ライスヌードル、あわ麺、きび麺、グルテンの入っていないパン、グルテンの入っていないシリアル(コーンフレーク、ライスフレークなど)、ポップコーン、とうもろこしのトルティーヤ、とうもろこし、キンワ、そば(蕎麦100%)、じゃが芋、さつまいも(sweet potato)

 

Things you can't eat

noodle(うどん・パスタ・そうめん・そば(not 100%)

Sweets(ケーキ・クッキー・ まんじゅう(饅頭

Bread pizza( パン  ピザ パスタ デュラム・セモリナ、クスクス、ビール、そうめん、マカロニ、、)

fried food 天ぷら(天婦羅),唐揚げ、てんぷらの衣、フライの衣、フリッターの衣、フライドポテト、

Powder foodお好み焼き、たこ焼、文字焼き

Seasoning,and sauce(醤油・穀物酢,カレールー、シチュールー、ホワイトソース、ソース、ケチャップ、ドレッシング、など)

Drink  ビール(beer)・麦茶

Chinese powder food 中華麺、 餃子、 春巻き、中華饅頭 ワンタン(雲吞) シュウマイ(焼売

curry カレーシチュー

great list


"Ryo tatereba mi ga tatanu"

If we try to serve both sides, we cannot stand our own ground.

Japanese proverb

Celiac.com - Celiac Disease Board Moderator

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On 11/24/2020 at 12:10 PM, Owiemytummy said:

Hey! 

I've been diagnosed with celiac disease for about 10 years. I've traveled a lot (but only in the US and EU) after the diagnosis. I've been "glutened" once during these trips (it really sucked), and I honestly don't know if it was due to trace amounts or if it was due to a lot of gluten, so I am unsure of exactly how tolerant I am. I am very strict in my diet, so that was the only "glutening" I've ever experienced after the diagnosis.

I'm planning on going for exchange studies in Japan for half a year, and I've been reading up quite a lot on all the risks that come with Japan. I have always been steadfast in my will to travel despite having celiac disease, although I've got to say a part of me is worried. I have read few of the posts about Japan, and I find that there are many knowledgeable people in this community, so I thought I'd ask a few questions that I haven't found any answers for here yet:

1. If I arrive in Japan, let's say, 2 weeks before the actual studies begin, do you think I might be able to find my way in the supermarket so that I'll be able to cook everything myself, and bring it to school, or am I oversimplifying this problem (trace gluten in all raw ingredients for example)?

2. What is the "eating out culture" like in the country? If it turns out to be way too cumbersome for me to eat out often, will this hamper my ability to make connections with people? 

3. I've heard two conflicting stories about how Japanese chefs react to a celiac person's special requirements: Either they feel disrespected and unwilling to accomodate, or they will be extremely helpful and take the request very seriously. Which one would you say is the most true? :)

Alright, I guess that's it for my questions, but I'm also very interested to know if you have any information that you think I should know.

What I do know I will do for sure is make a list of the kanji for all the gluten-related ingredients, get the best "I am celiac, please don't kill me"-card on the market, search the entire area around the campus and where I'll live for 7-11:s and restaurants, and make a list of what I may eat there.

 

I'd be thankful for any answer :)

Hello.  I’m new to this site and this is my first post.  I spent 2 weeks in Japan.  Eating out varies from the quick bite from a street vendor to, fast food, to a “bar” style restaurant, to family style restaurants to the formal.  Japanese culture is such that they never want to offend anyone.  Requesting, with an explanation that you have special dietary restrictions, is fine depending on the style of restaurant.  Most neighborhoods will have a bakery/pastry/sandwich shop to stop in and pick up a little breakfast or your lunch.  You may be able to discuss your Celiac with them, maybe gifting them the flour for bread making... A street vendor or bar style place will not be accommodating, but Japanese culture is such that they do not eat as much gluten products as we do in the states.  You’ll find many dishes made with rice noodles and rice.  I also have an allergy to bell peppers and was able to discuss this with the cooks before I ordered my food.  

Cooking in Japan is different in that you will not find an oven for baking or roasting, except maybe a table top style oven/microwave/toaster thing.  You may have 1 or 2 burners available to cook over.  Refrigerators are very small.  You will not have a lot of storage space.  Eating out and picking up your meal from a grocery or restaurant is quite common and you’l find many gluten free options for meals. 

You’ll enjoy yourself there and may not want to come back to the US.   

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