Food in Japan

Please know that Samurai Tours tries to accommodate various dietary restrictions and preferences. Note that Japanese restaurants tend to specialize and focus on one thing. For example, a noodle shop or a tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) or an okonomiyaki shop, etc. Plus, many restaurants in Japan are very small and are not able to have all of the different equipment they need to make many different things.

For escorted tours we cannot take individuals or couples to a special restaurant; the group stays together. If the restaurants, hotels and ryokans have something that will fit dietary requirements or preferences, that is great. If not, then there is nothing else we can do. But we make sure to tell everyone, rice is always available; we encourage snacks; and 7-11 shops serve fresh foods.

For Independent tours and days with private guides we can be more flexible when with the guide but breakfasts at the accommodations are always included and are not always flexible.

Below are some food items that you may be trying to avoid and how to deal with that issue. If you do not see the item you are trying to avoid below please see the “Other” section.

Life Threatening Allergies – We will get more information about your allergy after you register and we will inform all locations you will be staying at and eating at. However as we are not the ones preparing the food you need to be ultimately responsible for avoiding it. We need to know if cross-contamination with the item is OK. Fried foods will all be cooked in the same oils so may need to be avoided depending on what you’re allergic to. See the fried foods section.

Gluten – Gluten is incredibly difficult, if not impossible to avoid in Japan. Gluten is added to soy sauce as a thickening agent and many foods are cooked in soy sauce. We will only be able to serve you what is being served to everyone and you will have to eat what you can, that hasn’t been cooked in soy sauce. We recommend that you bring your own gluten-free soy sauce or tamari. Gluten-free soy sauce is not available in Japan, and Tamari is not always available. This will only be an option for when soy sauce is used as a dipping sauce. We also recommend that you bring snacks for those occasions when there will not gluten free options available.

MSG – MSG is incredibly difficult, if not impossible to avoid in Japanese cooking. It is used as a flavor enhancer in almost all Japanese foods. If you are completely unable to have MSG, you will need to chose the western options available and will not be able to have Japanese foods as it is impossible to tell if MSG was used or not.

No fish – Avoiding fish itself is possible but avoiding fish broth and fish essence is nearly impossible. Fish broth and fish essence are used in almost all Japanese cooking. If these are not ok, you will be unable to have Japanese foods, and will need to chose the western options, as it will be impossible to determine if fish broth or fish essence have been used.

No raw fish – Raw fish is sometimes served as part of of Japanese meals but it is a very small part. It will be easy to avoid eating it if you choose and will not cause any major issue.

No meat (or no pork, no beef, etc) – We will need to know if cross-contamination with meat is OK. Fried foods will be cooked in the same oils that meat has been cooked in. If this is not OK all fried foods will be out. Please see the fried food section.

No milk, no lactose – Avoiding dairy products is of course possible but there are of course items made with small amounts of milk. Batters such as kushiage will have milk in it. If it not OK, all fried foods will be out. Please see the fried food section.

No eggs – We will need to know if egg in batters is ok. Batters such as kushiage will have eggs in it. If it not OK, all fried foods will be out. Please see the fried food section.

Vegetarian – We have found that this is a very general term and can mean many things, we will get more information from you after you register about what this means to you. We will inform all locations of your preference. Each location will do their best to accommodate you.

Low Sodium – The Japanese diet is very healthy, but it is extremely high in sodium. Low sodium soy sauce is generally not available in Japan. It is impossible to stay away from sodium in Japan.

Fried Food – Avoiding fried foods is moderately do-able. Almost all ryokans will serve tempura; which is defined as seafood or vegetables dipped in batter and deep-fried. This is a common part of Japanese meals. If this common item is not OK, some Japanese meals may be out.

Other – Because the escorted tours have set locations where the meals will be served please contact us to see how your food restriction will affect your trip.