A guide to coeliac gluten free Japan

Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, Disneyland, Disneysea and Universal Studios

This article was written in 2017/18

If you are gluten intolerant or coeliac, eating in Japan will not be easy for you. It sucks but it’s true. Gluten-free grains are not readily available in restaurants, items are never labelled gluten-free and the risk that you will eat gluten is high. However! There are genuine options for fast food, takeaway and restaurants. 

In my two weeks there in 2017, the coeliac I was with had one very mild case of the usual symptoms of coeliac disease when ingested - this page is a result of the research and notes I made for that trip. This page was then used by my coeliac bestie in 2018, who had absolutely no coeliac symptoms in her three-week trip. This means, if you plan ahead and are prepared, both with physical items to eat brought with you and the mindset that you can’t have ramen/gyoza/almost everything, it can be done!

Before you leave for Japan

  • Pack to keep yourself safe with 3-4 days worth of food 
    • Whatever you can take that is GF that will fill you up and fend off being hangry, protein bars, two-minute noodles etc.
    • Take your own soy sauce and another sauce, maybe a tomato or another type
  • Order a pocket wifi for your trip (we got PuPuRu wifi at Osaka airport, $200au for 2 weeks)
    • Download Google Translate on your phone before you go, make sure your language and Japanese are installed.
    • Take a power pack and spare micro USB and C cords with you, just in case.
    • Use the picture feature on Google Translate to read ingredients everywhere you go. and check everything on Google translate with the picture feature. 
    • Examples below of Google translate on food, the second photo you can see there is wheat in the item.
  • Gluten free travel card 
    • Print one out, and save one on your phone
    • Most places we went to and showed the card politely told us they couldn't help.
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What we found to eat in Japan (in 2017)

  • MOS Burger – allergen-friendly burgers with the ‘top 7’ allergens removed. They show you a card saying they use the same utensils etc and you must agree. Burgers are small so maybe get one of both and BYO sauce.
  • McDonald’s – the trusty old Macca’s fries
  • SoyJoy – more often found in chemist/pharmacy type stores, seemingly all gf!

Convenience Stores

You are going to live off this stuff. Good news is they are everywhere, so you will always have options. Take a look at the images below of food we found that was safe. Other items to note here:

  • Plain rice triangles are not 100% safe, check them!
  • Get out your google translate and check EVERYTHING
  • Go to a convenience store before going to a Shinkansen station. There is NO gf or convenience stores at these locations
  • Most drinks in Japan are GF, much like Australia such as cold coffee, water, soft drink
  • The main three convenience stores in Japan are Family Mart, Lawson and Seven Eleven.
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Nara

Runners Bar Correr is pretty much Nara gluten free coeliac heaven. We got a margarita pizza (half-eaten below), chicken and curry burger, and a Yorkshire pudding for less than ¥1,600

Kyoto

Grill Capital Touyoutei in Kyoto station, the steak dish is safe, it is plain steak and rice but is a good, warm filler. Show them your card!

Osaka

In general Osaka is really hard for gluten free that we found. It was a serious struggle outside MOS burger and convenience stores. We got turned away at pretty much everywhere we went.

  • Dotunburi – there is nothing here. And I mean NOTHING. I think places are more inclined to help when it’s not busy, but we had no luck. We were turned away at all Yakitori stores, grill your own stores, and Mizuno which trip advisor people have said are gluten free.
  • Universal Studios Japan
    • Take snacks, many (actually all) snacks sold here are not gluten free.
    • Butterbeer is gluten free, go to town baby! Additionally, the butterbeer drop lollies sold in little barrels at Honeydukes are safe for coeliacs.
    • On the USJ website there is a list of restaurants that have allergen options. For example at the Happiness Cafe this was white rice shaped in a star with vegetables cooked in a Japanese curry sauce and a salad. At the Parkside Grille the steak and sides of mushroom, asparagus and cream spinach.

Tokyo

  • Denny’s – specific low allergen menu
  • Shinjuku, Kamukura Soup with Noodles – so boring but, rice, egg and green onion with the table garlic filled the void!
  • Guzman Y Gomez – the Old faithful from Australia seems to have the same gf options in Japan as well. A few locations around
  • Ninja Aksaksa – super cool ninja restaurant with a gluten free menu!
  • Pepper Lunch – various locations where you can sizzle your own steak with super cheap lunch options. As usual, ask for no sauce and no soy sauce.

Tokyo Disney Sea

  • Tell staff everywhere you go and hand over your card. They will call over a radio and help you.
  • Flounder mousse from Ariels grotto
  • Fries
  • Toy Story Mochi Balls
  • Curry and rice from the Arabian food court – gf option
  • Yucatan Base Camp Grill option
  • Popcorn DisneySea and Disneyland gf coeliac guide
  • This does not list all of the flavours, there seems to be a few savoury ones missing but it’s good to know you can have a few out of those fun buckets!

Tokyo Disneyland

  • Again, always tell the staff or hand over your card before you order. Staff are very helpful.
  • See the Tokyo Disneyland website for restaurants with allergy options. This is also listed on their maps, the Japanese version is below (forgot to take a picture of the English version sorry!). The places with red hearts next to them have the options for you.
  • We ate at the Queen of Hearts restaurant for dinner which had a roast chicken and rice option.
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