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Question Gluten free in Japan (for kids)?

Discussion in 'Japan' started by teleroo, Oct 23, 2019.

  1. teleroo

    teleroo One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Situation: Telejoeys (10 and 12) have been watching the utoob pow vids from Japan and have decided they'd like a trip there in winter. BUT...both telejoeys have Coeliac disease, so need a gluten free diet. This means no wheat, rye, oats or barley. It's obviously manageable here in Aus, but trips to the snow here are largely self catered, which takes a bit of planning and organisation and can be done when departing from home base.

    My gut feeling is Japan would be a bit of a gluten free wasteland for us.

    Possible problems (many admittedly based on my own preconceptions/prejudices) are:
    1. Lower level of food allergy awareness in Asian countries in general (?)
    2. Language barrier to even communicate what the problem is and discuss options. My Japanese is non existent, so at least 50% my own fault on this one.
    3. Not many (or no?) gluten free options (apart from plain rice) in Japan in general and likely even less in ski type places. It's hard enough here in Oz once you leave the inner city goats cheese belt. Things like soy sauce, and lots of other asian saucy things used in cooking may have various bits of gluten containing thickeners etc. Most noodles are out as would be pretty much anything crumbed or battered.
    4. Food labelling maybe not equivalent to Aus standards.
    5. Kids with usual food fussiness (don't like veges, nothing too spicy blah blah blah...)

    Question: is Japan a viable ski destination for kids with Coeliac disease?
     
  2. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Short answer. No.
    Too hard basket.

    However a friend of mine is coeliac. I've been out to a bunch of dinners with him in japan.
    He carries a printed card in Japanese that outlines it.

    I think it also depends on the severity of it.
     
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  3. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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  4. Any

    Any One of Us

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    perhaps one positive of the westernism in Niseko is that it'll work to your advantage.
    many supermarkets and restaurants are accustomed to western requirements and other wacky trendy tourist diets.
    theres a local magazine of restaurants and shops/etc and it seems they have a whole category to gluten free: https://www.winedineniseko.com/features/gluten-free

    I'm not sure I know any Celiacs living here or doing the seasons. I think maybe one or two. but Mum came out two years ago and was able to survive travelling in Japan for 6 weeks (?) gluten free, I think with very few problems. albeit with a very limited selection of foods.
    I also know a bunch of vegies and vegans, both of which were supposedly also impossible to do in Japan, that are surviving quite well. Doesn't help you, but at least you know that impossible is possible.

    If you stay in a house/apartment instead of a bed and breakfast you'll have cooking facilities. and the supermarkets in Kutchan have a bunch of western products that most other Japanese supermarkets dont have..

    this might be the card Donzah was talking about? https://www.celiactravel.com/cards/japanese/ but Japanese is hard to read and comprehend, even for natives, so that getting-gluten-free-food-in-japan article's suggestions sounds like a much better idea. They dont need to understand the disease, just need to know that you need to avoid gluten.

    Food labeling is most certainly not up to the same standard as aus, usa, canada, I sometimes struggle because they're not required to list preservatives (I have a sulfur allergy). However I think the primary ingredients are usually listed still.

    Do the telejoeys understand the situation? If its their decision to go anyway and take the risk surely itll be easier to handle. icecream 3 meals a day?
     
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  5. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    +1 for @Any recommending Niseko.

    I can eat gluten, but after a while I start getting autoimmune flare ups. When I come for the season I have to eat gluten free 90% of the time or I start to get sick.

    It is very possible to avoid gluten by ordering certain menu items, and cooking a lot at home from supermarket shopping - meat and veg are meat and veg. Shop in Kutchan and stay in an apartment so you can cook.

    One of my favourites is the pre boiled eggs in a twin pack in their shell and pre salted. Easy quick cheap and healthy - off the shelf in the conbini.

    I believe An Dining does gluten free very well.
    Also https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g321549-zfz10992-Niseko_cho_Abuta_gun_Hokkaido.html

    Carry the gluten free card in Japanese and let people know when you’re making bookings. If you have an accommodation provider they often provide services like booking restaurants for you. Ask them to recommend restaurants where you can get gluten free opens and then ask them to book them for you.

    Lunch on the hill is a bit tricky - but with the long lift hours in Hirafu you can ride until lunch, come in to your apartment for lunch and then head back out for arvo/evening skiing.
     
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  6. TJ

    TJ One of Us

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    Just check directly with the hotel you are staying with. If they are not onto it then don't stay there. We have a number of regular guests who are coeliac and we assist them. They don't seem to have a problem. We even supply one of them a gluten free beer. Kids would probably prefer our GF brownie. Bunch of Hakuba restaurants showing GF options now. They will be fine.
     
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  7. Ramenman

    Ramenman One of Us

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    At least, you can avoid wheat(小麦=komugi) in Japan in that the top 7 allergens must be written due to a Japanese law.
    [​IMG]

    If you are staying at a major hotel, I guess you can ask if the top 27 allergens(Green + Orange below) are used or not.
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. teleroo

    teleroo One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Thank you everyone for the replies. Good to see the allergen labelling has improved in Japan. From what i understand, not many Coeliac's in Japan, and maybe not as many food allergies as in the west (but that's another topic).

    But the replies seem to confirm my gut feeling, putting it in the too hard basket as Donzah says, at least from the kiddy angle. We'd revert back to some kind of hunter gatherer anxiety about where the next meal will be coming from which would not make for a pleasant holiday. Japan gluten free might be doable as an adult if you were in a position to understand the pros and cons of your choices, but kiddies struggle with this. Could see every meal being a struggle which you don't want on your holiday. Sigh.
     
  9. silva

    silva One of Us

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    I have stayed in Japan with a family who had severe allergies - one child allergic to peanuts, egg and dairy and the other was coeliac. They had no problems. They bought their favourite snack foods from home to have in pockets each day. Stayed where they could cook breakfast (Penke Panke Lodge in Hakuba - also had a complimentary bus service to the supermarket each day) and did a combination of eat in and restaurant dinners. They had a card in Japanese listing the allergies and took a bottle of their own soy sauce with them. Everywhere we went with them bent over backwards to accommodate their needs and double check everything. A place we went to for lunch a few times at Tsugaike even went as far as coming out and removing condiments from our table and supplying a dish for their special soy sauce. The buffet restaurant at Mommoniki (sp?) was a stand out - it had little cards in front of each dish with allergy symbols and the chef cooking the teppanaki dishes read the card, nodded, cleaned the plate and cooked a special batch for the boys. It also had spin your own fairy floss for dessert so was obviously a favourite. They kept a epi pen handy just in case and had translated medical history documents with them but fortunately never had to use them.

    I would not rule out a trip to Japan skiing - yes, it might be a bit more of a hassle food wise than for a family with no allergies but any holiday would be.
     
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  10. Lucky Pete

    Lucky Pete One of Us

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    Plenty of places in Hakuba offer GF options.
     
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  11. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    a work colleague has a kid who has diabetes and coeliac - apparently they often go together
    I think they've decided that Japan is too hard
     
  12. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    But it’s really not.
    Be prepared with an allergen card and stick to Niseko/Hakuba and you’ll be fine
     
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  13. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    it’s not me
    they’re not skiers, but the dad lived and worked in Japan in the past and is keen to take partner and kid for a visit
    the kid is fairly recently diagnosed so there’s a higher level of anxiety involved - both parents get an alert on their phones if the kid’s blood sugar goes up etc
    the kid is 13, getting a bit annoyed with the helicopter thing
     
  14. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Fruit and veg in supermarket today in Kutchan.

    If you come to Niseko and are without a car from 1st of Jan to 28 March I’m happy to take you to the supermarket to do a shop.

    I hear you re: helicopter parents
     
  15. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    thanks for the offer but it’s not me - other people!
    I’m actually going to Hakuba and I’m gluten tolerant so no prob
     
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  16. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Ahhh same as me.
    Can tolerate to a degree.
    In fact can enjoy it to a degree.

    I have in the past brought gluten free wraps and pancake mix with me into the country. Families who are really concerned can pack a few things into their luggage to bring to fill the gaps. Gluten free favourite mueslis bars etc for kids who might need a boost on the hill
     
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  17. silva

    silva One of Us

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    Thats what the people we were sharing a lodge with did. They had one child who was severely (life threatening) allergic to nuts, egg and dairy as well as one who was coeliac. They bought their own muesli bars, dairy free chocolate, muffin mix, soy sauce, butter substitute, lollies and cereal. They also had a card with written instructions as well as pictures on it. The kids were great - although young they knew the deal - don't touch any food or drink til its cleared by Mum or Dad (the harder one was reminding our son to wash his hands and face before playing with them - even him having dairy residue on his hands and touching one of the kids would bring him out in a rash - the only reaction he had while in Japan that I know of was actually from putting my sons gloves on instead of his own - my son had obviously had food residue on his hands and thus had manky, contaminated gloved - gross. Dealt with by anti-inflams and steroid cream, very prepared parents = no fuss).
     
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  18. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    My mate reckoned Gravity Worx was one of the best GF friendly resturants he had eaten at.
     
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  19. Roymond

    Roymond One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Simple answer: Kinda. No worries if you want to eat in. Eating out is a different story.

    My wife and 2 of 3 children are coeliac. We took our own GF soy sauce and the printed language cards.

    No one was "glutenned" but the meals were pretty well bland and worthless as most restaurants use pre-prepared stocks etc with gluten containing products - they were left with steamed rice and grilled chicken for the most part- as such we ate in most nights.
    I guess in the end, it comes down to preference- snow ..well, its Niseko and that speaks for itself.

    If the apres ski thing and cultural experience is part of the appeal for Japan, then you miss a big part of the experience.

    Some friends with CD stayed at the Club Med Sahoro that apparently was excellent with the coeliac meals, but its the CLub Med experience and an expensive package deal. The hill gets pretty dull after a week as well- its not the biggest resort, it seems.
    We have decided that until a vaccine comes out (and its in the pipeline), we will be sticking to Canada/US, which are both excellent with CD.
    Good Luck!
     
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  20. Donzah

    Donzah Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    Gravity Worx had GF pasta. My mate basically ate from the right hand side of menu.
    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Ozgirl

    Ozgirl A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Exactly.

    I am gluten intolorant - and it has been fine.

    Obviously not as severe as coeliacs but I also have a friend of a friend whose son is very bad with his coeliac and he was fine (she reports 'poisonings' on fb all the time)
     
  22. dr80

    dr80 One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Quite doable. Lots of great advice here.
    Self-cater - I literally go to the supermarket and buy fruit, veg, protein same as here. Rice; easy.
    Take some harder to get things over with you - seasonings, condiments, gf pasta, bread, muesli bars etc.
    Research safe places to eat out.
    Quite a lot of gf take away meals at Conbini too..
    Japanese retail and hospitality workers typically super helpful. Just have the printed card with you. Don't bother trying to explain in English or broken Japanese.
     
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  23. M_G

    M_G M_G_ = Make skiing great again Ski Pass: Gold

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    We have had a few families stay with us in Akakura with various food allergies. With planning they could get around it without severe stress.

    1) Get a place with a kitchen and supermarket shuttles so you can cook a lot yourself. Make sure they have Japanese speaking staff who can translate labels
    2) A couple of families pre-ordered special foods online from The Meat Guy and other places before they arrived
    3) They all bring an emergency stash for hungry tummies, just in case
    4) Quite a few places in town now have gluten-free, vegan, etc. options to cater for those who need them.
    5) Carry one of the cards as mentioned. Most Japanese people will do their best to help.
     
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  24. JimH

    JimH Hard Yards

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    Went to Hakuba a couple of years back, Penke Panke (spelling ??) know all about GF and have plenty of options.
    Mominoki hotel "hot pots" are easy - they just use a gf stock and you cook it yourself (although it's a bit of a blood sport/competition with teenagers.) and they had GF soy sauce and their breakfasts were ok as well.
    Roots cafe plenty of options for lunch and it's cheap - downside is it's vegie - http://www.rootscafehakuba.com/menu/
    The super market in wadano had GF bread.
    Eagle Lodge (accommodation was a bit basic after Mominoki) - did a "special" GF breakfast which was way better than what everybody else got.
    In my opinion they were better than a lot of European destinations.

    And Language in Hakuba doesn't seem to be much of an issue - it's crawling with Australians.
     
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  25. planetfonz

    planetfonz Hard Yards

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    Hello there!
    We've done several trips now, the first 3 of which were at Penke Panke in Hakuba and as Jim says above, my coeliac partner was able to have an egg cooked and they were damn good with making sure there was something nice for her to eat that was also safe for those times when we ate in their restaurant.. lots of plain grilled fish.. 10/10 for penke on that side of things...

    To be brutally honest however, there were some pretty big miss-steps with food and we still trust noones word! The roasted sweet potatoes, boiled eggs and plain rice were staple foods... Shopping properly, and preparing food ourselves did wonders for holiday comfort
     
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