A Celiac’s Gluten Free Guide to Japan

gluten free japan travel
gluten free japan travel

When I said I was heading to Japan via a 15-day repositioning cruise across the Pacific Ocean, most of my friends and family wanted to know what I would do at sea for 8 days straight. What I wanted to know, though, was what I would eat as a celiac in Japan, a country with quite a lot of wheat in its current diet. This guide to eating gluten free in Japan is my long summary of what I consumed during my month in the country. I’ve also included some background to the foods that are safe, and unsafe, for those of us eating gluten free, as well as a detailed translation card in Japanese to help navigate Japan as a celiac.

japanese gluten free guide
For a long photoessay from my time in Japan, see here.

Eating gluten free in Japan: an overview

gluten free japan: an essential guide to eating and visiting. This picture is of Higashi Chayagai, the Eastern Entertainment District, in Kanazawa Japan.
Higashi Chayagai, the Eastern Entertainment District, in Kanazawa Japan

When people think of Japan, they often assume it will be easy for celiacs. After all, there is an abundance of rice, and sushi is generally thought of as free of gluten. Unfortunately Japanese food is also rife with wheat, using considerable amounts of soy sauce, barley, and wheat flour, and even basic sushi rice often includes a grain-based vinegar that blends barley malt or wheat with rice vinegar, which is a no-go for celiacs.

Historically it was rice and not wheat that was grown and used in cooking throughout Japan. While wheat was consumed in small quantities, it wasn’t the prevalent filler that it is today. Wheat imports have grown steadily since the 1950s, and as Slate’s Nadia Arumugam writes, a good part of why is due to an aggressive advertising campaign and subsidized wheat-filled lunches provided to Japan by the US Government after World War II.

These days, with instant ramen noodles, wheat-filled sweet buns and custard treats, and soy sauce that now contains wheat, it is incredibly difficult to avoid gluten in Japan. In addition, celiac disease is not as well known, and affects only 0.19% of the population, per a study conducted between 2008-2013. A 2023 study posits that the low incidence of celiac disease in Japan can be attributed to differences in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes, as well as relatively lower wheat consumption in comparison to Western countries. In Western countries, more than 90% of patients with celiac disease have HLA-DQ2 and DQ8 gene mutations, whereas the corresponding positivity rate in the general Japanese population is 0.3%. That said, the study noted that the pediatric population’s rates for screening celiac via the transglutaminase (tTG) antibody test has jumped to 5.9%. Other researchers have warned that this may be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to celiac disease and the Japanese population.

Awareness is on the rise, and so are the number of gluten free options and even dedicated gluten free restaurants in Toyko and beyond.

I hope this guide will help you feel more prepared and excited to visit.

Should a celiac visit Japan?

Yes!

With the lessons that I learned the hard way. When I visited, my fears turned out to be well-founded. Despite using a short Japanese gluten free translation card and, for part of the time, having a guide with me, I got sick quite a few times, often unable to pinpoint what it was that ‘glutened’ me. I hadn’t enough very much pre-trip research, and my GF card was fairly generic — it explained that I can’t eat wheat or barley or rye or soy sauce, but it wasn’t as detailed as needed because of the prevalence of wheat.

People tried to help, but despite reading the card overlooked that soy sauce had wheat flour, or that miso would need to be avoided unless made from rice, which was more rare. It didn’t stop people from preparing foods on the same surfaces or pans as wheat-filled dishes. And it was this experiences, this very frustrating experience, that changed my work and my travels: I decided to create a long guide to Japan, and a gluten free card for celiacs that was detailed and used local ingredient names. I paid translators to translate it, and confirm it was precise and accurate. And the LN gluten free cards project was born.

In the years since, I’ve heard from many readers (as you’ll see below!) who used my card and were able to eat safely. It’s important to be patient with those who do not understand your concerns with their ingredients, but please do visit — it’s stunningly beautiful place, both landscapes and food.

What to bring when traveling to Japan as a celiac:

In addition to the list below, I want to note that I found people to be very respectful of food restrictions and allergies. There are countries where people don’t take celiac disease or allergies generally very seriously. Japan wasn’t one of them. When I visited, communication was the biggest problem, as well as understanding labels from food stores— and without a detailed card, I just couldn’t accurately communicate my needs yet. If you are polite and communicate as best you can, it’s an incredibly inviting place. And as I noted, there are many more dedicated gluten-free products, bakeries, and restaurants that can accommodate us.

When you visit, you should pack:

  • A celiac translation card in Japanese that accounts for cross-contact and explains what we need to avoid. Yes this card is mine, but it’s why you’re reading a long guide: because I learned the hard way! The card also uses names of local ingredients where you’ll find hidden gluten;
  • Packets of travel-sized gluten free soy sauce or tamari so that you can use it as dipping sauce for items you find that you can in where a restaurant does not have tamari or another GF sauce. It’s important to first show the translation card and make sure the restaurant is comfortable with you whipping out your own soy sauce — as soon as people understood, it was fine for me. But being respectful and polite is important, and it’s best to ask first.
  • Patience! While yes there are more and more spots that can accommodate us, as with many of my travels around the world as a celiac Japan is not that familiar with the background and ‘why’ of avoiding gluten. With a translation card, patience, and smiles, it is doable though and very fulfilling to eat there.
  • Gluten free snack bars / granola bars: while SoyJoy is often marked as gluten free (see below under ‘snacks’), it’s safest to have a few snacks on hand from home just in case you can’t find any locally. I usually bring protein bars and/or granola bars that are safe, and also some crackers. In a pinch, these will be much appreciated!

Concerns about insulting the chef with food restrictions

In addition to the wheat, I was concerned about insulting the chef by being a picky eater and doing so without adequately communicating why. Japan’s concept of artisans of food, shokunin like Jiro in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is not to be taken lightly. Rice, Noodle, Fish, a beautiful photo and travel book by Matt Goulding from Roads and Kingdoms in partnership with Anthony Bourdain, refers to shokunin thusly:

“The concept of shokunin, an artisan deeply and singularly dedicated to his or her craft, is at the core of Japanese culture. […] Tokyo is the city of ten thousand shokunin. If you come to Japan to eat, you come for them.”

Basically, I didn’t want to throw art in an artisan’s face. But I also couldn’t eat their food as is, without getting sick. In fact, as I’ve said below, part of my time in Japan was with a guide and still I got sick from the wealth of wheat and cross-contact in the cuisine.

So I wanted to make sure that anything I presented to the chef or staff at a restaurant was respectful of this concept. I also made sure I presented the card before I whipped out any of my own gluten free soy sauce packets, and asked for permission to do so.

A gluten free restaurant card in Japanese

This card was the first in what has become a series of gluten free guides and local language cards, and I’m excited to be working with translators and celiacs to build detailed and safe cards for us to use on the road.

This detailed gluten free translation card will help communicate your eating restrictions firmly but politely, and allow you to understand what is safe and unsafe from the menu.

Note: The card is available for purchase via a trustworthy 3rd party site that uses Stripe, so you know your information is safe.

Why is this Japanese gluten free card different?

japanese gluten free card for travel, by legal nomads

I may be more sensitive or susceptible to symptoms than some celiacs, but even a small amount of contaminated oil for frying, or soy sauce in the food, is enough to make me ill for days. As as celiacs know, even if not feeling symptoms from cross-contact, it is still problematic from a health perspective because our bodies cannot break down gluten.

This card is different because:✅ Immediate download, sized specifically for mobile. You can save it to your phone and have it with you as you travel, or you can print it out and laminate it to take along. I will also send a second downloadable file, a PDF version that is easy to print, with English on one side and Japanese on the other so that you can follow along.✅ It uses local ingredients and lists of what you can/cannot eat help you eat safely, not just “I can’t eat gluten”.✅ Unlike less-detailed cards, this card explains that contaminated surfaces or oils are also unsafe.✅ It is researched by a celiac and goes through two sets of translations to ensure accuracy.

I have sent it to readers heading to Japan in order to test it out, and they have reported that it was very helpful and they did not get sick:

You can buy the translation card here.

An English translation of the card’s contents will be emailed to you after your purchase, or you can use the PDF version that has the English translation on the card.

Is MSG gluten free?

In my research I did note that some blogs discuss MSG as being a derivation of wheat. There has been discussion on the web about MSG being unsafe for celiacs, but in the United States, the US Food and Drug association notes:

Does “glutamate” in a product mean it contains gluten?

No—glutamate or glutamic acid have nothing to do with gluten. A person with celiac disease may react to the wheat that may be present in soy sauce, but not to the MSG in the product.

In addition, the Gluten Free Dietician confirms that while MSG used to be derived from wheat flour, it is no longer the case and has not been since the 1960s in North America. That said, sites have referred to Japanese and Chinese MSG as potentially still isolating the additive via wheat gluten.

However, the main producer of Japanese MSG, Ajinomoto, does not derive their MSG from wheat. From the blog Just Hungry:

Now specifically about Ajinomoto, the white granulated product that is synonymous with MSG: According to the official Japanese Ajinomoto company site, it is currently made by “fermenting the sugar extracted from sugar canes or corn, tapioca starch and other ingredients”.

Of course other companies might still do so in the Asian or Southeast Asian region. I should note that most of the MSG I saw being used in Vietnam and Japan was Ajinomoto. Having stuffed my face in Asia for the last many years, my inadvertent glutening has been related to soy sauce consumption or sauces with flour and not MSG.

I would love to hear other people’s experiences here.

Gluten free eating in Japan: dishes and snacks

gluten free sushi in tokyo: sashimi options always a good bet. This is hotate, scallops, one of my faves.
Scallop (hotate) in a Tokyo standing sushi joint

This is the kind of research that mitigates my fear as a celiac when I travel. I did not do it ahead of this trip, and I regretted it. So I’m listing out what I wish I knew for you.

Gluten free options at an Izakaya restaurant

We went to quite a few Izakaya bars during my time in Japan. Izakaya are casual drink and food places, smokey from the grilled meat and loud with beer-filled patrons hungry and conversational.

While almost all of the food at an izakaya will have wheat or soy, many of them will provide the option of cooking your meat or chicken skewers (yakitori) with a salt (shio) technique, instead of the sweet and savoury sauce which has soy in it (called tare). To confirm whether this is possible, ou can ask if this is possible. The question is: “Shi o-yaki dekimasu ka?” (Shio-skewers, can you do it please?)

Choose salt only, and ensure that the meat was not pre-marinated. Also use the gluten free restaurant card to confirm the grill is safe.

The places I went to had a section of the grill reserved for salt-only yakitori so that the taste of the other sauces or marinades did not contaminate. This was convenient as a celiac, but not all places will do that. I ate a lot of yakitori that were brushed with salt and grilled, and were not pre-marinated.

There are some gluten free noodles in Japan

Yes! 100% rice noodles are available, and increasingly Japan is aware of and starting to cater to its celiac population both in locals and expats/travelers.

There is also buckwheat.

In North America, it is quite difficult to find 100% buckwheat (soba) noodles. Despite the name, buckwheat does not contain any wheat, and also has no gluten. Buckwheat has been providing protein, zinc and potassium to humans for almost 8,000 years, first appearing in the Balkans in 4000 BC.

Despite being more prevalent in Japan than North America, many dried and fresh versions of soba noodles in Japan are nonetheless mixed with wheat. I only found one noodle restaurant during my travels that made their noodles with 100% buckwheat, far more expensive than the usual soba fare.

Unfortunately I was not able to eat the noodles with soup broth because the restaurant had added soy sauce into the broth for flavouring. They were kind enough to provide me with the water these same noodles were boiled in, and also some freshly grated ginger for flavour.

Most soba stops will be making noodles with a mixture of wheat and buckwheat, so despite the technically gluten-free base ingredient, they should be avoided unless you’re sure they are all buckwheat. Those times that you may find an all-buckwheat option? You will be thrilled. They are delicious. Be aware that the dipping sauces or boths, hot or cold, often have some soy sauce or wheat-containing-ingredient added. This is where your own mini-packets of GF soy sauce come in handy!

Gluten free snacks in Japan: 7-11s and other conbini

Regardless of where I was in Japan, there was a 7-11 or a Family Mart convenience store nearby, called konbini, or conbini in Japanese. Note that one chain or brand of store’s ingredients may not directly match another, so it is important to confirm it is safe for you at a new chain or brand, even if you’ve found it is at another shop.

Full of fun ice cream treats and prepared food in creative (to this Montrealer anyhow) flavors, these shops also contained something for the gluten-free eater, even if it was a snack. I found conbini to be a saviour when I couldn’t find something to eat, providing me with protein of some variety to make it between meals. Often these shops are attached to transportation hubs like bus and train stations, but there are many, many stand-alone combini as well. These stores are well-stocked and contain many of the snacks I list below.

When I was there, Google’s image translation-to-text option wasn’t yet in play, and this is an excellent tool to translate labels as you travel.

  • Bubble tea: This drink of Taiwanese origin is popular worldwide now, and the ‘OG version’ is made with tapioca pearls (the “bubbles”) and black tea and milk. I did not test out the different flavours as those are often made via powder, which could have a wheat derivative in it. If you aren’t sure of the powder’s content, avoid. I was able to try bubble tea with black tea and soaked tapioca pearls quite a few times, which did not have any powder or wheat—just sweetened condensed milk, tapioca, sugar syrup, and tea. There is a wordlwide chain (they have one here in Ottawa too!) called Gong Cha that has an allergen menu you can peruse before ordering. But in general, straight bubble milk tea was fine each time I asked when I needed a sugar fix.
  • Chestnuts: calorie-filled but wonderful. These are available as boiled chestnuts, or roasted chestnuts, as well in packaging at combini or supermarkets. Sweet, gummy, and delicious. They are usually only chestnuts but check the package to confirm.
chestnut snack gluten free in japan
  • Edamame: at combini or supermarkets, these snacks will be found in the refrigerated section and usually safe. Note that some restaurants do boil them in udon noodle (wheat) water, so if ordering in a sit-down spot, it’s best to confirm they are safe.
  • Yakiimo, sweet potatoes that are baked. Avoid sauces! Salt just fine. They are a popular snack, and the potatoes are slow cooked for so long that they almost caramelize. Very decadent, and tasty. They’re available both as street food during colder weather, and some supermarkets.
  • Onigiri, the adorable (to me!) triangles of rice and seaweed served at train stops and convenience stores and grocery stores alike. Be warned: most of these are off limits. The pickled plum (ume) onigiri was fine, as was some of the salmon (sake) ones. Please consult the ingredients on each onigiri before eating, using the kanji below, to ensure there is no soy sauce or wheat in them.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: The eggs come in packages of one or two and are perfectly boiled and — somehow—pre-salted inside the shell. They were a lifesaver, and most importantly they did not smell. Yes, I was that awkward person eating hard boiled eggs in a park, but it was better than nothing at all.
  • Yoghurt: I got plain yoghurt and topped with fresh fruit, to be safest, but there were sweetened flavours as well that were gluten free and a good protein-filled snack.
  • Mochi (daifuku). Made from sweet (glutinous) rice flour or arrowroot flour, they are delicious and dusted in rice flour coating and I was very happy that they existed. Note that these should be purchased from a vendor specializing in daifuku and make them from fresh, as the ones from the convenience stores may have a starch syrup or preservatives that have gluten. (Look for the kanji!) My favourites were red bean and black sesame.
gluten free japan desserts: an option is mochi, sticky rice balls filled with black or red bean or other fillers.
Delicious, beautiful mochi balls
  • Purin: Purin is a popular Japanese caramel custard pudding that consists of a sweet custard topped with a thin layer of sticky caramel. Similar to the classic French crème caramel or Spanish flan, it is a rich and decadent egg-based dessert. As with those other types of custard, the traditional recipe is gluten free, a mix of eggs, vanilla, sugar, and milk, and topped with a sugar and water caramel sauce. Its popularity means that you can find it easily, in combini shops or supermarkets, and restaurants. There are different types of purin (e.g. mushi Purin is slightly firmer texture than regular purin), or flavours (chestnut, purple yam, black sesame, mango, matcha, etc). What’s important is that it contains the original recipe and does not use wheat to thicken; check the labels to make sure.
  • SoyJoy bars: per SoyJoy, these bars are made from whole soybean flour, fruits and nuts, and contain no wheat. Always best to double check the ingredient list, but I did well with them when I ate them as a snack.

Tips for eating gluten free sushi, sashimi, and sea creatures in Japan

  • Sashimi is usually gluten free, since it consists of pure raw fish. Some places that are billed as “fusion” spots will put a sauce occasionally on sashimi; ensure that it has no soy or wheat in it. Normally, though, sashimi is a naturally gluten free food.
  • Nigiri, where a piece of fish is placed over a hand-molded oval of sushi rice, is gluten free where the rice vinegar is not mixed with wheat or malt. In the absence of confirmation, I apologized and asked for plain white rice instead, but it is not something many sushi chefs will do (in my experience) as it changes the taste of the food.
  • A solution to the sushi rice conundrum? Getting a donburi bowl, like the tuna one below. Do show them your Japanese gluten free card to ensure that the restaurant does not brush any soy sauce on the rice prior to placing the fish in the bowl. Donburi bowls come with plain white rice, not sushi rice, so it is already safe and gluten free. If you are unsure do confirm with the restaurant before ordering.
  • Avoid eel (unagi) as it is marinated in a soy-blend, and usually covered in a sauce that also includes wheat.
  • Use the small packets of soy sauce I mentioned above, though again do take care that doing so will not insult the place you are eating at. I did so at standing sushi spots and other fast-casual places, but would not normally at a higher end restaurant.
  • Fish or vegetables in tempura, which are battered and deep-fried, will be off limits. Tempura has wheat in it.
  • Though rarer in Japan than in North America, confirm that there’s no crab sticks or imitation crab in your sushi. It is often made with fish that is dyed, starched, and then bound with wheat. This items is called kanikama or kani in Japanese. If real crab is available instead, it will be very tasty—and quite a bit more expensive.
  • The nori (seaweed sheets) are naturally gluten free as long as they were not flavoured with soy sauce. There are many flavoured seaweed snacks around, but for sushi spots it is almost always the unflavoured variety.
  • Some of the spicy, mayo-based sauces may have wheat because mayonnaise is a hidden source of gluten in many countries, including Japan. Interestingly enough Kewpie, one of the most popular brands, is certified as gluten free in the USA, but was not gluten free in Japan. So always best to ask!
  • Wasabi is commonly 100% real wasabi root in Japan, a treat for most of us used to the horseradish-dyed monstrosity we get in North America. Even at home, the wasabi is usually thickened with corn starch and not wheat, but as always it’s important to confirm. I try to go to expat grocery stores when I get somewhere to see if English labels are stickered onto local products, to examine whether they may be available or not for me. I’ve found quite a few times another traveler familiar with the local language will stop and ask me if I need help at those shops; it’s been a source of a lot of answers on the road.
gluten free sushi in japan: donburi bowl with tuna
Tuna donburi bowl
  • Morning fish markets—Kanazawa and Tokyo have wondrous ones—are great places to eat fresh sashimi or sushi, as well as freshly shucked oysters. You can also grab a scallop, have it shucked in front of you, and then watch it get grilled on a tiny BBQ. Again, just show the card and make sure they do not put soy sauce as a condiment. They always had lemon juice instead. There were plenty of sea urchin (uni) to eat those markets as well, which are also naturally gluten free — BUT, are only safe if eaten as fresh as market uni is, freshly popped open to eat. When ordering uni at restaurants, it is usually marinated in soy sauce, so please do make sure you’re either getting a version marinated in GF soy sauce, or it’s ‘straight from the boat to your mouth hole’ levels of fresh, like at this market.
gluten free kanazawa: sea urchin aplenty!
Fresh seafood, from table to mouth.

In Miyajima, you can also get grilled oysters on the side of the alleys, with lemon juice and soy sauce. Simply ask for no soy sauce and you’re set.

Beware of mugi tea: it’s not gluten free

Barley (mugi) is a very prevalent option for tea in Japan, must more so than in North America. The team is called mugicha, and is not gluten free. In contrast to the bright green matcha tea option mentioned above, mugicha is darker, an earthy brown colour.

Stick to pure green tea, or other tea leaves that you can select yourself (white tea, silver needle tea, black or oolong teas, etc) and make sure mugi is not an ingredient in it.

Soy sauce in Japan: very difficult to avoid

Japanese food would be so much more digestible for celiacs if soy sauce did not contain wheat flour. It was not always that way in Japan. You can see this incredibly thorough history of soy sauce and tamari from the Soy Info Center for more, if you are interested. But for our purposes the problem remains: soy sauce is used in otherwise gluten-free dishes, rendering them indigestible for those of us who cannot have gluten.

I don’t expect a foreign place to cater to my whims or my digestive issues, so I say this only as someone who desperately wished I could partake in the incredible foods that the country had to offer. I felt like a kid in a candy store, except all the candy was made of plastic.

Any dark sauces you see might be suspect as often this ingredient is what makes them take on that darker brown color. Included in this delicious (yet unavailable) list is ponzu, teriyaki, hoisin, and more. In addition, quite a few items are pre-marinated in soy sauce or have soy sauce added, like tamagoyaki (a sweet and savoury rolled egg omelette found at sushi spots), inari (sweet tofu skin pockets filled with rice) and uni (sea urchin).

An option is to bring your own gluten-free soy sauce, available in small travel packets. I did not do this because I was travelling from afar but it is possible. Note: in the West we use tamari as a thicker, pure soy sauce that has no wheat, as well as gluten-free soy sauce options. In Japan there is a similar style of soy sauce called koikuchi, a dark soy sauce that (to an untrained eye) looks like tamari. This sauce, which originated in Japan’s Kanto region, does contain wheat in Japan, but tamari does not. Tamari most closely resembles the original recipe for the fermented soybean sauce that came to Japan in the 7th century, and remains the only sauce sauce made without wheat as a matter of course.

While in the West we are much more amenable to making substitutions based on food restrictions, in many countries that is not the case. As I noted at the beginning of this post, it could be taken the wrong way in a country where people often train a decade or more to be working behind the sushi bar.

Matcha / green tea powder: naturally gluten free

Matcha is a type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves, then grinding them into a bright green powder. Matcha green tea is just fine for celiacs. And delicious.

matcha powder in japan: gluten free and delicious
Powdered matcha tea

Better the Kanji you know: useful phrases for a celiac in Japan

Understanding the basic kanji (logographic Japanese characters) so you can spot the ingredients you need to avoid, is also important. Yes, it’s crucial to have a detailed gluten free card, but more knowledge is always better and if you are faced with someone who can’t help, or in a store where you need a snack in a pinch, having this information is a life-saver.

The list is long and the wheat plentiful, but it was very helpful to start memorizing what wheat and barley and rye looked like on ingredient lists in Japanese. In addition, Western foods (yōshoku) are full of wheat in Japan, just as they are at home.

(Thank you to reader Sachiko for the revised whole wheat and rye kanji below!)

For starters, the most important kanji (the logographic Chinese characters that are used in modern Japanese writing) that you need to know are these two:

  • wheat (小麦komugi, or 小麦粉 komugiko)
  • whole wheat (全粒小麦 zen-ryu komugi)
  • As I noted above, barley is also quite prevalent in Japanese cuisine, both in miso soups and in tea: barley (mugi) or (大麦 oo-mugi). Miso (味噌) can be made from rice or soybeans, and gluten free miso is more and more popular in North America but less so in Japan. The standard one used in Japan does contain wheat, so if a label has miso you will most likely want to avoid.
  • And, sadly, since soy sauce has wheat flour in it, that is to be avoided too: Soy sauce: 醤油, shoyu
  • Though more rare than barley, still needs to be avoided: Rye: ライ麦raimugi
  • Wheat gluten itself, a version of seitan: Seitan often used as “faux meat” in vegetarian Buddhist cooking or in some of the tea ceremony foods, and Fu, are actually made from concentrated gluten. They are very off limits. Fu (麩) and seitan (セイタン) are the Kanji to know.
  • Malt: malt (麦芽) bakuga
  • Oats: (燕麦) enbaku – not all celiacs avoid oats, but it was difficult to find any in Japan that were certified gluten free, and I wanted to make sure this was noted.
  • Also, mizuame, a syrup much like high-fructose corn syrup in North America, made from barley or corn or sometimes potatoes. It’s sweet. andsticky, but sometimes labels don’t differentiate the source of the sauce. It’s in a lot of packaged foods, so it’s best to stick to the dishes you can see/control being prepared.

Memorize or print these out and scan for them on ingredient lists. That was me, the random girl who took forever in the 7-11 as I frantically scanned the onigiri for mentions of these forbidden ingredients.

Sadly this also means no okonomiyaki, one of the things I had the hardest time letting go.

Okonomiyaki, this photo
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. Off limits 🙁 Sniff.

List of gluten free restaurants in Japan

This list is frequently updated from a combo of my own experiences there and fellow celiacs who have traveled to Japan.

Gluten Free Restaurants and Bakeries in Tokyo

I spent a lot of time in Tokyo, since it served as a base for a few different trips around the country. The chaos, colours, and beautiful sights make it one of my favourite places to visit. At the time, gluten free options were few and far between. Thankfully, more and more have cropped up, making Tokyo a great place to dip your feet into eating through Japan as a celiac.

Komehiro Bakery (2-3-18 Sakai, Musashino-shi, Tokyo Zip 180-0022) Opening hours: 10:00 to 20:00, Closed: Monday. Gluten free bakery, just a couple of stops north on the train from the Studio Ghibli Museum, just outside of Tokyo. About 7 min walk north from the Musashi-Sakai station on the Chuo Main Line. Offers bread with gluten free rice flour, and GF doughnuts and cakes. The owner himself suffers from gluten intolerance, which is why he started the bakery. Very friendly, and a nice range of GF baked goods.

NachuRa Gluten Free Cafe (Japan, 〒107-0062 Tokyo, Minato City, Minamiaoyama, 2 Chome−8−18 1F). A great option for safe sweets, packaged individually or from behind the counter, with vegan options as well.

Otaco Sweets (3 Chome-5-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan), Another GF Tokyo bakery, located just above the Senso-ji temple.Sells beautifully light and tasty chiffon cake made with rice flour, so beautiful and delicious!

Biossa (2 Chome-10-19 Kasuga, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 112-0003, Japan). This bakery is only for take-out or delivery, but it’s worth a mention because the bread is fantastic. They sell many different breads too, flavoured with curries or cheese or ham, and more. Also on offer are bagels, baguettes, muffins, and croissants. Per my friend and fellow spinal CSF leak patient Lili, this is is the best rice bread you can try in Tokyo.

Jiyugaoka Bakery (Japan, 〒152-0035 Tokyo, Meguro City, Jiyūgaoka, 1-chōme−26−9 三笠ビル). Lili also suggested this 100% gluten free bakery, which has breads, cakes, and savoury rolls and buns on offer.

gluten free bakery in tokyo - Jiyugaoka
Picture by Lili

Gluten Free T’s Kitchen (7-8-5 Roppongi 港区六本木7-8-5 2F) Closed Tuesdays. Located in Rappongi, T’s Kitchen serves up GF takes on many Japanese dishes, including okonomiyaki, yakisoba, tempura (made with rice), and ramen soups. The menu is marked for gluten, diary, eggs, soy, and nuts, and as with many spots in Japan has photos of the dish for easy choosing. This is a great place to both eat safely and get to know some of the dishes that make Japanese food famous-without the wheat.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum now has gluten free ramen! (222-0033 Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama, Kohoku Ward, Shinyokohama, 2−14−21), open 11am-10:30pm. Last call for food is at 9:30pm.

SAIKYOU no BUTTER COFFEE cafe (two locations) This is a low carb, gluten-free cafe with two locations in Tokyo. Capitalizing on the bulletproof coffee trend, it sells butter coffee, and coffee blended with MCT oil. Dishes include salads, sandwiches, and coffee, as well as some sweets. All gluten free.

RiceHACK/Onden House (5 Chome-16-5 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan) is a gluten free bakery with (as the name suggests!) lots of rice-based deliciousness for celiacs to enjoy. It’s entirely gluten free, and their menu has both sweet and savoury options, and stuff I could not find elsewhere. It’s currently more of a bakery than a cafe, but the pizza is delicious and you can grab it as takeout and eat it elsewhere:

gluten free pizza tokyo japan
Picture by Lili

Gluten Free Ramen Shop Sinbusakiya (2-10-3 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043). It has gluten free, vegan, and non-pork ramen options. Readers report that it is safe, but I have not been there myself. Some wild opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 11am till 5am the next day, Friday-Saturday 11am till 7am the next day, and Sunday 11am till 2am the next day. All the ramen, all the time.

Otsuna Sushi (7-14-4 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Remm Roppongi Building 1F). This spot has gluten free soy sauce on offer, and two Japan-based readers who went recently say that staff were knowledgeable and could safely direct them to what was safe on the menu, and that the sushi was incredible. .Take out hours are 10am-9pm Saturday, 10am-1pm Sunday. For dining in, 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm. The last entry for dining in will be allowed at 9pm, so don’t arrive too late.

Reader Gideon messaged to share Un-Gluten (Noshiro Building, 1-18-9 Uchikanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo), a gluten free spot with pastas and quite a few delicious sauces and toppings to choose from, including seafood pasta options. They’ve also got a set menu for lunch. The shop usees Koshihikari brown rice to make their pasta, and it is 100% gluten free, as the name suggests.

Little Bird Cafe (3F, 1-1-20 Uehara, Shibuya, Tokyo 1510064), beloved by many a celiac visiting Japan! The broad menu includes western food like pizza and hamburgers, but also ramen, pasta, dumplings, and Japanese favourites like tempura. It’s 100% gluten free. GO FORTH AND EAT! Sadly, LBC has closed during the pandemic, until further notice.

Breizh Cafe also has a Tokyo location (3 Chome-5-4 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001) +81-3-3478-7855 (see Kyoto above). Please confirm 100% gluten free/buckwheat crepe for the one you order.

My Bánh Mì by Gluten Free TOKYO (〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−20−4 アクシア原宿 103) offers 100% gluten free Vietnamese-inspired sandwiches, as well as vegan treats and sweets that are also gluten free. Their bread is made from rice flour, and while different to the French-style baguettes you’ll find in Vietnam, make for pillowy, delicious meals.

RizLabo Kitchen (4-15-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Urasando Garden) is, as the name suggests, a rice based extravaganza. In this case, pancakes! Fluffier than what you think of as pancakes, made-to-order, and oh so tasty. They say that trial and error led them to their recipe, and that their rice flour is also pesticide-free. They also serve crepes on some days, so ask what is coming out of the kitchen when. Open 11am-5pm, last orders taken at 4:30pm.

B to Go (〒135-0005 Tokyo, Koto City, Takabashi, 14−2 リカールビル 1階) is a 100% gluten free, vegan cafe that has small but delicious and GF daily menu with rotating dishes and desserts like vegan cheesecake, as well as teas and even some wine.

Setagaya Alley Bite Cheese Fried Bread & Fried Food Bar (Gluten-free)1F Enomoto-building, 1-16-24 Setagaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0017Tel: +81-3-6413-6363Breadbowls with homemade gluten free bread, udon noodles, desserts and more. Their claim to fame is also that the chef of Setagaya cooked for the the New Zealand rugby team (the All Blacks) during the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Entire cafe is made without wheat, oats, rye, or barley.

Brown Rice Cafe by Neils’ Yard Remedies (5 Chome-1-8 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan) is a vegetarian cafe that cooks using seasonal veggies from around the country and has gluten-free options on their menu. Accessible via Neils’ Yard Remedies store. Confirm with staff when ordering re: cross-contact or cross-contamination. They offer lunch sets or a regular menu to order from.

Chaffles (pop up; see the link for details) offers gluten free waffles in both savoury and sweet flavours, and sweets that are also gluten free and provided by Mincle.

Comme’N Gluten Free (7 Chome-19-12 Okusawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 158-0083) offers hot dogs, sandwiches, bread, and treats that are all—as the name suggests—gluten free. But the focus here is on the bread itself, and that’s because chef Shuichi Osawa, an award-winning bread craftsman, has to avoid gluten himself. He wanted to make sure people could enjoy bread even if they couldn’t eat gluten. Lovely, homey spot and delicious food.

Comme
Picture by Lili

Bon Bon Bake Shop (〒135-0045 Tokyo, Koto City, Furuishiba, 2 Chome−11−12 渡辺ビル) is a 100% gluten free and dairy free spot that also offers vegan options. Though the focus is on muffins and loaves of sweet dessert breads, there are also plenty of cookies and donuts available to enjoy.

Pizza Firenze Omotesando is another pizza option in Tokyo. (5-52-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan Aoyama) Located in the Oval Building 1st floor, 4 minutes walk from Exit B2 of Omotesando Road). Closed Mondays. This spot has great Neapolitan-style pizza, now with gluten free dough and also a separate type of bread (shokupan bread) but with limited loaves per day (usually 6 loaves). Their GF dough is made with ingredients like quinoa and sesame, giving it a slightly different taste to the norm. The menu also has gluten free pasta and appetizers; the restaurant was essentially reborn during COVID to become gluten free! Corn pasta abounds. Call ahead if you want one of those shokupan loaves to have your name on it: +81 (0)3 5962 7033 CLOSED. A reader reports that Pizza Firenze Omotesando is no more. It closed during the pandemic.

Gluten Free 61 Cafe and Bar (3 Chome-4-4番地6号 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan)Lots to eat for celiacs, including okonomiyaki, ramen, gyoza, agedashi tofu, and much more. Organic wines on offer to accompany your meal.

Karehadare (2-38-11 Kamimeguro, Meguro, Toyko | 〒153-0051 東京都目黒区上目黒2-38-11) For a departure from Japanese-only foods, opt for Karehadare. Curries of the Thai, Indian, and other varieties rotate based on the day, but are made with organic vegetables and are all gluten free, served with a side of basmati rice.

Japan Crepe, 1-15-1 jingumae, Shibuya-ku,150-0001 TokyoTel: 03-3408-2828 (+81 -3 -3408-2828)Crepe shop in Harajyuku Tokyo. All crepes are made from gluten-free rice flour. CLOSED

Ain Soph Journey (scroll down for their locations). The menu at Ain Soph Journey does not have any meat, fish, dairy or eggs, and many items are also clearly marked GF as well as being plant-based, like rice-based pastas They have 4 locations in Tokyo, as well as options elsewhere in Japan — and online shop with beautiful pastries for sale as well.

Where is a dog? (〒180-0004 Tokyo, Musashino, Kichijoji Honcho, 2 Chome−24−9 SUNO Ecru 103). This gluten free spot that used to be in Shinjuku reopened in April 2021 and still offers a thorough menu of options that include vegan and dairy free eats. You’ll find waffles, curries, and baked goods among other great treats, as well as a vegan dessert menu. True to its name, the restaurant is full of cat decorations but there is, in fact, one dog in there that you can try to find as you dine.

Gluten free Tokyo ramen options at non-dedicated (not 100% celiac-safe restaurants) are:

  • Soranoiro Nippon (Tokyo Ramen Street, Tokyo Station First Avenue, 1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0005). Michelin guide recommended vegan vege soba is one of the best options for your tastebuds, and safe for your stomach.
  • Afuri (1F 117 Bld., 1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, with other locations here.) Pick your meal via vending machine, and marvel at the gluten free option available. More about Afuri here, from Culinary Backstreets.

Some additional gluten free spots in Tokyo that my friend Lili, a fellow spinal CSF leak patient who is celiac, recommends:

  • A GF churro spot called Kuroboshi Churros, where the sweet treats are made from rice flour and fried in rice oil.
  • Nanan Tokyo, a small GF sweet shop that makes all their items using domestic rice flour
  • Gluten Free Kushiage Su, a high end kushiage (fried skewers) tasting restaurant
  • Shochikuen, a vegan, gluten free cafe with pizzas, cakes, and drinks.

Fellow celiac Endless Distances’ also has a gluten free sushi cooking class in Tokyo that she recommends — something I wish I had done when I was there!

Gluten free restaurants in Takayama

Heianraku, 6-7-2 Tenman-chou (Kokubunji street)Tel: +81-577-32-3078Family run Chinese-style Japanese food. Very friendly staff, who made the effort to come and speak to me about my allergies, and explained what they were using in my food instead of soya sauce and other gluten ingredients. Had a delicious meal here. There’s an English menu, with a number of vegetarian and vegan options as well. As there’s only seating for 14 people here, it’s worth asking your hostel /hotel to ring and book a table for you.

Gluten free restaurants in Nara

Daifuku deli stall (Nara train station): In the Nara train station (The main one, on the Kansai Main line, not the stop on the Kinetsu Nara line), there is a supermarket under the station (sub-level), where I was able to pick up vegetable crisps, plain nigiri (just rice) and salad. Before you go down the escalator from the station to the supermarket, you walk through a concourse with lots of little deli-style food stalls. On your left, directly after you enter this area, and before the escalators, is a stall that sells fresh daifuku and mochi. I was able to talk to the owner, and she was able to guide me through which ones I was able to eat, having the ingredient card with her. The shop is open from 10am, and well worth a visit. It was probably the best daifuku I had during my stay in Japan.

Izasa (Sushi restaurant), 16 KasuganochoTel: +81 742-94-7133Open 11am-7pm. Located in a sort of restaurant / shop / cafe complex, just outside of the deer park.You access it through a shop, where there are stairs going up to the restaurant on the floor above. The staff here were very helpful and able to tell me which sushi platters I was able to have that would not contain gluten. I had a wonderful, filling meal, with a fantastic view (the windows look out over the deer park, where you can see the tops of the temples). I brought my own tamari sauce, and the staff brought a dish for me to pour it in to.

Kamameshi Shizuka (Kouen-Ten), 59 Noborioji-cho (close to National Museum)tel: +81-742-27-8030Open 1130am – 730pm, The food is a traditional Japanese rice, cooked in an iron pot with meat and vegetables, allowed to slightly ‘burn’, so that it takes on a deeper, nuttier taste. It’s really good, and wonderful option if you’re looking for comfort food. It’s located close to the National Museum in Nara. I had to show my gluten-free Japanese card to the chef, but they were able to accommodate me, and I had a lovely meal.

Nara Hotel also offers a gluten free breakfast upon request.

Gluten free restaurants in Kamakura

Reader Nicole raves about Gokuraku Curry, and was able to eat a Japanese curry (they usually have wheat in them) at this cute restaurant.

Gluten free restaurants on Miyajima

There are limited restaurants on Miyajima island, and most of them are only open during the day-time, when there is a high number of visitors on the island. I brought over snacks from the mainland to make myself a dinner at our ryokan, but I was able to go into one of the many restaurants at lunch time, and they were able to provide me with plain oysters, plain rice, and some plain grilled fish.

Again, I showed my gluten free card, and explained to them I could not eat soya sauce. They did seem a little perplexed, but after going back and forth from the kitchens, they assured me they would be able to cook something for me to eat.

Hotels:

Sakuraya Ryokan on Miyajima island were able to provide me with a gluten free breakfast the following morning without any problems (a hard-boiled egg, yoghurt, salad and fruit).

Yamaichi Bettkan (Japan, 〒739-0504 Hiroshima, Hatsukaichi, Miyajimacho, 港町1162-4) Traditional Japanese food with a staff who can accommodate celiacs and other dining restrictions, served at a Japanese-style Inn of the same name. The food was made and served with pure tamari sauce (wheat free), but not all items are gluten free. If you stay here, you can also opt for half board where food can be safely prepared gluten free. Reader Anne stayed there and ate safely, including sushi, sashimi, oysters, beef, desserts and breakfast without worry.

Miyajima Base is a cozy restaurant tucked into a modern co-working space, and offers food free of wheat, milk, and eggs. Their Japanese-style fried chicken, 100% gluten free, is a drool-worthy experience, but they offer curries and snacks as well.

Gluten free restaurants in Hiroshima

Kohotona Gallery (〒731-0154 Hiroshima, Asaminami Ward, Kamiyasu, 2 Chome−16−18 第2松田ビル 102) +81 80-9581-1144. This shop makes gluten, diary, and sugar free snacks and treats for celiacs to enjoy.

Hassei Okonomiyaki (4-17 Fujimicho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0043, Japan) +81 82-242-8123. Delicious gluten free okonomiyaki, knowledgeable staff, and gluten free items clearly marked on the menu. Such a treat to try this tasty dish. Vegetarian options as well. Cook your okonomiyaki on a grill in front of you; the dipping sauce is also gluten free for those who need it. Closed Mondays. Call in advance to reserve a spot.

Cafe Ponte (1 Chome-9-21 Otemachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0051, Japan). If you’re in a pinch and want to eat Italian food instead, this restaurant has a gluten free menu and per readers can accommodate celiacs safely.

Shanti Vegan Cafe, Mondano Bldg 2-20, Mikawa-chō Naka WardOpening hours – 11.30am-9.30pm. In the same building as a yoga studio. Vegan and Vegetarian meals,able to cater for gluten-free and other allergies as well. CLOSED

Gluten Free Restaurants in Kyoto

Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan, and is now known as a cultural capital instead. The Honshu island city has many Buddhist temples, gardens, palaces, shrines and beautiful areas that still showcase traditional Japanese architecture. There is so much to explore here, and I wish I had more time to do so. My days in Kyoto remain some of my most memorable in Japan.

Hotel Sakura Terrace The Gallery (Restaurant on ground floor)〒601-8002 京都府京都市南区東九条上殿田町,南区東九条上殿田町39番地 (Just a little south of Kyotostation)+81 75-692-1112We actually stayed in this hotel, and didn’t eat here until one night when I was desperately hungry, after not finding anywhere in the centre of Kyoto to eat.. I’d come back to the hotel planning on redeeming my free drinks voucher, but they surprised me by making me fresh chips (fries), in new oil, with wonderful roasted vegetables alongside. They also had a delicious green tea creme brûlée for dessert.

Daimaru (department store)Japan, 〒604-8124京都府京都市中京区高倉通り四条上ル帯屋町581+81 75-231-0799In the basement of most department stores, there’s a food court. In this Daimaru, there’s a whole foods store, which although doesn’t do a huge amount of gluten free food, I was able to purchase puffed rice cereal, and some gluten free biscuits. The gluten free food is located in the children’s section of the shop, as in Japan, it’s usually children who have allergies, which they then grow out of (?) The staff were able to speak English well enough of me not to speak Japanese, and they were able to tell me exactly what food I was ableto buy.

Kerala Restaurant (Indian food), Japan, 〒604-8006京都府京都市中京区河原町三条上ル西側KUSビル2F+81 75-251-0141English menu. Really good food, Knew exactly what to do when I specified Gluten Free, and they were able to direct me as to what I could eat confidently.

Yak and Yeti (Nepali food, Gokomachi-dōri, Nishikikōji-sagaru Kyoto, Japan)Another option in lieu of Indian food, Nepali food in Kyoto. They will ensure no gluten in the sauce and meals are made to order so a clean pan can be requested. Vegetarian-friendly also.

Cafe Planet Kyoto (447-5 Kajiicho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-0841, Japan) vegan, gluten free, and dog friendly, this cafe is closed on Wednesdays but is othewise available for you to enjoy. They offer pizzas, pastas (including a set meal), burgers, and soups and salads, as well as sweets. They’re also on Instagram here.

French company Breizh Cafe 14-1 Ishibashicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8036, Japan +81 75-255-5501This French cafe specializes in 100% gluten free galettes (crepes),and now has several locations in Japan, including Kyoto! For a break from rice and sashimi, you can’t go wrong with Brittany galettes. Confirm that you are choosing the one with 100% buckwheat.

Teuchi Toru Soba, Japan, 〒604-0831京都府京都市中京区二条通東洞院東入ル松屋町35-1(On the corner of Nijo Dori and Higashinotoin Dori)+81 75-213-1512Open 11.30am-3pm (Closed Tues & Weds). This is an absolutely tiny little Soba Noodle bar, with seats enough for 8 people. It tok us a while to find, as it’s in the backstreets between the Imperial Palace and central Kyoto, and not clearly labelled. Clearly popular with locals, we got a couple of funny looks when we entered! No english spoken, so I used my gluten-free Japanese card, and spoke – albeit very broken – Japanese with the owner, who was able to make me soba noodles, and did not add soya sauce to the‘broth’ (made with the boiled water from the soba noodles), and was keen to try my tamari sauce himself when I produced the bottle from my bag. Noodles are made with 100% buckwheat flour.

Macrobiotic Prunus, マクロビオティック.レストラン プラナス.9-4, Kurumamichi-cho, Saga Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, 616-8373Tel: +81-75-8622265Open: Tue-Wed 12:00pm-4:00pm, Fri-Sun 12:00pm-4:00pm. By reservation only (call at least 1 day ahead). Located in front of the Saga-Arashiyama station (by the bamboo groves). Gluten free menu available. Cash only. CLOSED

Little Heaven, 8-29 Saganohirakichou, Ukyo, Kyoto, 616-8313Tel: +81-75-7772500Not always open, so need to call at least 3 days ahead. Upscale vegan restaurant near the Katabiranotsuji station on the Arashiyama line. Offers a lunch set consisting of a main dish, salad, and soup for around 2000yen. Main dish choices from pizza, spaghetti, and veggie burger to rice bread gluten-free burger.

Choice Eat and Study Space Kyoto 05-0009 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 東山区大橋町89−Vegan and gluten free options, including burgers, pancakes, and much more. Entire menu is 100% gluten free! Open 9am through 5pm or 8pm, depending on the day.

Sugarhill Kyoto (Sugarhill Kyoto, Japan, 〒600-8028 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Uematsucho, 725) offers Japanese fusion food, and has gluten free options available specifically for those of us who are celiac. Their website even makes mention of celiac, which is a rarity. Open 5pm-10pm daily, but closed Sundays.

Toshoan709 Horikawa Sanjo Shimohachimonji-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8333Toshoan is another option for fluffy rice flour sweets. It has pancakes, shoe pastries, and many other treats specifically noting which ones are gluten free. Open 10am – 6:30pm, with the shop selling lovely stationery and other items, not just sweets! You can also find them on Instagram here.

Kitten CompanyKamisuwa-Cho 294-1, Shimogyo-ku, kyoto-shi, JapanA cute teahouse in Gojokarasuma, Kyoto with organic, vegan food and a gluten free menu on offer.

Waco Crepes 605-0801 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Miyagawasuji, 6 Chome, 355-1 1Tel: +81 80-4108-6246Gluten free and vegan crepes in Miyagawa-cho, made with fermented rice flour and your choice of sweet treats, from honey to different jams, or just cinnamon and sugar. For more information, and pics, you can see them on Instagram @wacocrepes.

Gluten-Free Restaurant ぎをん豆乳ら~めん うのゆきこ (in English: Gion Soymilk Ramen Uno Yukiko; 40 Kameicho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0803) is a great option for gluten free ramen, something that’s hard to come by in Japan! The soup is made with gluten-free soy sauce, veggies, and a creamy soy milk base, and their noodles are made from kneaded rice flour and kombu seaweed. They offer a few different types of ramen, as well as a set menu and a soy milk-based dessert.

Café & Bar Maru (〒600-8012 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Saitōchō, 123) d_ is a fully gluten free (and vegan friendly) restaurant serving elegantly plated meals and sweets in a more casual cafe setting. You can take a look at their offerings here; art on a plate! The chef is herself gluten free — years ago, she got hives and allergic reactions to wheat, and realized she couldn’t eat out at so many places in Japan. This inspired her to make her own restaurant with food she could safely eat and enjoy, for others with similar conditions. Gluten Free Restaurants in Fujikawaguchiko

Not far from Mount Fuji is Lake Kawaguchi, the easiest of the Fuji Five Lakes to get to from Tokyo. The lake provides many beautiful opportunities to enjoy Mount Fuji, especially during cherry blossom season (mid-April) or in November when autumn turns the leaves into gold.

High Spirits Izakaya Bar (1167 Kodachi, 富士河口湖町 Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0302, Japan) comes recommended by a fellow celiac, who notes that while it is not a 100% gluten free restaurant, the chef had a great understanding of celiac disease and much of the food was naturally gluten free.

Shaw’s Sushi Bar & Dining near Kawaguchiko train station (3632-7, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0301, Japan) is a rarity: great sushi on offer, but they use only rice flour for their tempura batter, so it is safe for celiacs. Gluten free soy sauce also available if you ask. Staff knowledgeable about celiac disease as well.

Sarah at Endless Distances has a Kyoto guide available, and one of the spots that wasn’t there when I visited but is now is Teppan Tavern Tenamonya, where she was able to enjoy gluten free gyoza, okonomiyaki, and much more. Looks amazing! Reservations are required for celiacs, to be safely accommodated.

Gluten Free Restaurants in Hakone

For a place to stay, Onsen and Ryokan Kijite Hoeiso (227, Yumotochaya, Hakone-Machi, Ashigarashimo-Gun, Kanagawa, 250-0312) will ensure that your traditional meals are gluten free, with no soy or other wheat/gluten in them. Strictly celiac readers have stayed here with success.

Gluten Free Restaurants near Zushi

Poolside Coffee (8 Chome-1-38 Sakurayama, Zushi, Kanagawa 249-0005, Japan) has gluten free and vegan treats, and both savoury and sweet options. Breads, cookies, beautifully-presented tarts and more make this coffee shop a place you will return to again and again.

Gluten Free Restaurants in Osaka

Kiyomura Sushizanmai (Sushi restaurant), 1F, Nakaza Cui-daore Bldg., 1-7-21 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku. Open 24 hours a day, for any sushi craving you might have. Their miso and rice are gluten free; you can bring your own GF soy sauce or tamari to use with the meal. Several celiacs reported success here.

Grom (gelato), an Italian gelato company that makes 100% gluten free cones without any vegetable oils. They’re taking over Europe, and just opened an Osaka branch as well. If you need a break from mochi treats, this is your best option — great refreshing flavors, 100% gluten free.

Comoconoco Gluten Free Laboratory & Cafe (2-2-3 Shimamachi, Chuo ward, Osaka, near the Osaka Castle) serves homemade gluten free bread and desserts and bread made from Japanese rice flour and seasonal ingredients. All products are made on site in a dedicated gluten free kitchen. They also offer private baking classes.

Anosaki Konosaki Gluten-free Cafe/Nakazakicho Cafe Restaurant (〒530-0015 Osaka, Kita Ward, Nakazakinishi, 1 Chome−2−5 エスパシオン中崎 1階) A relative newcomer, this 100% gluten free cafe serves gluten free fried chicken that readers have raved about, as well as noodles, Japanese curries, and sweet treats.

Best books to read before visiting Japan

For a short, fun guide check out 101 Coolest Things to Do in Japan (includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and budget travel tips).

The following books are ones that I’ve read that are wonderful for bringing Japanese culture to light in different ways. Often creative and surreal, they were a pleasure to read.

  • Number9Dream David Mitchell
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  • South of the Border, West of the Sun and Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
  • Samurai William The Englishman Who Opened the East, Giles Milton
  • Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, Victoria Abbott Riccardi
  • The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan, Alan Booth
  • Shogun, James Clavell

Food books:

  • Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat: An IACP award winner, this book offers a collection of traditional Japanese recipes, including ramen, tonkatsu, and tempura, as well as insights into Japanese food culture.
  • Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors by Sonoko Sakai: A collection of traditional Japanese recipes, including soups, stews, and rice dishes, as well as insights into Japanese food culture.
  • The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes Hardcover, by Julia Momosé: a James Beard award winner, and altogether beautiful tome, this book is devoted to the tradition and painstaking craft of Japanese cocktail culture. Part history book, part recipe book, it’s a wonderful read for anyone who loves mixology.

Thus concludes my gluten free guide to Japan! I warmly welcome feedback and hope that it helps those of you who want to travel to a really fascinating place but are scared to do so because of your stomachs.

As a celiac I definitely have many times when the panic hits—when I’m tired and hungry, and unsure of what is safe. Hopefully this post helps, and I will continue to update it with changes over time.

-Jodi

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