Taberarimaska? Eating when you’re allergic…

Traveling when you’re allergic to common foods is always a challange – in Japan it can be even more so.   I’m allergic to onions, my boyfriend to garlic.  As you can imagine, some cuisines are totally off limits.   Japanese food, however, is great because it doesn’t always contain these, but that doesn’t mean NEVER.

What makes traveling in Japan with allergies more difficult is the inability to read the language – so even if you know the word for what you are allergic to, it’s not always possible to figure out if it’s in the food you’re about to order or buy.

Enter two useful tools:  The first is a food allergy card produced by Select Wisely.  We were alerted to this resource about a year ago and it has become invaluable.  They produce allergy cards for a very large number of food allergies (in addition to diabetes, medical conditions, etc) in just about every language there is.  Just as a side-note, they also allow you to indicate the level of your allergy (serious, life-threatening, etc.).

The second useful tool is the phrase covered in about lesson 14 of the Pimsleur Japanese tapes:  Taberarimaska (my own spelling, not official) – which means – can I eat this?

We take out the cards – present them to the food vendor/seller/waiter – point to what we want and say, in our faltering Japanese, “taberarimaska”.  Then we get surprised looks and delight, followed by lots of discussion with nearby colleages and then, either the very politely delivered shake of a head “no”, or the grinning, thumbs-up “yes!” we CAN eat this.

One Response to “Taberarimaska? Eating when you’re allergic…”

  1. wwwpyrawww says:

    OOoo I LOVE this idea! All in all, I totally agree that if anyone plans to take a trip ANYWHERE, he or she should be totally prepared for ANYTHING that can go wrong– and food allergies can be life-threatening (it’s not the same as losing your luggage).
    I’m very allergic to peanuts and I love Asian food. Because Asian food normally doesn’t contain peanuts it always catches me off guard when I feel my stomach suddenly go queasy. So I’m going to steal your card plan.

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