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What foods are restricted in Japan?


Japan is a country known for its unique culture and traditions, including its food. While many of their dishes are popular worldwide, there are also certain foods that are restricted in Japan. These restrictions have been put in place for various reasons, including health concerns and cultural beliefs. In this article, we will go over the different types of foods that are restricted in Japan.

Raw meat and fish

One of the most well-known restrictions in Japan is the consumption of raw meat and fish. While sushi and sashimi are popular dishes in Japan, they must be prepared with caution to avoid any potential health risks. Raw meat dishes such as steak tartare are also not commonly found in Japan due to the risk of food poisoning.

Japanese Snack Box

Fugu (blowfish)

Fugu, or blowfish, is a delicacy in Japan but it is also highly restricted due to the fact that certain parts of the fish contain a deadly toxin. Only licensed chefs are allowed to prepare fugu, and even then, accidents can happen. Despite the risks, many people still seek out fugu for its unique taste.

Horse meat

Horse meat is another food item that is restricted in Japan. While it is not illegal to consume horse meat, it is not widely accepted due to cultural beliefs surrounding horses as animals that should be revered rather than eaten.

Imported fruits and vegetables

Japan has strict regulations when it comes to imported fruits and vegetables. This is because they want to protect their own agricultural industry from foreign pests and diseases. As a result, some fruits and vegetables may be banned or require special certification before they can be sold in Japan.

Seafood from certain areas

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, seafood from certain areas of Japan was restricted due to concerns about radiation contamination. While many of these restrictions have since been lifted, some areas still face restrictions, and testing is done regularly to ensure that the seafood is safe for consumption.

Unpasteurized dairy products

Unpasteurized dairy products, such as raw milk and cheese, are also restricted in Japan due to the risk of bacterial contamination. While some people prefer the taste of unpasteurized dairy products, they are not widely available in Japan.

Wild mushrooms

Some types of wild mushrooms are restricted in Japan due to the risk of poisoning. While many of these mushrooms are edible, it can be difficult for the average person to tell the difference between a safe mushroom and a poisonous one.

Shark fin

Shark fin is another delicacy that is highly restricted in Japan due to ethical concerns surrounding shark finning. Many people believe that the practice of shark finning is cruel and unsustainable, leading to calls for a ban on its consumption.


Alcohol is not technically a food item, but it is still worth mentioning as there are restrictions on its consumption in Japan. The legal drinking age in Japan is 20, and there are strict laws regarding public intoxication and drunk driving.

Food additives

Japan has strict regulations when it comes to food additives, including colorings and preservatives. Certain additives that are deemed unsafe or unhealthy are banned or restricted in Japan.

Certain types of eel

Certain types of eel, such as the American eel, are restricted in Japan due to concerns about overfishing. This has led to efforts to promote sustainable fishing practices and conservation efforts.


Japan’s restrictions on certain types of food reflect their unique culture and traditions, as well as concerns about health and sustainability. While some of these restrictions may seem surprising to outsiders, they are an important part of Japan’s culinary landscape. By understanding these restrictions, visitors to Japan can gain a deeper appreciation for the country’s food culture.

What food can I bring through Customs in Japan?

It is generally unnecessary to declare store-bought packaged foods that have been heavily processed and do not contain any meat, such as crackers, pasta, candy, jam, tea or coffee. However, certain products may be prohibited from import based on their country of origin.

Does Japan have dietary restrictions?

Japan may not always cater to dietary restrictions, including food allergies, which could be surprising for individuals from countries like the US or Australia that commonly have such accommodations. Regrettably, these special dietary needs are not always met in Japan.

Can I bring food from US to Japan?

Although there are some cases where inspection certificates may permit certain items, it is uncommon for travelers to have them. As a result, most natural food items are not allowed to be brought into Japan as souvenirs. It is suggested to stick to sweets and snacks from one’s home country when selecting omiyage (souvenirs) during their visit to Japan.

What food must be declared at customs?

Anyone entering the United States must declare any meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, and any plant or animal products they have with them, including soup or soup products. This declaration must include all items in checked baggage, carry-on luggage, or a vehicle. This is a mandatory requirement for all travelers.

What is the 80% rule of eating in Japan?

Hara hachi bu is a phrase from Japan that suggests one should only eat until they are 80% full. This practice is popular in the city of Okinawa, where it helps people manage their eating habits. It is notable that Okinawans have a relatively low risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, as well as a high life expectancy.

Can I take Tylenol to Japan?

TYLENOL COLD is one of the over-the-counter medicines that are banned in Japan due to their high levels of narcotic or stimulant ingredients, exceeding the Japanese standard.

Bird Flu

Japan has also imposed restrictions on the import of poultry products from countries where outbreaks of bird flu have been reported. This is done to prevent the spread of the disease to Japan’s poultry industry, which is an important source of food and income. The restrictions include a ban on live birds, raw poultry meat, and eggs from affected countries.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Japan has a strict policy regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The country requires that all food products containing GMOs be labeled as such, and many Japanese consumers are wary of consuming GMOs due to concerns about their safety and potential impact on the environment. As a result, many food producers in Japan avoid using GMOs altogether.


Shochu is a traditional Japanese distilled spirit that is made from a variety of ingredients, including barley, sweet potato, and rice. However, some varieties of shochu are restricted in Japan due to the high levels of methanol they contain. Methanol is toxic and can cause blindness or even death if consumed in large quantities.

Mercury Contamination

Fish that are known to be high in mercury, such as tuna and swordfish, are restricted in Japan due to concerns about mercury contamination. This is because mercury can cause serious health problems if consumed in large quantities. As a result, many Japanese consumers avoid eating these types of fish altogether.

Food Waste

Japan has a culture of minimizing food waste, with many restaurants and households taking great care to use up every part of the ingredients they have. As a result, certain parts of animals that are commonly thrown away in other countries, such as chicken feet and pig ears, are considered delicacies in Japan. This focus on minimizing food waste is also reflected in the country’s strict regulations on expiration dates for food products.

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