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Why do Japanese not eat cheese?


Japanese cuisine is known for its unique flavors and ingredients. However, one of the most surprising things about their cuisine is the absence of cheese. While cheese is a staple ingredient in many Western dishes, it is rarely used in Japanese cuisine. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Japanese people do not eat cheese.

Cultural Differences

One of the reasons why Japanese people do not eat cheese is because it is not a traditional food in their culture. Cheese was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era, but it was mainly used as a topping for Western-style dishes. Unlike in Western cultures, cheese is not a part of the daily diet in Japan.

Japanese Snack Box

Lactose Intolerance

Another reason why Japanese people do not eat cheese is because many of them are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is more common in Asian countries than in Western countries. Therefore, consuming dairy products such as cheese can cause digestive problems for some Japanese people.

Food Pairing

In Japanese cuisine, food pairing plays an important role. The flavors and textures of different ingredients are carefully combined to create a harmonious dish. Cheese, with its strong and distinctive flavor, does not pair well with many Japanese ingredients. Therefore, it is not commonly used in traditional Japanese cuisine.


Cheese is not widely available in Japan, especially outside of major cities. This makes it difficult for Japanese people to incorporate cheese into their diet. While cheese can be found in some specialty stores and supermarkets, it is often expensive and limited in variety.

Traditional Ingredients

Japanese cuisine relies heavily on traditional ingredients such as rice, fish, and vegetables. Cheese does not fit into this traditional ingredient list, which may be another reason why it is not commonly used in Japanese cuisine.

Alternative Dairy Products

While cheese may not be popular in Japan, there are alternative dairy products that are commonly used in Japanese cuisine. For example, tofu and soy milk are widely used as substitutes for dairy products in many dishes.

Cheese in Modern Japanese Cuisine

In recent years, cheese has become more popular in Japan, especially in modern fusion cuisine. Many restaurants now incorporate cheese into their dishes, often combining it with traditional Japanese ingredients to create unique flavors.

Cheese Imports

Japan imports a large amount of cheese from Western countries, especially France and Italy. However, the majority of this cheese is consumed by foreigners living in Japan or used in Western-style restaurants.

Health Concerns

Japanese people are known for their healthy diet and longevity. Cheese is often associated with high cholesterol and fat content, which may be another reason why Japanese people avoid it.

Cultural Identity

Japanese people take pride in their unique culture and cuisine. For many, incorporating foreign ingredients such as cheese into traditional dishes may be seen as a threat to their cultural identity.


In conclusion, there are many reasons why Japanese people do not eat cheese. From cultural differences to health concerns, cheese is simply not a part of their daily diet. While it may not be a staple ingredient in traditional Japanese cuisine, cheese is slowly gaining popularity in modern fusion cuisine. However, it is important to remember and respect the cultural differences that make Japanese cuisine so unique.

Why do Japanese not eat dairy?

Traditional Japanese diets do not include a lot of dairy products, which is why Japanese people still consume less dairy compared to Americans and Europeans. While milk is consumed by Japanese children, ice cream is enjoyed by both children and adults.

Is cheese common in Japan?

Despite the common misconception that Japan, being a part of Asia, doesn’t excel at cheese, Tokyo has many amazing cheese-focused restaurants. Those who are passionate about cheese can discover a plethora of pizza and cheese fondue restaurants throughout the city.

Do Japanese people not eat dairy?

Milk and dairy products have become an essential part of the Japanese diet, with many households frequently keeping them in their refrigerators. However, it is uncertain when and how this trend became widespread in Japan. This is a question that many people are asking.

What foods are Japanese not allowed to eat?

Japan’s customs regulations restrict the importation of meat and animal-derived products, as the country is concerned about potential transmission of infectious diseases. Therefore, most of these products are prohibited from entering Japan due to the presence of livestock diseases in many countries.

Why veganism is not popular in Japan?

While Japan does have a traditional vegan cuisine with Buddhist origins (known as shojin ryouri), most modern dishes in Japan contain fish stock, making it a challenging task for many to follow a vegan lifestyle.

Why can’t Asians digest dairy?

A significant number of Asian people have lactose intolerance or a deficiency in lactase, which is the enzyme needed to digest the sugar in milk. This can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating when they consume dairy products.

Furthermore, the texture of cheese is not something that Japanese people are accustomed to. Japanese cuisine often emphasizes the importance of texture in dishes, and cheese may not provide the desired texture. Additionally, the strong smell of some cheeses may be off-putting to Japanese people who are not used to it.

Another reason why cheese is not popular in Japan is because dairy farming is not a common industry in the country. The climate and terrain of Japan are not ideal for dairy farming, which makes it difficult to produce high-quality and affordable cheese. As a result, Japan relies heavily on imports for their cheese consumption.

It is also important to note that Japan has a unique food culture that places a great emphasis on simplicity and natural flavors. The addition of cheese, with its strong and overpowering taste, may detract from the natural flavors of the ingredients used in traditional Japanese cuisine.

Despite these reasons, there are some Japanese people who do enjoy cheese and have incorporated it into their diet. Cheese can be found in many Western-style cafes and bakeries in Japan, and some supermarkets have begun to stock a wider variety of cheeses.

In conclusion, while cheese may not be a staple ingredient in traditional Japanese cuisine, it is slowly gaining popularity in modern fusion cuisine. However, it is important to keep in mind the cultural differences and respect the unique food culture of Japan.

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