Allergy Labeling and Google Translate can make gluten-free life in Japan a bit easier

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One of the most labor intensive aspects of gf life is reading labels. We spend (and waste) TOO much time in stores inspecting ingredient lists hoping to find something to eat.

In my case I always wonder if people think I’m crazy for squinting at each product while my daughter starts to get cranky in the supermarket.

But there are two tools that help navigate those tricky lists.

In Part 1 of this post we’ll explain how to use the Google Translate App and in Part 2 we’ll break down the Japanese Allergen labeling system so you can make each store visit a little less painful and time consuming.

Part 1: Google Translate is your friend!

If you’re using your phone in the supermarket you can use the camera function on the Google Translate app to take pictures of ingredient lists.

Honestly this is NOT the most reliable method of translation and sometimes some funny things come up. BUT if you are in a pinch and the lists aren’t TOO long, it is a useful tool.

How it works

First download the Google Translate app through Google Play or Apple Apps

Step 1: Open Google Translate app and click on the camera button

Open the app on your phone or tablet

Tip: Go to the settings and download the Japanese dictionary under “Offline Translation”

Step 2: Align camera on text or ingredient list

Find the list of ingredients on the packaging

Tip: Look for 原材料名 (genzairyo-mei) “raw ingredients name”

Step 3: Highlight Japanese text with your finger

Use your finger to swipe/paint the area you want to translate

Tip: Use your finger to paint in the area you want translated. Try to make sure you get every character in the area. If you accidentally swipe random areas or characters, it’s best to start over or you will get some funky translations.

Step 4: Click on the English translation to view all text

Once you have highlighted what you need, click on the results at the top

Step 5: View translation and double check for errors or odd results

Enjoy the fruit of your labor!

Tip: Make sure the commas on the packaging are in the same places as your translation. This often creates some translation mistakes. You can manually fix them in the top box.

It’s not the easiest method but it will definitely make life a little better to have this tool in your gf survival repertoire.

FYI: You can also use Google Translate on a desktop computer to translate any language by copy and pasting text.

Part 2: How to make sense of Japanese Allergen Labeling…COMING SOON!


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