Okinawa Hai fallback

This mom needs your help. Maybe this post could turn into a place to swap some relevant Japanese phrases and vocabulary. All I can offer is that the word allergy is the same in Japanese. More or less.  Not helpful, I know.

Here goes:

My 4-year old son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Does anyone have any insight into dealing with this life threatening allergy in Okinawa. Maybe someone knows of a certain food to avoid that may have peanuts but may not be obvious at first. For instance, I saw this tofu dish and one of the dishes was tofu with a peanut base, but the peanut ingredient wasn’t something that was listed prominently. Also, I have to be concerned with cross contamination. So if anyone knows of certain restaurants to avoid that cook with peanuts/tree nuts or use peanut oil, etc, I would appreciate the information. I have to carry an Epipen everywhere, but that may not necessarily save his life if he goes anaphylactic. I have it down pretty well here in the US but obviously with the language and possibly less strict laws on labeling and all the new foods out there I want to educate myself as much as possible.


  1. Hello everyone, I have orders to Kadena AB, Okinawa and my son as peanut, dog/ cat, shell fish and mild egg allergy. Like Cherry, my sons asthma only kicks in when he gets sick or runs into one of those allergies. My situation is just like Cherry except my son does not have as many issues. he is not seen by an allergist, except when we want to see what he has grown out of, which was 1 1/2 years ago. He was put on EFMP and all paper work was pushed to Kadena, I was just notified that we were denied by the hospital on Kadena and now I am looking for advise to proceed. I would not be pushing to go if I did not believe my son could be taken care of. On another note, I can’t believe that after all this time they still don’t have an allergist on staff. When I talk to the medics in my unit they all say that it is illegal for them to administer any shots without having an allergist, because God forbid someone had an allergic reaction.

    Please help, I was supposed to leave for Okinawa in 3 weeks and now this is stopping the process.

    • Teddy,
      One of my coworkers here on Kadena has a son with similar issues. They are usually seen at the hospital on Camp Lester(Soon to move to Camp Foster), not the Kadena Clinic. I myself have allergy issues from time to time and have also been seen at the Camp Lester hospital, and do not have an allergist, just my PCM. While access to the hospital is super easy, and is for all service members on island, I’m not sure how that would work for AF orders. I’m certain you could look into it, and for more information here is the link for USNH Okinawa:

      Good luck, and I hope your orders work out for you!

  2. This is a great thread!!! My son and I both have trouble with gluten. I just wanted to point out to be careful of eating Soba. Most of the soba is made from a mix of Buckwheat and wheat flour. People with celiac or gluten intolerance should avoid Soba unless it is 100% buckwheat soba pronounced JEW TEN SOBA in Japanese. I have yet to find a restaurant that serves the 100% buckwheat type but I can find it at the supermarket.

  3. I just read this post and I and my daughter are deathly allergic to shell fish. It makes it tough to live on this island as we cant eat out often. if we do we have to be careful they do not cook the shellfish in the same oil/water/pan as we eat from. We have to carry epi-pens etc for us. Just curious if anyone else has this issue.

  4. Thank you cherry so much! That makes me feel better about it all!! On the asthma forms that the specialist filled out, It says on there that he has no “regular” asthma symptoms, but that he needs the nebulizer as needed when he gets wheezy. I got the e-mail address to the hospital from a friend, so I’m going to e-mail them about the whole situation. Hopefully something works out!!

  5. Hi Lindsey! You remind me so much of how my situation was before I left for Okinawa. My son has wheat/gluten, nut, egg/chicken, soy, seafood/shellfish, milk, rice, 4 types of grass, dog/cat, multiple trees, cockroach, u-name-it-he-has-it; eczema like crazy, and “asthma” related to upper resp infections so that when he is not sick, he doesn’t present asthma symptoms on a regular basis. I got a prescription for epi-pen, and a nebulizer so that when he got sick but not really ER-sick, I gave him treatments at home when he needed it. They turned us down because there was a “history” of Asthma. The reason why they did? They gave me a run around of “oh cuz there’s so many environmental allergens in Oki” blah balh. I got all the way to a Navy “chief” telling me this but when I told him that the Naval hospital website says there’s an Allergy clinic, that’s when I found out that yes, the naval hospital has an Allergy clinic BUT NO ON-STAFF ALLERGIST…this is why they’re iffy on approving these cases. So I told him that’s their Human Resources issue and if there’s such a big need and knowing the risk of the families being on this island, then that Allergy clinic should be staffed with a specialist. I think it functions on only certain things. Even my civilian primary doc wrote this asthma diagnosis on my son’s paperwork so I asked for a referral to an Allergist. This step made the whole day and night difference. I made him document that this asthma issue is ONLY evident if the child has upper respiratory infections and he does not require a DAILY medication regimen for asthma. He also documented that if my son avoids the allergens noted on his long list, that he should be fine. And that should my son need medical attention for this, that a regular primary doc should be able to handle his issues, that my son’s condition does not warrant a need for him to see an allergist on a regular basis. That paperwork saved us all and the panel that looked at it didnt havev anything else to say after that. My son is 4 now. Okinawa has been a blessing cuz for the first time in his life, he can actually play outside now. I forgot to mention that the dry Southern California heat was so bad for him that he broke out in rashes after a few minutes outdoors, this even under the shade. But I think this Okinawa humidity opens up his pores and helps him when he sweats even. Now his eczema spots are not bad anymore. I use a cream from Mexico on these spots if they ever flare-up. We have been here a year now and we eat out in different places. He has learned to eat soba (the soba noodles are made of buckwheat which is gluten-free). Although I only take him to one soba shop becuz some others, the broth is fishy. In fact, it was a soba we ordered from a restaurant inside a base that got him to Lester ER for hives that I couldn’t control with his Zyrtec. Yikes! My son has started out with very limited food source anyway (as you can see) but in time, it does get better. Since being here on Oki, he has tolerated a couple more brands of cereal, the organic milk and the DariGold brand of milk (which is gluten-free) from the commissaries (yes, his milk allergy has improved in time too), he has discovered the wonderful Mac-N-Cheese and soba, and now the comforting Campbell’s Chix-Noodle soup. Through all this, he has developed food aversions early on in life to the point that he refused to have food infront of him. There was a time when all this child touched had given him hives within seconds and had to take medicine and if still uncontrolled, has eventually sent him to ER via 911. So, it does got better in time. It’s been a slow process introducing food to him but he lets me know when he was ready to try it. As far as the speech issues, my son is the youngest of 4, with three older outspoken girls. I know what u mean when he knows the words but refuses to say it. They have a program in school through Child Find, for 3-5 yrs old, which identifies issues in motor, social, psych, speech, and daily activities (potty-training, dressing, etc). My son clammed up through most of the sessions with multiple evaluators that they have during the process of qualifying for the program. He also has the issue of knowing it but not saying it out loud. They started the evaluation process before holidays of Dec ’08, and now he will start in the program next week. It’s a preschool setting but more on focusing on the skills development of the child so that when he enters Kindergarten, he will be more up to par with his peers. I know of one child in there that gets speech therapy. His sibling who is almost 2 gets a speech therapy as well, but in the comfort of their home even. Some allergies get better in time. My 3 kids are a living proof for that. It’s not impossible. It is so DO-able. I hope you find your way here on Okinawa and join us in exploring this wonderful island!!

    • Hello everyone, I have orders to Kadena AB, Okinawa and my son as peanut, dog/ cat, shell fish and mild egg allergy. Like Cherry, my sons asthma only kicks in when he gets sick or runs into one of those allergies. My situation is just like Cherry except my son does not have as many issues. he is not seen by an allergist, except when we want to see what he has grown out of, which was 1 1/2 years ago. He was put on EFMP and all paper work was pushed to Kadena, I was just notified that we were denied by the hospital on Kadena and now I am looking for advise to proceed. I would not be pushing to go if I did not believe my son could be taken care of. On another note, I can’t believe that after all this time they still don’t have an allergist on staff. When I talk to the medics in my unit they all say that it is illegal for them to administer any shots without having an allergist, because God forbid someone had an allergic reaction.

      Please help, I was supposed to leave for Okinawa in 3 weeks and now this is stopping the process.

  6. Does the comissary carry Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes? Their chocolate chip is wonderful – even my other child who has no food allergies loves them. They make all kinds of cake mixes too, including frosting. I read a post about sunbutter. I’ll have to try that. Pea-butter is very good too! We had to get rid of all peanut products from our home when we found out our little one was allergic to it and my older son didn’t even know the difference when I made pbj with pea-butter!

  7. The schools is the one that filled out the forms about his speech. The asthma forms werent bad at all, It says that he never has any problems with his “asthma” that he just came in for quarterly checkups. And the school paper work was checked that he was on time with everything EXCEPT language and she checked that it was severe. Its one of those things thats soooo frustrating bc he can say his words, he jusy wont.

  8. Lindsey, sorry to hear that your are having a stressful time – is this person a physician that’s being difficult? Depending on how your overseas screening was completed by a Physician, it could really make or break your situation. Sounds like your Dr. must have written something in the forms that made them think that he needed more than speech therapy? Is it too late to get a second opinion? I hope everything works out for you…

  9. Thank you!! Hes never been trully diagnosed with asthma, they just gave him a nebulizer for the rare times that he gets wheezy.. Hes never been to the er or anything for any kinds of breathing problems. The guy is acting more like the talking is more of the problem now. He said that out of the 30 something FDI forms hes sent to kadena only ones been apporved so far. He was a jerk about the whole thing.

  10. Just a response to the question about asthma and how strict they are. We’re Navy and I suppose different branches could have different rules – from what I understand, it really depends on the severity of the asthma, something like 2 admissions to the icu in the last year could raise a red flag. I saw this guideline on the internet – if I can find the website, I’ll post it. It sounds like needing a nebulizer once a week won’t keep you from going to Oki. And who knows your sons asthma may actually get better on the island! You live in the midwest with all those outdoor stuff that could trigger the asthma right? My nephew had severe asthma until they moved away from Kansas and now no longer needs any of his meds! Good luck to you and your family!

  11. I hope that we get approved!! we had a short notice pcs (we just very recently found out) and were supposed to leave from here (oklahoma) on May 7th, not the 10th and I’m stressing WAY out now bc weve already rented out our house and everything! MY son is 3 and the youngest of 3 so he doesnt talk understandably yet either. The drs tested him and he comprehensively tested on a 12 yr old level but wont say words bc his big sister talks for him all of the time. The guy today said that we should just get used to the idea of not moving bc kadena will never approve this. Hes sending the paper work next week and told us that he wont know until mid april. That leaves us with 3 weeks IF we do get approved to get movers scheduled and everything. I really just hope and pray that we get approved!

  12. I just had a quick question. Does anyones kids have asthma along with their allergies? Were supposed to move to kadena May 10th, but today at our medical clearance appt, they said that we will more than likely be turned down bc of my sons food allergies and his “asthma”. Hes never been fully diagnosed with asthma, he just has to use a home nebulizer MAYBE once a week. I was just wondering if this guy was right or if they really arent THAT strict.

  13. Just curious. Is anyone out there eating at the McDonalds on the island with kids with peanut allergies? We love McDonald in the States because they offer a lot of peanut-free foods and I can trust them.

  14. I am so happy to have found this post and read all the responses. My son is 2 and has peanut and egg allergies. I too carry any EpiPen, but obviously, never want to be in a situation where I have to use it. I have been VERY nervous about going out to eat and this post has helped so much. Thanks to all!

  15. I’m so glad that someone posted this and that all of you replied!! My 3 yr old is allergic to peanuts/treenuts as well, so this has been a HUGE worry for me. We arrive in okinawa in May and now I feel like I can breathe a little better about this issue!

  16. Pamela,

    Thanks so much for the info about the school. My son will be attending Killin if we ended up living on Lester. I think this is the first time hearing something really positive about the Dodds system. Great.

  17. Lucy, my son goes to Killin on Foster. I am very happy with the Dodds system so far and we came from what is (apparently) one of the best public school systems in the US: Poway…(My daughter was int he Poway schools for 3 years)
    His teacher is wonderful and he is thriving there!
    I don’t know anything about the private sector. Hope that helps though :o)

  18. Pamela,

    This is totally unrelated to the allergy topic. You said that you have a 5 year old. I too have a 5 year old and he will be in kindergarten this fall. What school does your child attend? I’m looking at all options including some private schools, including Okinawa Christian. I have heard mixed reviews on the Dodds schools… But haven’t heard too much about privates schools.

  19. All the comments have been very helpful. I’ll definitely will have to look for those translation cards. We were stationed there before 2003-2005 and Coco’s was one of my favorite places for take-out. Good info about skin vs rast. I’ll have to do more skin testing for our son before going to Oki.

    thanks everyone!

  20. Kandy, that’s a good reminder about coco’s…and level 4 is still high. It was explained to me that the third contact with the allergen will often result in anaphylaxis…pretty much regardless of the level…scary…
    Also, wanted to mention that they don’t do the skin prick allergy testing here, just the RAST blood test (which is apparently less accurate for certain allergies). Case in point. One year ago, my son’s peanut and tree nut allergy levels were high…tree nuts being higher (via skin testing). Just recently on a retest, the peanut came back super high (RAST 6 I think) and the tree nuts negative (via blood RAST). That I find hard to trust…
    OK, I am getting off the subject, sorry :o)

  21. Pretty much every American on the island has tried Cocoichibanya curry restaurant (also knows as Coco’s) They DO use peanut products in their sauce but you can ask for the low allergen type. My son is allergic to peanuts (level 4, so not super high, but we were prescribed an epi-pen just in case.) I would take Pamelala’s advice and get the card from EFMP if you don’t speak Japanese,

  22. Hi Lucy, I have been here almost a year now and all the restaurants I have been to in the area are VERY GOOD and go out of their way to help when you tell them you have a child with a peanut allergy. (I can only speak for peanuts/treenuts as I have a 5 yr old allergic to peanuts and tree nuts…)
    I use the cards from ‘select wisely’. Also, the EFMP on Foster made some cards too. I can’t really name specific places because they are all equally as good. I would not go to a Thai restaurant though…
    You can email me if you want more specifics. ukreal1 at hotmail.
    At least you are by the hospital. That is one of my reasons for living where I do also, I can be at the hospital in 3 minutes if I need to be :o)

  23. So glad I found these postings! We’re pcsing to Okinawa this July and we have a 14 month with severe peanut/nut, milk, egg, and fish allergies. Is anyone out there with children like us? I’m hoping that our baby will eventually grow out of milk, egg, and fish allergies but peanuts not likely. Can anyone tell me what specific restaurants you have gone to that is peanut/nut – free? My husband’s going to be working at the Naval hospital on Camp Lester so I assume we will frequent restaurants nearby.


  24. Hi, Just found this site and saw your question. We have been here since February and have celiacs in our family as well. The commissary at Kadena does have some of the Bob’s Mills gluten free mixes and the Envirokids cereals. This week we even found gluten free pasta. I hear they are very good with ordering what you need, but we have not done that yet. For eating out, many of the places on/around base have English speaking workers to ask and then we stick with what we know. Also, the following website offers translation for all sorts of allergies and ingredients that need to be avoided, currently for free after you register:

  25. I have just returned to this page as I am now here. Aviva, it is me, Pam, the original poster!!! I just went to that site you goggled and am going to order some cards, since my paper is looking like it is about to dissolve! So thanks for that. And I am going to practice nina’s translation. P

  26. I didn’t have my first food allergy until I was 24. We went to a restaurant we had gone to many times before and within 2 bites of my dinner my tongue and throat started to swell. I stopped eating and we thought it was the shrimp since I rarely eat any type of seafood. Went to the doctor and they did a prick allergy test(which really hurts!! You get pricked in your back over 50 times). To find out I was allergic to every type of grass, a couple trees, and sesame seed of all things. We get here to Okinawa and go out to dinner. I order a grapefruit juice(totally by accident and hate grapefruit!!) to have another allergy attack come on (yes I carry an epi-pen so use it and my husband takes me to the hospital 10 min. away because we know it is faster than calling!!!). Get a benedryl shot, steroids and a ton of other stuff to get a blood allergy test done(since there was no sesame seed in my dinner!). Find out it was the grapefruit juice and now there is a couple other things on there as well. You can never know when allergies will strike your family. However, the doctor did tell me, that if they run in your family be careful about giving that food to your children as they can become allergic to it also (my thought was great, my grandpa was allergic to peanuts and eggs along with the other stuff I am allergic to). So it is important to find out if it runs in your family also!

  27. Angie,
    Thanks so much for the helpful info. What a terrifying experience for your family! My daughter has a severe peanut allergy and attends Bob Hope. First thing Monday morning, I will request that the school nurse get in touch w/Mrs. Taylor at Zukeran to obtain that nifty English/Kanji form. Best wishes to your family and your son! Thanks again.

  28. We just arrived to Okinawa nearly 2 months ago and ate at Zen resturaunt near the sea wall and as soon as we left the establishment, my 8 year old Son went into complete anaphylactic shock. He was rushed ot the ER aboard Camp Lester where they performed life saving steps to open up his airway and reverse the obvious allergic reaction he was having. Our Son has NEVER had a food allergy nor demonstrated any signs that would indicate even a slight reaction to any particular food. The culprit is not peanuts as he takes a PB&J to school almost everyday. The blood test indicated a small indicator to Codfish (Not particularly helpful knowledge considering almost everything in the Japanese cusine is made with fish paste). To date my Son has to carry an Epipen with him wherever he goes and understands that although armed with it, it’s not a life saving tool. Emergency treatment is necessary for a successful outcome. Truth be told, children and Adults alike at any time in their lives can have an allergic reaction to any particular food item should their bodies decide to reject the item. Since explaining what has transpired with my Son, many adults have informed me of their life threatening experiences due to something that they had eaten their entire lives. The school nurse at Zukeran Elementary school, Mrs. Taylor, has a form that is written in both English and Kanji to show and explain to eateries of the severity of the food allergy that your loved one posesses. In addition, the form is also translated to the Japanese emergency services should you be too far away for Military intervention. I think this would be a great tool to have should you find yourself in the same position. I hope no one has to ever endure this life threatening experience and this small blog will help in some way.

  29. All this information is awsome!!! My son is 20 months old now and we found out about 6 months ago that he has a peanut allergy. That along with his milk protien allergy really limits what he can eat. I am already practicing the phrase to ask the waitstaffs out in town!!

  30. Pamela – thank you so much for doing this! I contacted the above contact to see if it will be made readily available on the base we reside on. We will see, but I think they’ll do it?! Thank you again so much!!!!

  31. THIS IS GREAT NEWS…I emailed the commissary website headquarters and here is the response. Even if you don’t have an allergy you should check it out, it tastes good and is sunflower so Omega 3’s (you’d think I am a health freak but not really LOL)

    This e-mail is in response to your request for a ‘no nut’ peanutbutter. Good news. I just happened to pick up the ‘Sunbutter’ soy butter item because a ‘No Nuts’ peanut butter item that we carried was always out of stock. The switch to Sunbutter should find it ‘in stock’ on aconsistent basis. Please allow about 6 weeks for it to show up on theshelf (literally, we just picked up it a couple of days ago and we have to wait for pricing, shipping, etc). Please contact me or member of the Camp Foster Commissary staffwith any additional questions on this item. Thank you for yourpatronage. Sincerely, Dave Leffert Buyer, Marketing Business Unit(804)734-8181 DSN

  32. seriously, this sunbutter stuff is delicious…better than PB…and I think of the Omega 3’s as I stuff it in my mouth!!!
    I order it online as it is still hard to find here but I am sure it will hit the big stores soon, there has to be a way to get it out there. Their customer service doesn’t seem to know if they ship it overseas!!! If they don’t ship FPO I will start a petition for the commissary to carry it when I get there!!!

  33. Pamela,
    Thanks for the sunbutter info. I have never heard of this product before, but I am going to look into it! My husband can resume his “sun”butter and jelly sandwich days…without worries!

    Good luck to you!

  34. Pamela,
    My 6-year-old daughter also has a peanut allergy and we always have her epipen on hand as well. We have been here on Okinawa for 2 years and have not run into any problems whatsoever (knock on wood!) My main concern was schooling and ensuring her safety there. New Life Academy was very accomodating for us – allowing me to train the staff on epipen use and the DOD school that she’s currently attending has been good to us. In fact, I believe that the school lunches are nut-free. She is such a picky eater that we generally stick w/the same foods when eating out (i.e. rice, soba, etc.). I will also ask my Japanese friends to read labels of certain products if there’s any doubt.

    Kudos to Nina for the great inside, Japanese info.!
    Good luck and take care!

  35. Thank you all for replying. My son knows about his allergy and always asks if he is not sure and all his friends at preschool know. They will tell their mothers that they do not want pb&J today because they want to sit with Lewis awwwww…he has a medic alert bracelet too. Nina, I will have to practice the phrase (which I am sure is going to come out all wrong with a brit accent!!!)
    Also Nina, Have you ever seen/heard of sunbutter? It is just becoming popular over here and tastes DELICIOUS. I emailed to commisary out there to find out about them carrying it but guess what, no response…
    maybe they will ship to FPO/AP

  36. Hope this helps:

    If you wish to practice saying it:
    Watashi wa kodomo wa Peanuts-no ararugee to natsu no ararugee desu no de shokuhin ne hite eruka shirabete kudasae.

    You can print this out and present it:

    ピーナツ の アレルギー と ナツ の アレルギー ですので しょくひん に はいつているか しらべてください。

    Basically, you’re saying – it’s hard to translate it exactly, so I apologize,

    my children have a peanut/nut allergy. Pls. check to see if there is any nuts/peanuts contained in this food

  37. My five year old son also has a severe allergy to nuts/peanuts. We eat off base often and haven’t had a problem. However, I do carry his Epi-Pen just in case. My mother is Japanese – I’m half, so I speak a bit and understand most, so I’ll try to help you out on this one. However, I do want her to help me out in the Hiragana/Romanization phrase. I just want to ensure I’m not missing anything. She’s working on it and I’ll share it once I get it. Also, just for peace of mind, traditionally Japanese food doesn’t contain nuts…except for the some of the chestnut pateries…so basically the food isn’t cooked with peanut oil nor are nuts put into the food – traditionally. I would just stay away from the restaurants you would have avoided State side…Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai. I hope this helps. We are in the same boat – it is a bit nerve wrecking at times. I’ll get you the phrase asap.

  38. my mother-in-law has a gluten allergy and before she came to visit, she ordered a card that she had found on the internet. it had a description of her allergy japanese, in great deatail – with specific japanese foods listed. we took it out with us and handed it to the server. i don’t know if there would be something similar for peanut allergies . . . good luck.

  39. My sister has a peanut allergy and she is like a little peanut detector and always has been. While I don’t have insight into what to do in Okinawa about that, I do suggest you start to teach your boy the symptoms. If my sister even breaths in the scent of a dish with peanuts she feels a tingling on her tongue and a slight funny feeling in her throat. Could you try to help your son be able to detect the peanuts in food by slowing down and smelling them first? Who knows if it can work so young but its great for her now. Good Luck!!

  40. Wow – I admire you for being able to go out at all with your son and that bad allergy – I know in the states I couldn’t pack pb&j for my kid at her schools due to kids with allergies.

    I’d definitely suggest finding a local to help you with this – maybe find out who gives that MCCS tour at the grocery markets and set up a private meeting? Just a thought. I am curious to see what other people say here. Good luck!