Okinawa Hai fallback

Recently, we received an email from Cindy asking for help regarding gluten-free options on Oki.  We don’t have a post specifically about this, so thought we’d bring the question to all of our readers for help.  

Hello. My name is Cindy. My husband and I were both Marines stationed on Okinawa 2001-2004. Our first son was born there – we left when he was 8 months old. We are coming back to visit this summer! Yay! But….my son has celiac disease and is on a strict gluten free diet. I plan to bring info written in Japanese with me and realize we will be limited on eating out, but I was wondering if any of you know of local Okinawan/Japanese food that might work for him (even if its just a couple treats/drinks or one or two places that seem to understand the gluten free diet and are willing to accomodate). I just want my son to be able to experience some of the unique treats! Any help will be greatly appreciated!!!

Let’s help her out!


    • Rice itself is a gluten free food, but whether any given establishment prepares it with gluten free seasonings and other toppings will depend entirely on the restaurant and its staff. If you have any concerns it is always best to address it with the staff before ordering.

  1. If you want to be more accurate when mentioning it to restaurant staff it might be better to say mugi-no-allergi. Don’t forget the G in allergi is a hard G in Japanese.

    Mugi = 麦

    Rye = ライ麦
    Wheat = 小麦
    Barley = 大麦
    Oats = からす麦

    They all have mugi in their names. If you add KO on the end it just means that it is flour.

    There are some really good gluten free soy sauces in Okinawa. Check the allergy section at some of the larger supermarkets. They say in Japanese “For people who cant eat gluten” on a paper at the neck of the bottle.

    As far as I know oats do not naturally contain gluten but most times it stored with other grains so often has gluten in it. If you really miss oats you can buy gluten free oats.

    If you want to try Japanese soba there is a 100% soba variety. It is much different from Okinawa soba. It is called Ju ten soba and can be bought at larger supermarkets.

    Hope this helps!

  2. Pizzakaya Okinawa has begun featuring Gluten Free & Vegan Gourmet Pizzas as well as other gourmet cuisines, desserts and treats…for both adults and kids starting this next week. This weekend all the recipes are being tested and you as the customers rate them!!!

  3. GREAT Jackie!! I’ll check out that website. Thanks!

    Jess/Nicole – I was excited too when I saw all the new gluten free items at the commissary this last week. And thanks for the reminder that I need to stop by and tell them I appreciate it!

  4. I talked to a gentleman at the Foster Commissary about how thrilled I was to see new gluten free items and he was really glad to hear that. He printed me a list of all of their new items (some still haven’t arrived) and also said that they can help order any items I can’t find.

  5. New Gluten Free items at Foster Commissary!!
    Frozen Cheese pizza, pretzles,granola bars, breakfast bars, Corn/rice flakes(cereal), Vanilla cream cookies (oreos), bread mixes, GF bisquick, Mac and Cheese, new brand of pasta. I am sure there is more that is all I can remember. Also I have a card in Japanese that says what my son can not eat and we take it with us everywhere. They are always will to make him something. If you would like a copy I can e-mail it to you.

  6. The Max Value brand food often has the allergens listed on the front as a chart. It is a great way to find different snacks. Also, don’t trust that all rice cakes (the crunchy round disc shaped ones) will be gluten free because some do have some gluten.

  7. I’m hesitant to write because I don’t know the extent of gluten allergies for people with celiac disease. However, my daughter has dairy allergies and we are able to frequent a restaurant here called Daikon no Hana.

    It is a buffet style restaurant that uses mainly local, organic/sustainable ingredients. The dishes vary with seasons, but each dish has a card with pictures and kanji of any potential allergens circled.

    Your son might be a little too old for this, but a lot of the little kids snacks (boro, senbei, etc.) will have the same allergen pictures on the packaging to easily identify what major allergens are in the snacks.

    Also, try different commissaries because each one seems to carry slight different gluten free items. I hope that helps some and good luck!

  8. I just found this iTunes application:

    “Gluten Free Restaurant Cards is an application which allows people with Coeliac/Celiac disease to more easily dine out. It has over 40 card images from in many languages that can be shown to a waiter/chef to explain the restrictions for those on a gluten-free diet.”

    Comments and reviews from users claim to have used it successfully in Japan.

  9. Watashi wa guruten arrerugi des. I have a gluten allergy—-however even in the States just because you tell people you have a gluten allergy doesn’t mean they can always provide you with accurate information on whether or not the food is gluten free.

  10. Jess is correct – The soba noodles here all have some wheat in them. In the mainland of Japan, they do have a certain type of buckwheat soba noodle that does not have wheat in it, but here in Okinawa they do not eat that type. I have looked repeatedly for them in the grocery stores here (local grocery stores) and all of the ‘buckwheat’ soba noodles are a mix (like ‘corn bread’). So, for a person with celiac disease you must avoid them.

  11. I personally avoid soba noodles, I have been told they are usually made of buckwheat and wheat. Buckwheat is a gluten free grain so if the noodles were 100% buckwheat they would be safe. I think it’s like corn bread is made with wheat and cornmeal, not only cornmeal.

  12. I have celiac disease. I am 31 so I have lots of experience finding foods that I can eat. I was thinking of submitting an article on gluten free foods availbable at the commissary. There are a decent amount of premade gluten free foods available and there are always fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs, beans, etc. I do a lot of cooking from scratch.

    Good luck,


  13. If you like sushi, and think he will, then you will have a lot of choices. If you go to a sushi-go-round like the one in American Village, just avoid the fried foods (I know they cook them all in the same oil because I have a shellfish allergy and cannot eat their fries after being cooked in the same oil as the shrimp). Avoid the soy sauce (not gluten free there, but you could bring your own for him to have), and pretty much anything else is safe. They have a lot of choices, some are even cooked (again avoid the fried, but there are boiled shrimp, etc), and rice is always safe.
    Happy eating!

  14. You may want to check the soba noodles as well. My son is sensitive to gluten, he can tolerate it, but only in very small amounts. I read about how most soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are gluten free. My son has eaten Yakisoba and Okinawan Soba quite a few times while being here and has not had any issues. Being that your child can not tolerate gluten at all, that may be something worth looking in to.

  15. I just had a relative visiting me in Okinawa who was gluten allergic. She brought these cool laminated cards that translated the allergy concerns she had and they were well received EVERYWHERE we went, even at the tiny mom and pops soba house restaurants we went to! Try the link I posted above and you can print those ones for free. She said she bought hers at after searching awhile..she bought these ones:

    Also, Coco curry is a major chain here on Okinawa and in their English menu they have an allergy section that is great!!!

    Good luck!!!

  16. Hi Cindy – My daughter also has celiac disease (she’s 6), so I totally understand your concerns. There are a lot of things you can buy at the Kadena commissary now that are specifically gluten free products (pasta, cereal, frozen waffles). What we usually do is make sure she gets fed a good meal at home (or hotel), and then order her rice when we are eating out. That way she doesn’t feel left out of the meal, and I can feel certain that she is not going to come in contact with any gluten.

    I had a Japanese friend tell me to say this “kamugi-ko allergi” if I was ever adventurous. “Kamugi-ko” is “wheat flour” and “allergi” is obviously “allergy.” But, that doesn’t take into account any rye, barley, or oats. I know barley is in some of their foods (and teas), so you might want to avoid giving him any tea at a restaurant.

    Be careful of soy sauce – it has wheat in it. At the San-A grocery store near American Village you can get gluten free soy sauce if he would like to try some. The manager at the store can show you the right place to look. It’s NOT with the other soy sauces. The have a tiny little place where they have some allergy friendly foods.

    As far as local treats:
    My daughter has eaten some of their mochi (rice balls) on several occasions and has been fine. They are only made with rice flour, but you never know about the cross-contamination. And she’s eaten ice cream (like salt ice cream) many times (often from vending machines!) and always been fine with that as well. And I’m sure you know that all the different kinds of fruits here are all gluten free. 🙂

    If you can give Okinawa-Hai your email address, I can email them as well and give you some more information if you would like.