Category Archives: The Paleo Guide to Japan

Basics of eating Paleo in Japan

The Paleo Guide to Japan: Shochu


Oh do I miss this…


I’ve told you before to drink clear, distilled liquor if at all possible. It has the least non-alcohol stuff in it, and thus doesn’t ruin a good time with weird party-crashers like gluten and sugar.  The best of these will have a unique flavor to enjoy, or at least learn to appreciate, like tequila, rum, scotch, bourbon, tequila etc. Well, you can include shochu (焼酎 – Japanese distilled liquor) in that group. To take things one step further, while trouble with the grains in grain-derived alcohol isn’t a problem for most, supporting monstrously unsustainable grain-production remains morally questionable to some. Alcohols like tequila, rum and shochu (where its made from more sustainable stuff) become better choices for the concerned.


Amami Oshima’s favorite ‘sun’, Asahi (literally ‘morning sun’): clear, dry flavor, made from the Amami region’s famous “black” sugar, 30% alcohol.

So shochu: it’s a low to medium strength distilled liquor that can be made from a variety of different things: barley, potatoes, sugar, rice, wheat, buckwheat, chestnuts and a few other things. It’s pervasive: just about any place you can get alcohol in Japan, you can get shochu, and it’s one of three drinks served in a traditional izakaya, along with beer and sake. It has a very distinct, unique, strong flavor; some will be thrilled by it, and some will turn up their noses at first. It seems, anecdotally (and somewhat off the subject), that it’s these strong flavors that make for the lasting psychosomatic symptoms which turn people off of tequila, rum, etc. after an… over-indulgent experience. Perhaps that’s just what I’ve heard.

Tips: the shochu I’m referring to above as having a unique, strong flavor is “Honkaku” shochu. Honkaku shochu is distilled only once, and thus retains its flavor, which varies depending on what its made from. The other kind of shochu is “Korui” shochu, which is flavorless (at least to my palate), and is used in mixed drinks. Again, I’m a fan of distilled liquors, unadulterated or on the rocks, so Honkaku is my preference. Kokuto (黒糖 – “black” sugar) or Imo (芋 – sweet potato) if you please. Still, Korui in mixed drinks is fine, and Japan offers some mixed drinks that are much healthier than anything you can find in America (shochu mixed with green or oolong tea, hot or cold!). I’m quite partial to having shochu mixed with seltzer and lemon, which is called a “nama remon sawa” (生レモンサワー) or “Japanese Norcal Margarita” (only by me, actually). One of these “sours”, made with lemon, grapefruit, yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), grapes, etc. is refreshing on a hot night, and has gotten me through many a meal at local yakitori-ya and izakaya. When you order, however, make sure that you’re getting all of the words you’re trying to say understood: “nama” (生 – raw) is the Japanese shorthand for a beer from the tap. Not the same thing.


Before we go on… I do not mean to disparage sake! I love sake, and it’s obviously more famous, both in Japan and abroad. It even has the best song: 酒よ. Most Americans I meet don’t even know what shochu is, but nearly everyone’s heard of sake (pronounced “saki”… unless you’d like to be understood by Japanese people, then its pronounced sake, with a “e” like “bed”). But sake isn’t distilled, so I’ve just found it harder on my system in general, and I’m not always ready for the hangover, much as I love it. For most nights, shochu quickly became, and has stayed, my preference.


Imo shochu from the Kagoshima area, Shiranami (‘White Wave’) 25% alcohol

History: I will try to be as informative as I can, though I’m not much of an alcohol historian, and anyway the origins of shochu aren’t definitively understood.  We believe that shochu came to Japan from Thailand (that’s the best theory, anyway).  It is said to have made its way to the mainland through Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, first to Kyushu, the southernmost island of the Japanese mainland. The tradition of shochu remains strong in southern Japan, especially in the Ryukyu Islands and around Kagoshima.  Chinkan, the Chinese Envoy to Shoseio, the fourth King of the Ryukyu Kingdom, wrote in his 1534 “Record of Serving in Ryukyu” about “Nanban-Shu” – Southern Barbarian Alcohol, which had come to the islands from Shamuro (Thailand), and was distilled in the same way as Kanroshu, Chinese distilled liquor.  Additionally, the first written records of shochu on the mainland come from the southern island, Kyushu. In a famous anecdote, a Portuguese tradesman who arrived in Japan in 1546 wrote about a piece of graffiti on a Shrine in which a carpenter refers to the local lord as “so stingy he wouldn’t buy you a cup of shochu.”


Edo drankin’

I guess I’ll wrap this up here. If you’re in Japan and have a chance to imbibe, I hereby encourage you to expand your horizons to shochu. If I missed something important, don’t be afraid to comment about how much I suck.


Yoroshu ni,




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Filed under Alcohol, Social, The Paleo Guide to Japan

The Paleo Guide to Japan, Part 3: Eating Out


Eating out in Japan is more than just an enjoyable way to breath in second-hand smoke. It’s a tradition, it’s a pastime and at times it’s an obligation. Bonenkai (忘年会, year-end parties), in which eating out simply cannot be avoided, are December traditions. So for the Paleo crowd, how can this potentially gastrointestinally-disturbing situation be navigated safely? If, while you’re here, you have to be a restaurant-goer, knowing as much as you can is the only thing that is going to keep you safe. Even still, making it a treat (bending the rules to whatever degree you’re comfortable with) and not stressing about it is probably the best way to stay sane: especially when it comes to gatherings for the express purpose of drinking (Nomi-kai-飲み会), you’re going to have your hands full controlling the damage anyway.

What follows is a guide to restaurants in descending order of preference followed by a collection of Japanese words and phrases that came up in the process.

To be upfront with you, my loyal reader, I feel like I have to lie a lot to get through some meals: “I have a ______ allergy” (“_________ arerugi ga arimasu”) is the refrain I repeat everywhere I go. Wheat is the one that comes up the most, and is the easiest to solve by pleading allergies, but similar claims about soy (daizu―大豆) or dairy (nyuseihin―乳製品) would probably be just as effective, if you don’t mind stretching the truth. You may be in for a ribbing from your Japanese friends for your pickiness or the “spiritual weakness of character” that allergies are thought to be by the older generation. I remind myself that, with my wife’s father for example, I can either ignore him or look like him. It makes for an easy decision.

About Japanese in this article: I have included notes, simply, on how to describe your desires to the wait-staff, in Japanese, where they seemed appropriate. I will collect all of the phrases, kanji and their meanings at the bottom of this guide. These phrases are not, however, going to save you if you’ve been asked a detailed question about what you can and cannot eat and do not speak Japanese at all yourself. For that I leave you to rely on your own abilities and resourcefulness, and hope you don’t have as many miss-adventures as I did.


Best of the Best
I chose these three because they are generally good places to get a meal fairly well balanced, with plenty of meat and access to vegetables. In addition, these three tend to be staffed by people who speak Japanese pretty well, so asking questions (for those who can) becomes an easier task.

Yakitori (焼鳥):
Yakitori is relatively easy to eat paleo: the main dish, grilled pieces of chicken on a stick is paleo, as long as you get it with no sauce (tare nashi―タレ無し). Other dishes range from absolutely fine (cut up cucumbers with sesame seed oil and garlic or ginger) to completely out (Tempura, fried chicken, etc.), but since they generally make all of their own food on the premises and they also speak Japanese, you can generally be pretty sure that if you ask if something has wheat in it (komugi ga haite imasu ka?-小麦が入っていますか?) you’re going to get an informed answer about whatever item you’re interested in. One thing to note, however: many Japanese people don’t know that soy sauce (shoyu―醤油) has wheat in it. For things like soups, stews and the like you can save yourself by making the question about shoyu rather than komugi (shoyu ga haite imasu ka?), just in case the staff doesn’t know.

Yaki (grill) niku (meat) is pretty easy to eat paleo: get your veggies and meat with no sauce, don’t put sauce on them yourself, and yaki-away until you cannot walk any more. They will bring you the meat and veggies, you grill them and consume like the deadlifting-bear you are. The key here is ordering with no sauce (tare nashi―タレ無し) or with salt and pepper only (shio-kosho dake―塩こしょうだけ). The sauce I mentioned above? Most people eat yakiniku by dipping their grilled up meat in one of the sweet, sticky, spicy or just wonderful sauces that have been provided at the table. We, the ‘cares about our health’ section of the population, cannot. So what to do instead? I tend to eat with salt and pepper only, but often yakiniku places will provide lemon juice for those interested (it might be sitting at your table). The other option is sesame oil (Goma-Abura-胡麻油), which can be ordered, a-salt and peppered, and used like a sauce for those interested. The biggest bonus of Yakiniku is undoubtedly that most places are “all you can eat” (or at least have that option). Sit down hungry and get your meat on.

Shabu-Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ)
Shabu-shabu follows essentially the same pattern as yaki-niku: they bring you ingredients in the form of meat and veggies of various kinds, and you cook them. The principle difference is that with shabu-shabu you’re cooking your food in a soup hot-pot filled with, at times, suspicious sauces. The safest thing to do is to get the plain ‘konsome’ seaweed soup; the others, like sukiyaki (made with soy sauce), soy-milk (tonyu―豆乳, made with soy as you might have guessed), and others are out for one reason or another. On the menu konsome soup usually has the clear liquid with the seaweed in it/ being pulled out of it, so pointing and grunting usually works in this situation. Like yakiniku, this meal comes with a variety of sweet and tasty sauces to be avoided. Now, this might not actually sound all that wonderful a treat for you (meat and veggies boiled with seaweed plain?), but there are a couple of things you can do to make it tasty: get some sesame oil (goma-abura―胡麻油, just like we did in yakiniku) to dip your meat/ veggies in, get a raw egg (like you would for sukiyaki, don’t worry completely safe) and mix some pepper and salt into it and dip in that, or experiment with shichimi (七味). All-in-all, since we’re going without sauce, I’d prefer to have my meat grilled, but this is a “compromise” I’m happy to make. It also comes in “all you can eat” flavor, which means that I will head home full, a plus.


Victim of playing against the best

Second Tier
Indian Restaurants (インド料理)
Nearly everything in an Indian Restaurant in Japan that isn’t obviously out for the paleo-vore is in, which is nice: avoid the nan and the rice, avoid the curries that have beans and you’re basically set: tandoori meats are wonderful, the mutton/ seafood/ chicken curries are fine… a common curry in Japan, that I didn’t see in American Indian restaurants (not to be confused with American-Indian Restaurants, which I’m not sure exist and sound creepy anyway) is called ‘Butter Chicken’. It’s just awesome… but it tastes like it has some sugar in it. Here we get to why Indian is in my second tier: they sometimes speak English but not always and not always well; they often speak Japanese, but not often well. It’s hard enough for a beginner in Japanese to communicate with someone who actually speaks the language, let alone use it to communicate to someone else who isn’t perfect him- or herself. This makes asking questions, like “is there sugar in this?” difficult. So, go to Indian restaurants with the knowledge that you might be getting just a little sugar in your delicious curry.

Thai Food(タイ料理屋)
Much of what I said about Indian food goes for Thai, except that there are more dishes that cannot be eaten. The problem is, again, that it’s hard to ask about the content of the food in many shops. Compounding the problem is the decreased rate of English competency in Thai places.

I love Thai food. Further, there are lots of things you can eat safely at Thai places: Green Curry, Red Curry, Yellow Curry (all without the rice), various salads with beef or pork or papaya or squid, omelets, basil-chicken stir-fries… it’s almost always safe, and it’s always great. Further, it’s perhaps the cheapest meal of its kind.


Melts under pressure

Third Tier
Izakaya (居酒屋)
Here referring to larger chains like “Hananomai”, “Uotami”, “Warawara” etc. izakaya are drinking establishments, but unlike bars they serve a lot of food, mostly Japanese style. The foods will often run the gamut from yakitori (fine if ordered as above) to okonomiyaki (a straight-up “no”), and generally be of poor quality and relatively expensive. Still, with most menus you can get something that will work (a grilled Hokke ほっけ, yakitori, etc), they speak Japanese and have to be ultra-careful about ‘arerugi’ because they’re national chains with reputations to uphold. So why put them in the second tier? Well one, there’s the temptation: the foods at an Izakaya that you can eat are much less tasty than the ones you can’t; also these places are made for drinking. Two their foods are mostly pre-prepared, so some special orders (“can I get this without sauce/dressing?” “Can you make the eggs without wheat? Oh, and by the way, WHAT THE FUCK?”) won’t fly, or at least take some insistence upon. Three their attention to detail is often so over the top as to be a larger pain the ass than is really necessary. Knowing what you can order and how to before actually ordering and a steely resolve not to give in and eat the fries and pizza that your friends ordered while the wait-staff is checking that there are no croutons on your salad, are indispensable skills.

It is probably important to note that smaller Japanese-style pubs are also called ‘izakaya’.  It is impossible to really categorize these accurately, as some are yakitori shops, some do fish of some kind, and some just make diabetes. They’re a treat for those with the Japanese ability and cigarette-smoke tolerance to deal with their faults, because of their homey atmosphere and collection of foods you might not find anywhere else in the world.  With no common menu and really no way of knowing what’s being served, however, I’d be remiss if I tried to give you specific advice (other than breath mints and a shower after, of course).

Chinese Food(中華料理)
Chinese food in Japan is sometimes the cover-story for a ramen-ya who’s trying to keep a low profile about their vile poisonous-ness (to give you a preview of the LAST thing on my list, if you find yourself in one of these, you have 2 options: water or waiting outside). If a Chinese place has no ramen on the menu, Japanese customers will get cranky. Still, food can be found,  so the real Chinese food places shouldn’t be completely ignored.

The problem, of course, is asking what’s in things. Like with Thai and Indian places, the waiters and waitresses in Chinese restaurants don’t always speak Japanese particularly well, and in this case rarely speak English. That said, you can give it a try. Some stuff is obvious: it’s cooked with noodles, or obviously with soy sauce or some sweet, sticky, different sauce, or it has rice in it, or it’s been breaded and had its brains fried out. With some other stuff it’s harder to tell. The only thing I’ve found that consistently works no matter where I go are seafood-stir fries (Kaisen Itame – 海鮮炒め). You may be dealing with some potato- flour in them to thicken the sauce; it’s still your best bet.

Rik Smits

Serviceable but not getting you anywhere

Fourth Tier
Sushi (寿司):
We’ve come to the “overt compromise” portion of our review. Yes, technically, you can get through a meal at a sushi place while staying true to your paleo roots. If you do, you’ve either a) not eaten that much or b) spent too much. Who wants to do either of those? As compromises go this is one of our best: nearly everything is a known quantity (everything except the soy sauce and the eggs either obviously has gluten in it or it’s safe), and once you’ve given in on the rice and sugar, nearly everything is eatable. It’s a great way to bend the rules, and one that, for most people, has no lasting unhealthy consequences. The only things I would caution people about are egg-sushi (which sometimes have wheat-containing ‘dashi’ (出汁ーsoup stock) in them) and some of the newer ‘sushi’ that are making the rounds. If, for example, your sushi has yakiniku on it, in all likelihood it also has yakiniku sauce on it, and thus wheat. Sorry.

Korean Food(韓国料理)
This is an area in which I have a decided bias: I have had bad, and very few, experiences at Korean Restaurants in Japan. It seems like, looking at menus, you would be able to get some meat with some kimchi and no sauce, but in my experiences I have never been able to communicate this desire effectively and ended up with a stomachache afterwords. Speaking Korean would be a big help; so would a completely fluent-in-Japanese wait-staff, but I have yet to have access to either. I wish I could be of more help to you, dear reader. Perhaps on another day we will be able to re-visit this topic, once my resentment has waned.

Fifth Tier
You’d think I’d be pretty ok with Gyu-don places: fried beef or pork on top of bowls of rice. You can even just get the meat without the rice, with an egg to eat it with. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the no-sauce option in these places is not an option, as all meals come pre-made. Yeah, a salad without the dressing is really your only gluten-free option. Since said salads contain nothing even resembling the caloric content required to feed a supple-leopard like yourself, you’re better off just walkin’ on by.

Nope, there’s nothing to eat here. Sorry.

Western Fast-Food Restaurants (Mc’ds, Subway, KFC, etc.)
If you go into one of these, as the saying goes, you know what you doing.

You know, sometimes you can get ahold of some meat to grill on the grill at your table in Okonomiyaki places. That grill has, however, been used by your friends and all of the customers before you to bake up death-pancakes of deliciousness, so whatever you’re grilling, you can pretty much guarantee it isn’t gluten free. Sorry.

Udon and Soba (うどん・そば)
If you’re paleo and you can find anything at all to eat in a place like this you’re lucky, patient, dumb or all three.

Ramen (ラーメン屋)
A good ramen-ya serves three things: ramen, gyoza and beer. Sometimes my stomach hurts looking at them.

1) How to Drink:
Many of you are looking for advice about drinking healthfully. I wrote about this already once, so I won’t repeat much, except for this:

The absolute best thing you can do for yourself when you’re drinking is to start and finish early. Try to place as much time between you last cup of wonderful and sleep. The reason for this is simple: all of the exercise you did, all of the walking and talking and dealing with people you don’t like and writing and whatever, none of it means anything positive for your health if your body cannot recover. This is an often overlooked fact about training: you don’t get skinnier by running, and you don’t get stronger by lifting. You get these benefits by resting, especially sleeping, after you’re done. Alcohol interferes with restful sleep, especially the most important part, the release of Human Growth Hormone. You know those drugs that athletes take to recover from injury and training faster? One of them is HGH. HGH is the hormone that you’re body has been feeding you all this time to help you re-build muscle when you’ve damaged them by being too awesome, and getting in its way by drinking yourself to sleep is not a good idea, health-wise.

2) Japanese Guide
Bonenkai 忘年会, year-end parties
Nomi-kai 飲み会, drinking parties
“_________ arerugi ga arimasu”___アレルギがあります “I have a ______ allergy”<
Daizu―大豆, Soy
Nyuseihin ―乳製品, Dairy
Tare nashi―タレ無し, No Sauce
Komugi ga haite imasu ka?-小麦が入っていますか? Is there wheat in it?
Shoyu―醤油, Soy Sauce
Shoyu ga haite imasu ka? ― 醤油が入っていますか? Is there soy sauce in it?
Shio-kosho dake―塩こしょうだけ, Salt and pepper only
Goma Abura―胡麻油, Sesame Oil
Tonyu―豆乳, Soy Milk
Konsome ―コンソメ, Konsome
Shichimi ―七味, Shichimi
Hokke ほっけ, Hokke (a kind of fish)
Kaisen Itame – 海鮮炒め, Seafood-Stir Fry

Yoroshu ni




Filed under The Paleo Guide to Japan

The Paleo Guide to Japan, Part 2: Convenience Stores

Alright, so… before I start to shame you into submission with high-and-mighty Paleo authority, I should probably mention that I loves me a convenience store. They’re just so… convenient. They’re everywhere, you just walk in and pay money and they give you pre-made food and hot coffee or tea and they have literally every kind of sugar you could possibly want. How freakin’ awesome is that?

Well… honestly? It isn’t that great. My main message in this article is going to be that, if you’re eating out of a combini, you’re probably making a compromise with your food, and we don’t really want to compromise when it comes to our health. Further, just walking into a combini you are subjecting yourself to about a hundred million temptations (approximately). My mentor (even though we’ve never met, he doesn’t know my name, and I’m convinced he doesn’t like me) Robb Wolf would be quick to remind us that we are not naturally wired to resist temptation; the more you expose yourself to the opportunity to ‘cheat, just a little’ the more certain it is that you’re gonna’.

Further, combini (in the plural) lend themselves more to snack-ing than meal-ing. If you look back through the Introduction to Paleo, you’ll see a paragraph that starts “EVERYTHING”. Read that again, and ask yourself before you walk into the store “what am I doing here?” I have no problem with “I’m getting myself a coffee for my morning commute” or “I’m taking my only opportunity to eat in 16 hours” as reasons. But if you’re walking into a combini because it it’s convenient and there and brightly colored and welcoming and warm (or cool), perhaps you’d consider laying off, or sticking with water?

There are many of us who, without access to convenience stores might have to miss a meal or two a day. Even for those of us who try to plan our food for every contingency, days where there was no meat defrosted, or lunch caught fire in the pan, or our significant-other became a significant-bother by being deathly ill and wanting us to be there when they died, almost always lead to combini-bought meals. This guide is going to be a ‘how to make the best of a bad situation’ list, and I’ll go in order of best choices to worst.

Top Class

… is almost all drinks, sadly. Again, I would love to tell you that combini are going to be there for you, selling meat and veggie kabobs cooked over an open flame and seasoned with Robb’s sweat, but they don’t.

  • Water
  • Tea, unsweetened (green tea is almost guaranteed to be ok; black tea often is sold as ‘milk tea’ and is not only ungodly sweet, it’s also full of, yes, milk)
  • Coffee, black (if it says ‘black’ in English on it, it’s almost always fine. I have seen a few brands with black-sweetened coffees, however. If you’re suspecious about the coffee can you’re picking up, look for the kanji 無糖 (mutou, no sugar). If it isn’t sweetened it will always say so)
  • するめ (surume, also called あたりめ ‘atarime’). Surume is dried squid, sold in packages often near the nuts, jerky, and little sembe-and-nuts packages. Note that surume comes in two flavors: the sweetened, soft, kinda’ fluffy kind (which is essentially squid-candy), and the hard, chewy, nearly flavorless kind. It’s that second, the consumption of which is kind of like chewing on salted bark, that works for us as a perfectly acceptable food choice: it’s just squid and salt. Further, despite my less-than-glowing review of the taste, it actually grows on you: once you’ve started in on a bag, it’s hard to stop. For me, it isn’t that I start liking the taste; I just can’t stop eating it. #yourexperiencesmaydiffer. *Note in Editing: I’ve since found the supposedly salt-and-squid only surume with sugar in it. FUCKERS.  Look for 砂糖 in the ingredients list.*
  • Hardboiled Eggs. Where available (and if they are they’ll be in the cooler-case on the back wall with the bento) these are fine, but don’t be fooled by similar products: you’re looking for hard boiled eggs still in their shells. Everything else is probably sugared (like tamago-yaki) or worse.


  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Salted Meat-Packages including things like タン – ‘Tan’ – tongue or 砂肝 – ‘Sunagimo’ – gizzard; these often have sugar in them, but not much. In a similar vein 生ハム – ‘Nama Hamu’- ‘raw’ (not really raw, just cold) ham and bacon, while containing some sugar, can be eaten as is.
  • Hot-Dog-on-a-stick-s (provided they are gluten-free. For me, 7-11 and Family Mart have been fine, but if you’re not sure, stay away)
  • Some Salads (you’ll have to leave off the dressing in favor of mayo or nothing at all)
  • Dark Chocolate (75% Cacao or more)

Are nuts paleo? Yes!… and no. The nuts themselves are very much in line with what your ancestors ate. The amounts and speed at which they can be consumed, shell-less from a plastic bag, aren’t. If you have, as Robb says, “realized the difference between your mouth and a vacuum cleaner”, eating some nuts, especially the well-fat-balanced macadamia nut, is fine and can actually be good for you.

Careful with salads! They may have croutons of some kind stuck in them, the shrimp on them might have been battered and fried or someone might have come along and sprinkled breadcrumbs on them before you showed up. Why? Just to make your life harder I have no idea. Dressings are universally doubtful: your best bets (mayo or caesar) drop your salad from 2nd firmly into 3rd, and dressings like Goma or Wafu (Japanese style) take your salad right off the board. Further, because of the vague-ness of labeling, it can sometimes be hard to figure whether the salad itself has wheat in it, or if it’s just the separate package of Wafu dressing. In recent months, in 7-11s, I have found nutrition labeling that separates the salad from the dressing. We are grateful 7-11. The gods don’t smile on paleo-vores that often.


  • Slightly Sweetened Coffee (should say 微糖 ‘bitou’ on the label)
  • Beef Jerky, if it’s gluten free (this is rare. Most have soy sauce -醤油 or しょうゆ in them, which has wheat in it. This is one of those products you just won’t be able to eat safely without reading the back of the package. Look out for soy sauce, above, and 小麦-komugi, wheat)
  • Sweet Surume (see above)
  • Nuts (except peanuts)
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt (full-fat, if you please)
  • Dark Chocolate (less than 75% Cacao)


  • Tamago-yaki, if it’s gluten free, as in jerky above (you’ll have to check the package, they’re all different, but generally have sugar in them)
  • Full-sugar Coffee
  • Pickled veggies
  • Sembe, sembe with peanuts, etc
  • Peanuts


  • Onigiri (rice-balls. Some varieties have soy sauce and thus wheat and should be avoided)
  • Sushi (no Inari-zushi (the little guys wrapped in fried tofu, they have wheat in them).  Sorry)
  • Fruit Juice If You Must (#diabetesinacup)

I honestly can’t think of a reason to eat anything below this short of zombie apocalypse. Amongst the last group I’m sure there are still distinctions that can be made: soba vs. udon, bento with rice and meat with soy sauce vs. pre-fab burrito etc etc, blah-blah. It feels like splitting hairs to me: you don’t care (so why make distinctions?) OR you don’t know the difference between this stuff and real food OR you’re actively trying to kill yourself. If you’re any one of those three, I’m not writing this for you, and you’re wasting your time reading it. Go away.

Yoroshu ni,



Filed under Food, The Paleo Guide to Japan

The Paleo Guide to Japan, Part 1: Supermarkets

The unparalleled River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Food (by which I mean ‘whole food’ or ‘real food’, as in the phrase ‘just eat real food’ or ‘jerf’ — things you should be eating) in a supermarket is mostly located around the outside; the stuff in the middle, the stuff that doesn’t go bad, should be almost entirely ignored.  I recommend not even walking down those isles, if you can help it: Brain-study in humans tells us that WE WILL LOSE when we try to fight off temptation every day.  You will go back and eat those cookies if you have to tell yourself ‘no’ every-fucking-day or every-fucking-week.  Avoid the confrontations that you are doomed to eventually lose.  Some things cannot be helped: olive oil is probably located in an isle across from a bunch of delicious looking dressings and sauces.  Be focused on what you’re there for and you can skip the process of figuring out which dressings/ sauces are ‘less bad’ and having to turn over each and every bottle of goma-dare to read the ingredients.

Meat: In Japan, shopping paleo on a budget is all about finding meat that is cheap per 100 grams. If you’re interested in thrift, stick to cuts of meat that are cheap (chicken from Brazil, beef from Australia, pork from Japan and minced meat have been staples for me, but a lot of that depends on the supermarket itself, you’ll have to look at each and take advantage when you find good prices). If you have the resources, look for well-marbled (lots of white veins in the meat, as in the ones pictured above) beef and pork especially, that isn’t vac-packed (this is a flavor thing, your meals will taste much better if the meat you’re eating has been handled correctly). Avoiding chicken where you can (because of the poor omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in the fat of grain-fed chicken) can be helpful if you have the budget for it.  I do not.

Fish: I find fish to be an expensive-per-calorie meal, that is, they tend to cost a lot for the amount you actually eat. That said, they’re great for you, especially salmon and tuna. Making them a weekly (or more) habit will improve your overall health, if you have the resources. Even if it isn’t one of those two, fish are full of vitamins and minerals and well-balanced fats that make for well-running humans in general. One warning: be careful of canned tuna, which is often packaged in soy oil, or as I like to refer to it, “the devil’s shit”. Devil’s Shit is on your list of “Don’ts” from my Intro (where it says don’t eat any oil that doesn’t come from avocado, coconut, meat or olive).

Veggies: umm… Yes? is the best advice I can come up with. Getting as much as you can get in terms of variety of colors, shapes and tastes will make your meals more fun and more appetizing for those with the money, and honestly, veggies, almost no matter what you buy, are not going to be the most expensive part of your shopping trip. If you’re severely limited by money, focus on onions and dark leafy greens (spinach is often the cheapest and most available). Carrots can be helpful filling-in stir-fries and curries.

GET EGGS. Get good eggs if at all possible. Even if you’re getting the best-quality eggs, the “mori no tamago” (森の卵), there is no place else in the world you’re going to get two meals or more of protein for 300 yen. For people on a budget you can get by on just eggs, depending on your ability to make do with the same meal over and over (I’ll get to this more later, but for the most part the ‘budget’ excuse for not eating Paleo doesn’t fly with me.  Most people can eat healthy food every meal for under a thousand yen a day.  It just requires being an adult about your food, and planning ahead)

Get spices. Find the spice rack in your supermarket and buy one of everything.  Try each, with salt, on your meat or in your eggs. Find things you like. Experiment.  Find combinations that you enjoy eating, because your days of eating _whatever_ doused in “make-anything-taste- good-sauce” are over.  Here are a few of mine to get you started: Basil and garlic, with whatever it is cooked in olive oil; red pepper, habanero (go easy at first, it kicks!), paprika (not to be confused with colored peppers, which are not spices — I picked up on that myself!), oregano, garlic, coriander and black pepper for a Mexican-flavor that works well with ground beef and tomatoes; cinnamon on sweet potatoes and ground beef; curry POWDER (i.e. not premade, which includes blocks for boiling/ making Japanese curry), which you can also make on your own with cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon in whatever amounts please you. Also, and this offends some paleo folks, but I put salt on almost everything I cook. I perhaps wouldn’t recommend that to someone who’s having a ‘lowest blood pressure’ race, but my bp is 105/50. You may find that to get a bp less than that you need to cut out the salt. If you do, I feel for you.

Get olive oil. Also, if you’re feeling like it, some coconut milk is always fun and makes a very tasty curry base.  Coconut flakes (unsweetened of course) are a fun thing to add to stuff, but they’re generally only sold in specialty shops and are pretty expensive.

Drinks: as I said in the Intro to Paleo, nothing with calories, which leaves you with coffee, tea and water, which are all great. The big mistake I made, however, was buying mugi (麦) cha to make my water-drinking experience more fun.  Mugi=barley=grain.  I felt like such a moron when I realized.  Don’t be me.  On the same level, many of the mixed Japanese teas have mugi in them: Jurokucha, Sobacha and Sokenbicha are good examples.  Check before you buy.   If you’re looking for a non-caffeinated drink that has no sugar, Oolong is the only thing I’ve been able to rely upon consistently, and it’s a staple whenever I’m out.

Addendum: I was recently informed that Oolong has caffeine in it, somewhat more than green tea, in fact.  For those (like me) effected strongly by caffeine, it looks like we’re officially down to water.

Things to look for as ‘off-limits’ on warning labels (in descending order of evil):

  • 麦 – wheat (common examples: 大麦、小麦粉)
  • 大豆 – soy (How this came to be thought of as protein beats the fuck out of me)
  • 乳 – dairy (this is, at times, ok, but for the most part it just means that something was made from some over-processed dairy and we don’t want it)
  • カタカナ - (really any katakana word on a food-label means ‘something that was invented in the past 20 years that we’re pretty sure causes cancer’.  Besides which it’s usually just sugar by a different name)
  • 糖 – sugar (as in 砂糖、果糖 etc.  There are many kinds, none of which works for us, strictly speaking. Honey (蜂蜜・はちみつ), 水あめ (mizu-ame, corn syrup), maple syrup, Agave etc fall into this category, and when we’re opening up our diets and ‘having a little fun’, is the first one to go)

Things that can cause allergic reactions in some people are listed at the bottom of all ingredients (材料)lists. 大豆 (soy) and 小麦 (wheat) will be listed there if they are in what you’re looking at, along with a bunch of other stuff you may or may not care about.

Here’s some things that you don’t have to check, ’cause I already did it for you:

Stuff with hidden wheat (小麦):

  • Soy Sauce (which can sometimes be found without wheat, with “小麦を使わない” or “小麦不使用” written on the front of the package.  This can be good for kicking up your heels and having some sushi or making your own sukiyaki)
  • Ponzu (made with Soy Sauce)
  • ‘Sauce’ (what this is in English?) like you find on yakitori etc. Most will just say ‘たれ’ or ‘sauce’.
  • Salt-Sauce (塩たれ) on Yakitori.  Buying yakitori must be done from stands or restaurants for the most part, ordered with salt.
  • Pre-made foods (with very few exceptions)
  • Goma Dressing/Goma Dare
  • Wafu (Japanese-style) Dressing
  • Italian Dressing
  • Okonomiyaki Sauce
  • Pre-made curry/ curry blocks
  • Pre-made stew/ stew blocks
  • Pre-made nabe soups (nearly all)
  • Beef Jerky (not always, but many times)

Stuff with hidden Soy (大豆):

  • Mayo (but you can make your own at home with olive oil! … though I’ve never been successful)
  • Canned Tuna (WHY GOD WHY?)
  • Beef Jerky (not always, but sometimes)
  • Miso (I guess this should be obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. If you are going to indulge in soy, I understand miso to be the healthiest choice: fermented, which promotes good bacteria growth in your intestines (which is good) and helps kill the lectins in the soy (which is also good). I don’t recommend eating a bunch of miso, but it’s the best of a bad, bad world of soy)

Stuff with hidden Sugar (糖):

  • Ketchup (can I really call this hidden?  You people do have taste-buds, right?)
  • Some mayo (especially ‘light’ mayo. FUCK YOU LIGHT MAYO. NOBODY LIKES YOU)
  • Nearly every salad dressing or sauce
  • Pre-made nabe mixtures, regardless of flavor
  • Kimchi/ other pickles
  • Dried fruit (not always, but often)
  • Beef Jerky

A final warning about the Supermarket:

The things you want are the things that don’t have a list of ingredients on the back. You ought to be able to tell if something is paleo before you pick it up for the most part: it’s a piece of meat or it’s an onion or it’s a bunch of spinach or it’s a bottle of olive oil. If you’re not sure until you read the back of the package, I’d be willing to bet you’re going to be disappointed.
Yoroshu ni,


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The unparalleled River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

食べ物(と言うと食べるべきもの)殆どの場合はスーパーの片端に置かれている。中央部の腐らないものは全 て無視するべき、むしろ、できればそのコーナーに行かない方がいい。心理学によれば、毎日の誘惑に結局負けてしまう。毎日「それを食べない」と自分に言わなければならないのなら、結局食べちゃう。何れ負ける戦いは避けた方がいいね?あいにくオリーブ油は美味しく見えるタレとかドレッシングの隣に置かれている。買いたいものだけに 集中すれば「どっちがより悪くないか」と思い、一つずつラベルを読まなければならない事を避ける事ができる(時間稼ぎで教えて置く:より悪くないのはマ ヨネーズ、シーザーとフレンチドレッシング)。

肉:日 本では、経済的な買い物のし方は100グラム単位で安い肉を見つけること。お金が心配なら、安い肉(ブラジルの鳥肉、オーストラリアの牛肉、日本の豚肉と挽肉は最 近安かったが、スーパーにもよる)はふところを助けてくれる。お金があれば、白身がいっぱいある牛肉や豚肉を探しだそう。家庭のサイフに余裕があれば、鶏肉も止めてもいい (鳥の肉は餌によってオメガ3対オメガ6の割合が悪いので)。

魚:カ ロリーを経済的に考えると、魚は高い、要するに食べる量の割に金を出さなければならない。そう言っても、魚は凄く健康にいい、特にサーモンとマグロ。お金 があったら毎週1食とかの習慣を身につける価値が充分ある。その二つ以外にも、魚はビタミン、ミネラル、良い油でいっぱいなので、食べるのが健康。1つ忠 告して置くけど、缶詰ツナに気をつけた方が良い。主にこれは「悪魔の糞」とも呼んでも良いで大豆油と詰めてある。「悪魔の糞」は「パレオ紹介」の「食べない」リストに書いてある。



香辛料を買おう:スパーのスパイスラックを見つけ、1ビ ンずつ買う。それぞれをちょっと塩と肉か卵で試してみる。その中、好きな物はきっと見つける。実験しよう。好きなコンビを見つける、何故ならば、タレで食べ物を美味 しくする日々は終わった。ニンニクとバジル、メキシコ風のスパイス、里芋にシナモン、カレー粉(カレーのルウではなく)などは個人的に好き。因みに、私は塩分を全く恐れていなくて殆どの料理に入れるのに、私の血圧は110/55の辺り。本当に低い血圧、例えば105とか102とか、を目指していたら、塩を止めなければならない場合もある。その人は本当にお気の毒。


飲み物:パレオ紹介に書いた通り、飲み物はカロリーないものだけので、コーヒ、茶と水はどれでも良い。然し、自分の最も大きい過ちは麦茶を買う事だった。もちろん麦茶に麦が入っている、バーカ。私の同じ過ちを犯さないでください。因みに麦茶は色々な茶類に入っている、例えば十六茶、そば茶と爽健美茶… とにかく買う前で確認しよう。砂糖が入っていない、カフェインが少ない飲み物を捜していたら、烏龍茶と禄茶にしか頼れなく、自分は外食する時に多く飲む。



  • (大麦、小麦、ライ麦など)
  • 大豆 (なんで皆さんはこれ、蛋白質だと思っているのかは不思議)
  •  (時々これは大した問題じゃないけど、主にはこれはNG)
  • カタカナ (殆どラベルに書いてあるカタカナ語は「最近発見されて、癌の原因になるだろう」と言う意味である。しかも、大抵の場合ではこれは砂糖の別名)
  •  (砂糖とか、果糖とか…色々な種類があるけど、どれも基本的にダメ。蜂蜜、メープルシロップ、アガベーシロップ等は同類が、ちょっとダイエットを緩める時に、これを一番先に入れる。)



  • 醤油(偶に「小麦を使わない」とか「小麦不使用」が書いてある醤油を見つける。すき焼きをどうしても食べたい時にこれはお勧め)
  • ポン酢(醤油が入っている)
  • ソース(お好み焼き、焼鳥、うなぎなどに使われているタレ)
  • 塩タレ(焼鳥の)焼鳥はお店から買い、塩で注文するしかない
  • 作ってある物(入っていないのが珍しい)
  • 胡麻ドレシング・胡麻タレ
  • 和風ドレシング
  • イタリアンドレシング
  • 作ってあるカレーとシチュー(ルウも)
  • 作ってある鍋のスープ
  • ビーフジャーキ(主に)


  • マヨネーズ(オリーブ油で自分のマヨを作れるけど、私の試みは失敗であった)
  • 缶詰ツーナ(何で?!?!)
  • ビーフジャーキ(主に)
  • 味噌(時々日本人でも味噌は大豆って知らない人はいらっしゃる。また不思議なこと)


  • ケッチャプ
  • 低カロリーマヨ(死ねよ、低カロリーマヨ。死ね)
  • 殆どのタレやドレシング
  • 作ってある鍋のスープ
  • キムチ、他漬物
  • 乾燥果物(主に)
  • ビーフジャーキ(全て)





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