Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy
We just did something a little bit ridiculous: we traveled to Japan and ate soy-free at the same time!
Similar to many Asian countries, soy is very common in Japanese food, so soy-free options are fairly limited. Additionally, we don't speak or read Japanese, so deciphering the language was challenging for us. Even so, we spent 2.5 soy-free days in Japan!
When planning our trip, we considered that it might be very difficult to find soy-free food in Japan and as a result we limited the amount of time we were going to spend in the country. At worst, we could survive on small amounts of soy-free food for 2.5 days until we left. This definitely wouldn't be the optimal experience (we were looking to experience Japan, not just barely survive), but in the worst case it wouldn't be too bad. We also geared our trip largely towards Tokyo, knowing that English would be more prevalent and the options for soy-free food would likely be greater.
When choosing food, we had fairly limited options. We stayed away from any sauces or anything with ambiguous ingredients. In fact, we largely relied on backup snacks, prepackaged food (where we could check the ingredients), and sushi. Sushi is a fantastic soy-free food. We happen to love it, so we enjoyed as much as we could and were confident that we were eating soy-free.
For prepackaged foods, we focused on reading the ingredient list in Japanese using a mix of logical reasoning and Google Translate. We looked up the Japanese characters for "soy" and then scanned the back of a product's package for those characters. We found it reasonable to identify which portion of the packaging was the ingredient list and pick out the list of allergens. We didn't differentiate between soybean oil and soy; we just checked the entire packaging for the "soy" characters.
Soy definitely limited our options, but we still found things to eat. Even still, we were glad to have a few backup snacks in case the store felt overwhelming or to hold us over if we were starving.
Traveling with a soy intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity is totally do-able! Even in a place with as challenging a food landscape as Japan, we were able to eat and explore. Don't let a food requirement hold you back!