If you cannot read Japanese, choosing the right baby food in Japan might be stressful. But don’t worry! I will guide you through the packages of commercial baby food. You should have no trouble reading the labels.
Guide to reading baby food packages in Japan
As a sample, I will look at a pouched baby food. Here are the information you can get from the package.
Let’s look at them closely.
1. Brand name
There are several baby food brands you can get in Japan. The most popular brands are キューピー (Kewpie), 和光堂 (Wakodo), and will probably be the one you will find at supermarket or drugstores. There are also ピジョン (Pigeon), 雪印ビーンストーク (Yukijirushi Beanstalk) and 森永乳業 (Morinaga Nyugyo). Unless you have special preferences, they are all basically similar in taste and price. The photo above is a pouch from Kewpie.
2. Name of Menu
It might be helpful if you can read Hiragana and understand some Japanese food names, but even if you don’t you don’t need to worry. Just look at the other labels and that will tell you what this food is! This one says にんじんとかぼちゃのおかゆ, which means rice porridge with carrots and pumpkin.
3. Picture of ingredients
This is very helpful! For example in this photo, you can tell that the main ingredients are carrots and pumpkin. Please note that the picture does not show every ingredient.
4. List of allergens
This is very important information. It shows what kind of allergens are included in the food.
Some important words:
egg: 卵 tamago
milk: 乳成分 nyu-seibun
wheat: 小麦 komugi
shrimp: えび ebi
crab: かに kani
soba: そば soba (buckwheat)
peanut: 落花生 rakkasei
5. Weaning stage
The recommended weaning stage is indicated on the packages. In the photo, it says ５ヶ月頃から (from approx. 5 months old). Note that this is just a recommendation, and the stage will depend on the baby. My first daughter was a slow eater, so she was still eating food for 7 months old at 9 months. On the other hand, my second daughter was quick and was already eating food for 12 months at 10 months! So if you do not know which one you should feed your baby, just buy some and try it. They are all safe and if your baby decides she doesn’t want it, she’ll just spit it out.
Above the ５ヶ月頃から, it says なめらかにすりつぶした状態 (nameraka ni suritsubushita joutai) . This means the food is in paste, puree form.
6. Amount included
This is usually indicated in grams. The pouch in the photo has 80g of baby food. Above that, it says ごはん入り1食分 (gohan iri 1 shoku bun) which means “for 1 serving, including rice”.
7. Other information
These are just phrases that make the food sound more delicious!
8. English Menu
Very important! Most baby food, including baby snacks, have english menu name indicated on it.
Above are samples of English translations. I think you can get a good reputation of what the baby food is.