With millions of tourists taking advantage of the cheap yen to visit Japan, it’s not a surprise that many of them will have specific dietary needs. Those who fall somewhere between ヴィ―ガン (vīgan, vegans) and ベジタリアン (bejitarian, vegetarians) often face an extra challenge when ordering food here.

Japanese cuisine highlights うま味 (umami), one of the five basic 味 (aji, flavors), and it’s the taste of 出汁 (dashi, broth), which is used a lot in cooking here. 出汁 also tends to contain seafood, such as 煮干し (niboshi, dried small sardines) and かつお節 (katsuobushi, bonito flakes) made from skipjack tuna.

Even if you can’t see any animal products in what you’re eating at first glance, you never really know until you ask, 肉や魚は入っていますか? (Niku ya sakana wa haitte-imasu ka, Does [it] contain meat or fish?) or 肉や魚の出汁を使っていますか? (Niku ya sakana no dashi o tsukatte-imasuka, Does [this] use meat or fish broth?) The two key verbs in those sentences being 入る (hairu, to enter/contain) and 使う (tsukau, to use).