Eating in Japan while pregnant
My husband and I are going to Tokyo and the Kansai region for two weeks in September. I’ll be 10-12 weeks pregnant (not the greatest timing, I know.)
I was hoping someone might be able to clue me in on some of the dietary dos and don’ts that women follow in Japan. If I stuck to US recommendations – particularly regarding raw fish and MSG – I’d hardly be able to eat anything. In the same vein, are there foods (or types of establishments) I should definitely avoid while I’m there?
Japanese women do eat sushi when pregnant. However, raw shellfish should definitely be avoided. Of sushi, salmon is probably the one to avoid, as it's much more prone to parasites than the colder ocean fish, as it spawns in rivers.
Raw egg also shows up a lot in dishes, sometimes as a condiment and sometimes as a mix-in, so be a bit wary if there is egg as a topping for your dish.
But in general you won't have any problem finding food to eat - the vast majority of food Japanese eat doesn't involve raw fish or raw egg. As far as salt goes, skip drinking the broth your noodles come in, and you'll avoid a lot of it.
When I was in Japan, I didn't have any problems finding non-raw-fish food available for purchase. Because of a stomach condition, my tolerance for raw fish is slim to none. As another poster said, raw fish is just one aspect of the diet. You can always order the non-raw maki.
Some of the best food is the street food. My personal favourite were Gendacko takoyaki and this okonomiyaki place in the Subnade in Tokyo.
As cecilia said, there are tons of cooked options,though I'm not sure of MSG content. You might want to try heading to any of the available basement food markets (depachika) in any department store. They're huge food courts that have a wide assortment of foods for purchase including lovely french pastries, dumplings, salads, bento boxes.
I can't speak to the MSG aspect as I have never really been concerned about myself. But if you do decide to skip raw fish, there are still tons of fantastic eats in Japan. Ramen, street food (crepe, takoyaki), okonomiyaki, donburi, all the cute pastry, fantastic beef, shabu shabu, yakitori, etc. There are so many other options.
As for raw fish, stick with the small fish. Those have lower levels of toxins. Also oshizushi in the Kansai region are often made to cooked or smoked fish. So those could be ok.