Reading Kanji in Japanese Food Labels

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'Reading Kanji in Japanese Food Labels'

Anna Baffa Volpe

8 min reading time


Welcome back!

Today, let's see together how to read Japanese food labels (しょく)(ひん)(ひょう)()ラベル, how to recognise the terms indicating the ingredients and the nutritional values, improving our vocabulary.

食品ラベルの見方: How to read food labels

In this post, I would like to look at terms and expressions in the field of food (しょく)(りょう) and nutrition (えい)(よう) through pictures of some Japanese food labels.

The general points we will go through:

  • (えい)(よう)(せい)(ぶん) the nutritional values
  • (げん)(ざい)(りょう)(めい) the ingredients
  • (しょう)()()(げん) the expiration date

I will also mention foods from natural farming ()(ぜん)(さい)(ばい).

(えい)(よう)(せい)(ぶん)ラベル: Nutritional Values

Let's take a look at the food labels of some products you can find in コンビニ the convenience stores, small Japanese supermarkets.

コンビニで()える(しょく)(ひん): foods you can buy in a supermarket


カップヌードル: Cup Noodles

The values in the package are standard (ひょう)(じゅん) as you can read and refer (当たり) to 77 grams of content, food (食).

In this package of カップラーメン we find:

  • エネルギー: 353 kcal as energy value; the Japanese term is (ねつ)(りょう), calories
  • (たん)(ぱく)(しつ) can also be written タンパク(しつ) or たん(ぱく)(しつ): the proteins

The kanji is part of terms indicating the nutritional values of food and means quality, nature, value.

  • ()(しつ) refers to the fat
  • the carbohydrates are (たん)(すい)()(ぶつ)

Separating the various Kanji we find: 炭 carbon, 水 water, 化 indicates the process and 物 is the thing, the object, the matter.

(さん)() is the oxidative process, the oxidation; (えき)() the liquefaction

Among the values in the カップヌードル, we find a number of terms in Katakana, as they are taken from foreign languages.

  • ナトリウム sodium from the Latin ラテン() natrium
  • ビタミン the various types of vitamins
  • カルシウム calcium

Foods can be (せい)(せん)(しょく)(ひん) fresh or ()(こう)(しょく)(ひん) processed.

(まっ)(ちゃ) Matcha Tea

It is one of the best-known types of Japanese tea and with which sweets and desserts of various kinds such as (まっ)(ちゃ)のケーキ the matcha cake and (まっ)(ちゃ)のアイスクリーム the matcha ice cream are made.

(ちゃ)(しゅ)(るい): types of tea

At the bottom of the packet you can see the values we reported for the カップラーメン to which we add:

  • (しょく)(えん)(そう)(とう)(りょう): salt equivalent; (しょく)(えん) is the table salt

(だい)(): Soy

Soy is essential in Japanese cuisine ()(しょく) and through its fermented paste (しょう)() the popular 調(ちょう)()(りょう) seasoning is produced.

大豆: Soy

(げん)(ざい)(りょう)(めい): Ingredients

The word for ingredient is (ざい)(りょう); the kanji preceding it (げん) means meadow, prairie, wild nature and together (げん)(ざい)(りょう) becomes raw material, ingredient.

(めい) is the Kanji indicating the name, the title.

チョコレートタルト: Chocolate Tart

This tasty dessert is not usually sold in コンビニ, but in お()()(せん)(もん)(てん) a pastry shop.

チョコレートタルト: from the English term Chocolate Tart

(げん)(ざい)(りょう)(めい) are the ingredients we find in the tart:

The sugar present in many foods is ()(とう).

  • ()(むぎ)() flour
  • (たまご) egg
  • (しょく)(えん) salt
  • ()(えん)バター unsalted butter

As (ぞう)(ねん)(ざい) addensant was used ()(こう)デンプン the synthetic starch.

  • (にゅう)()(ざい) the emulsifier 剤 is a Kanji that we will find in various terms when talking about food and also in the pharmacological field: it means dose, medicine.
  • (こう)(りょう) is the flavor in the tart
  • カロチン(しき)(そう) the colouring carotene

And the warnings cannot be missed:


This product is manufactured in facilities where buckwheat and peanuts are used.


It contains some wheat, egg, milk, almonds and soy.

(しょう)()()(げん): the Expiration Date of a product

The terms to be remembered are 2:

  • (しょう)(): relish, appreciation, the concept of eating with relish, appreciating the taste
  • ()(げん): is the time limit
(しょう)()()(げん): best if used by ..

In the product picture, below the expiration date we find the word (かい)(ふう)(まえ) which we can explain through a definition:


The expiration date on food is the expiration date before opening.

(かい)(ふう)する is the verb indicating the unboxing a product or opening a letter.

()(ぜん)(しょく)(ひん): Natural Foods

Let's have a look at some terms if we want to buy natural, organic food, grown without the use of pesticides.

()(りょう): fertilisers


Chemical fertilisers: not used during cultivation

  • ()(がく)()(りょう) is the term for chemical fertiliser and the term ()使()(よう) indicates that it has not been used.
Vegetables grown in the (しん)(しゅう) Shinshū region

If we look for organically grown vegetables the terms we use are:

  • ()(のう)(やく): without (無) pesticides (農薬)
  • (ゆう)()(さい)(ばい): from organic farming

The Adjective in な (ゆう)()な indicates the organic, biological element.

Here is a task for you to read and memorize new terms: in the picture we find a chocolate bar and on the label the various ingredients.

チョコレート: chocolate

Feel free to send us by mail the reading in Hiragana of the kanji and the translation of the terms.


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