Lonely Planet Writer

New app translates Japanese ingredients for shoppers

A Japanese company has come up with a new way by which visitors to the country can quickly scan and translate the ingredients of the food they buy.

App translates ingredients and cooking instructions from Japanese
App translates ingredients and cooking instructions from Japanese

The country – in the midst of a tourist boom – has always been held back in selling some of its home produce because in many cases travellers simply did not know what was in the packaging.

The lack of available translation can be more than just an inconvenience too, if visitors had specific, and sometimes, dangerous allergies to nuts or other ingredients.

Dai Nippon Printing has come up with digital technology that takes a quick scan of the QR code (those familiar two-dimensional barcodes) from the side of food packaging.

The shopper can then scroll through the various options and have all the ingredients and cooking instructions displayed in their own language, with several options available including English and French.

The smartphone app also displays a three-dimensional image of the product, so that customers can be absolutely sure it is the correct one.

The company thinks the technology will be particularly useful for visitors with dietary restrictions, whether religious, ethical, or allergy related.

Japan is in the middle of an incredible tourism boom with visitors more than doubling in the space of just four years to almost 20 million in 2015.

A sushi restaurant in Tokyo.
A sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Image by Paul Miller / CC BY 2.0

However, while technology goods – and other electronics – are always popular with tourists, the market for local food produce has not grown as quickly.

Dai Nippon Printing’s technology has been launched in Japan this month, and will go on display at trade fairs around the country for food, and other, companies to sign up.

The app can also be used for tourists bringing food products back from Japan as presents, and will be available for worldwide use.

Read more:

Eating Out in Japanese