Reading food expiration dates in Japan

Post date: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In Japan, the expiration date and the consumption date are determined based on the JAS Law and the Food Sanitation Law.

While in Japan, have you ever wondered where the expiration date on food products are?
Here we will explain what the dates on food products in Japan mean.

There are usually 2 different types of dates to look for. On most items there may be only one of the expiration dates present on the packaging. We recommend that you read and compare the name of the two different dates in kanji to the one on your food item very carefully. Be aware as well that in Japan the dates are written as year/month/day.

1. Shoumikigen - Best before date

Shomikigen is the period in which you can eat a product and it will still taste good. If properly preserved the food product can still be consumed after the date (within reason). In English this Shomikigen label would be “Best If Used By”.

Shomikigen is used for food products that do not spoil easily or have long shelf lives such as snacks, cup noodle, frozen foods, etc.

Milk in a Japanese Super markets Best If Used By date: March 9th, 2017
Ready-made food pack Best If Used By date : January 5th, 2018
Sweets, snacks Best If Used By date : November, 2018

2. Shouhikigen – Expiry / Consume by date

This date is used for food that easily spoil.
This label is common for Obentos (lunch box style ready-made food), side dishes sold in super markets, some sweets, fishes, and fresh meat.

Most products are recommended to be consumed within 5 days of the expiration date. The expiry dates on raw items such as sashimi (especially discounted items) are often set on the same day (24 hour period).

For more information about food labels regarding Seafood in Japan, please refer to the article below.
Pick the right fish for your dish - How to read seafood labels in Japan

If you are a foreigner in Japan and have food allergies, be sure to read our guide on Japanese food labels and what to do if you have an allergic reaction.
Allergies in Japan: How to Read Japanese Food Labels

  • Exploring the Most Popular Types of Japanese Green Tea

    An introductory guide to the seven most popular types of Japanese green tea. Learn what makes each variety so special, and tips on how to brew and store them.
  • Where to Get the Full Sake Experience in Tokyo

    Sake is one of Japan’s greatest exports, and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and other establishments where you can get the full experience. Let this Tokyo guide lead the way.
  • Pick the right fish for your dish - How to read seafood labels in Japan

    Trying to figure out how to buy the right seafood in supermarkets in Japan? Here we will explain the different labels on packages containing seafood in Japan. The main types of seafood sold in supermarkets can be broken into 4 types: For raw consumption, for sashimi, must be heated, and for grilling.
  • Halal Food in Tokyo

    With an ever-growing Muslim population who adhere to the Halal diet, finding Halal food in Tokyo is easier than ever. If you’re looking for Halal restaurants that do online delivery or Halal supermarkets and street food, our Halal food in Tokyo guide has what you’re looking for.
  • Tokyo Craft Beer Guide: Good Brews in Hiroo & Azabu-Juban

    The Tokyo craft beer scene is overflowing. From basement bars to hamburger joints and even supermarkets, check out what's on tap in Hiroo and Azabu Juban.
  • Food Additives in Japan: Everything You Need to Know

    When it comes to food additives in Japan, it can be difficult to know what's in your food. Find out everything you need to know about Japan's food additive regulations.