Expiry date and Best before date in Japanese

消費期限(Shou-hi-ki-gen)  Expiry date


We need to eat food by the date written on the packages, and it is better not to eat the food after the expiry date. Expiry dates or used by dates are mainly used for food that goes bad quickly such as ready -to-eat meals, bread, bento, meat, fish, raw noodles etc.

賞味期限(Shou-mi-ki-gen) Best before date

Unlike expiry dates or used by dates, we can eat food even after the best before date or sell by date. The best before date written on the package or label of food is the time the producer guarantees the quality of the food. Usually, best before dates are used for food that doesn’t rot quickly such as snacks, canned food, milk products, and instant noodles.

If you get confused which one is expiry date and which one is Best before date, it’s okay. All you need to do is just finish eating the food before the date. Oh, you need to be careful of one thing though. Both expiry date and Best before date are based on food that you haven’t opened yet, and you should eat the food as soon as possible.

Look! This shows different kanji ! Oh no, it says the date which is 1 month ago! What a terrible shop selling the food we cannot eat! I’ll go back to the place and complain to them (>_<) Calm down~! That is 製造日(Sei-zou-bi) or 製造年月日(Sei-zou-nen-gappi) and is neither an expiry date or best before date. It is a date that the food was made.

If you have bought some food in Japan, you might notice that some of them have a date of manufacture and some of them don’t.  Why?

It was an obligation for manufactures to mention a date of manufacture of food until 1995. Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries discussed open-date of food, and they decided to change the rule. 2 years later, mentioning a date of manufacture became an option. (Mentioning expiry date or best before date is a duty though)

I’d like to know the date of manufacture since it’s needless to say the newer the better, and I think it’s not only me who thinks so. This idea probably had increased the amount of food waste and one of the reasons why Japanese government had to change the rule. (I guess)

What kind of food has a long best before date?

Instant noodles 6~8 months

Retort packed curry 2 years

Jam (sugar concentration is more than 65%) 2 years

Ship biscuit 5 years

Survival foods 25 years


What is “Survival foods”?

2 years or 5 years are long enough, but 25 years? Amazing! It’s quarter of century! They are freeze-dried food invented by an American company called OFD Foods, LLC.  Yes, an America company… I’m writing about things related to Japan, so I haven’t said anything about Survival foods in this article, but if you’re interested in Survival foods, you can check it on the official website.

Why people in Japan buy food with long expiry date?

In old days, food (preservation food) which doesn’t go bad soon was very important since people didn’t have a refrigerator and it was impossible to keep their food for a long time. Our technology has been developed, and we don’t have the issue now. Then why do people in Japan buy food with long expiry date? One of the answer is our life is often threatened by nature disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc.

If people have to be evacuated from their home to a shelter and stay there for several days, what would you think the most important thing for them is? Yes, we would need food (and water, too!). If we didn’t receive relief goods including food from governments or volunteers, our lives would rely on stock we had. Nobody knows when that kind of situation will happen, Japanese people think it’s better to buy and stock food with long expiry dates. (well prepared means no worries)

I don’t think you need to worry about the above situation if you are just travelling in Japan, but it would be better to know or recognize 消費期限, 賞味期限, and 製造日 if you wanted to buy food.


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