A followup report on being vegan in Japan

Asha, the reader who sent me the question that inspired me to write Japan: A Survival Guide for Vegans has sent in a great follow-up comment. I've posted it here so you won't miss it. She found it a lot easier to follow her vegan regime in Tokyo than in Nagasaki, where she has been living. That makes sense I thin: any major metropolitan area these days is likely to have many people who are vegan or at least interested in a vegan way of eating, while the same might not hold true for more regional towns (Nagasaki has a long history of being a very international city, but is much smaller than Tokyo of course.)

What follows are Asha's words.

I recently spent about four days in Tokyo and will admit that was the EASIEST time as a vegan out of the entire six and a half months I've been here. There are vegan restaurants EVERYWHERE. I ate with a fork for the first time since leaving America. I drank coffee at a cafe that wasn't Starbucks. I indulged on things I haven't had since leaving my home country and thoroughly enjoyed everything. It was incredible.

I am vegan, and though I've been pretty much unable to eat out at all here in Nagasaki, I don't mind cooking my own meals. I spend a little more money than the other students from America but that's because they are living off of incredibly unhealthy prepackaged foods. I really love experimenting with all the new and exciting vegetables and other things here. I recently found a small store called "vegetarian" [that actually sells meat...hah] and found 玄米もち [genmai mochi - brown rice mochi]! I was so excited. I can't wait to try it.

I really like making the Chinese savory version of 粥 kayu [rice porridge] with my own personal twist, usually using some miso, a package of natto.. various veggies.. sometimes tofu.. and of course seaweeds. It's a great meal for any time of the day. I like to stir fry, make curries out of kabocha squash, cauliflower and red lentils [that my lovely boyo brought me from America- thank goodness for lentils!!!] and pretty much steaming or broiling [i have no oven] any vegetable I can find.

At first I ate the same boring mix of bean sprouts and carrots but thankfully have branched way, way out. Don't forget to try all the different kinds of mushrooms and greens!! Renkon 蓮根 [lotus root], yamaimo 山芋 [mountain yam], satoimo 里芋 [taro root] and of course satsumaimo 薩摩芋 [sweet potato] are all delicious and usually quite cheap. I could live off kabocha squash- it's THAT good.

I recently found pure organic soy milk and there's organic tofu here that is super, super cheap. I like unsweetened ankou [azuki bean paste] on brown rice cakes and soy milk with fruit and brown rice flakes found in the organic section of one of the supermarkets I visit.

I'm rambling now, but I hope you get the gist of this entirely too long comment of me slowly adjusting to what's available here. I think my visit to Tokyo [and enjoying things like sakura muffins and vegan tempeh sandwiches] will hold me over until August.

Thank you Maki for the awesome sites and post. I love all of your sites- especially Hungry for Words! Keep up the great work [and thanks for the email back about the bread!]

Thank you, Asha, for the very detailed comment! I thin it will be very helpful to other vegans venturing out to Japan.

Filed under:  food travel japanese restaurants vegan japan

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I recently went to Japan and did really well as a vegan :) Granted I ate copious amounts of inari (especially while traveling) and had a great vegan guidebook. I also fell in love with white rice: fluffy-moist-and sweet. I am going to try your recipe for it this weekend! I wrote about my food experiences on my blog if you are interested in taking a closer look.

Hi Maki, just wanted to let you know, I am spending a month in Japan for work/play and I have found so many vegan restaurants! I am staying in Shibuya and there are so many great vegan bakeries/restaurants nearby. There's even a vegan FANTASTIC bakery called der Akkord in Omotesando.

Anyway, I am not vegan, but I don't eat dairy, so I enjoy all the desserts. :) My husband and I are slowly working through your top 100 list!

Hmmm...I am lacto-ovo and lived in Tokyo for two years, and I only rarely found anything vegan. :/

Hi, I am a recently vegan (going on 5 months) University student. I am in love with Japan and Japanese culture and it is my dream to do a year exchange stay in Tokyo. I am pretty worried that I will have to give up my vegan lifestyle if I go to Japan and I really, really don't want to. It's something very Important to me even to the point that I will refrain from eating lunch if there are no vegan options >_< (regrettable I know).

Of course I was not planning on going to Japan and starving but I do not know if I can bring myself to eat animal products without creating very deep rooted guilt and self-loathing about the whole thing. Eventually, when I am an adult I hope to return to japan to live for an extended period of time. I fear my vegan lifestyle will prevent me from committing to a lengthly stay in Japan.

What I am worried about the most is social etiquette and being polite while visiting peoples homes. As a student I would stay in dormitories and probably use the cafeteria so that should not be a problem but I am conscious that politeness is a key element to Japanese culture and I would be loath to offend my hosts or hostesses!

Any advice or resources you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

This site may save me! <3