Around this time last week I was gathering my things to help out at the JET Orientation event in Kumamoto City. I had agreed to help out at an information booth about living as a veggie in Japan to help other veggies and vegans.
Sadly, bad weather meant that this part of the orientation was cancelled and so I decided to recreate the information I had prepared for any animal-friendly JET’s starting out or anyone whose curious about living as a veggie in the dashi-epicentre of the world.
General Advice: Eating vegan or vegetarian in Japan isn’t always easy, especially for those living rural, but it is definitely possible!
Tell your schools about your diet as soon as you can. Be clear about what you can and can’t eat!
It’s likely that you will be bringing your own lunches (or ’bento’) to school.
Check the ingredients in everything when you’re starting out.
Dashi (meat/ fish stock) is EVERYWHERE.
Ask Japanese friends for recipes and cooking classes– home-cooking will be much more fun!
Tips for travelling and eating out:
Scope out the area before you arrive, it saves you a hangry food-hunt later on.
Ask for ‘osusume’ in restaurants after explaining your diet using this source if you struggle with Japanese (the ‘I can’t eat sheet is on the back page). The restaurant may be able to make you something!
Save vegetarian and vegan restaurants on Google Maps so you can easily find them again/ share!
Bring snacks from home! Trips become a lot easier if you have a set of non-perishable snacks lining your backpack!
Be prepared to eat solo! Travelling with a friend that doesn’t have the same diet as you might mean they want to try food you can’t eat; so be prepared to do your research and eat dinner solo!
Double check– sometimes ‘vegetarian’ in Japanese means different things i.e. that you eat fish or dashi– make sure to double check before you sit down to eat!
Unfortunately McDonalds in Japan does not have vegetarian options, unlike in the UK. It is at this point in the handout that I would have told you about Mosburger’s soy patties, praising them to the highest degree. However, it was very recently brought to my attention that these patties are in fact NOT suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It’s on the allergy list folks! (Shocked and disappointed? Same here!)
Convenience stores are lifesavers when you need something fast. Just grab seaweed/ pickled plum onigiri or another veggie option to keep you going!
A collaboration of previous booth volunteers’ and my own sources to help you employ a virtual ally in your quest for meat-free eating.
VegJet: online Facebook group for veggie and vegan JETS: recipes/ advice/ support and meets!
Happycow.net: Lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants in a searched area (no results doesn’t mean no restaurants!)
Mangoes App: Relatively new app– locations of vegan eateries and recipe ideas!
International Food Shops are also a big help! Places like Kaldi Coffee Farm, Landmarche and Jupiter will be great allies! Also, Kumamoto is FULL of farmer’s markets selling awesome veggies, get yourself down! and try out a new recipe!
If you want to read about my experience as a veggie in Japan, some cool reads are listed below:
Also for veggies travelling to Yakushima, read my last article about some cool veggie places to try all over the island!
It will be hard sometimes so just remember you can do it and you are not alone! If you have any questions or worries feel free to leave a comment or email me!