Food Diaries: Being Vegan in Japan
“Even though Japan is known to be a ‘’difficult’’ place for vegetarians, I eventually managed to stay on track with my vegan diet ever since I came here six months ago.
As a vegetarian for six years before becoming a vegan five years ago, it was clear to me that I will continue my plant-based diet in whatever situation. Hence, even though Japan is known to be a ‘’difficult’’ place for vegetarians because of the high use of fish and meat extracts in various foods, I eventually managed to stay on track with my vegan diet ever since I came here six months ago. Japan is a country that uses meat and fish extracts in many dishes. Thus, if one is not careful, one might end up consuming bonito flakes or meat excerpt through a package of potato chips or plain miso soup. The best way to avoid this kind of occurrence is to avoid any kind of packaged pre-prepared meals, and cook instead.
Staying on Track
Living only ten minutes away from a supermarket and taking advantage of the salad-buffet in the University’s dining, I am able to manage my vegan diet in an affordable and good tasting way. To ensure an appropriate intake of required nutrients, I plan my budget and grant myself vegetables and fruits from the supermarket. Ready-to-microwave rice, noodles, onions and potatoes provide a relatively cheap source of glucose and built the base of most of my dishes. I prepare them with cheap vegetables like Japanese pumpkin, paprika and sweet potatoes. For my protein intake I use tofu, soybeans and natto. Since soymilk is considered to be very healthy here in Japan, a variety of soymilk flavors, soy yogurt and ice-cream can also be found relatively easily in the bigger department stores.
I recommend going to a sushi, soba or udon place and choosing the vegetarian options, since they are mostly vegan as well.
Sweet Tooth Cravings
For the sweet tooth, Japan has many vegan sweets called wagashi, such as mochi, dango and manju with sweet bean paste. If you want to enjoy going out for dinner, there is a vegan restaurant in Motoyama (area around campus) which is a good place to go. Furthermore, you can become a member of the vegan society here in Nagoya; we have a Facebook group and meet from time to time to share experience, recipes and talk. As for other restaurants, I recommend going to a sushi, soba or udon place and choosing the vegetarian options, since they are mostly vegan as well.
Although one might experience some frustration in the beginning when it comes to the consumption of packaged and pre-prepared food, living as a vegan in Nagoya is fairly manageable if you prepare your meals yourself with fresh ingredients. Furthermore, if you come to Nagoya as a vegan, do not forget that you are not alone and that you might end up doing your health a favor if you use mainly unprocessed ingredients for the preparation of your meals.