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Thread: Veganism in Japan

  1. #51

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    A vegan support group has started up, here; Vegan Society of Japan (

    If you are in Japan during mid-July, we have our first event; How to Eat to Survive – Japan’s First Vegan Film Festival Kyoto on Sunday July 19 2009 at the Koryu Kaikan Hall, Hitomachi, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto which we expect 300 people to attend. In October, we will be organizing the annual Vegan and Vegetarian Festival in Kyoto. About 5,000 people come to it. It has always been entirely vegan.

    We also sell and post internationally Herwin Walravens's book: Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide.

    Depending on whether you are traveling or residing, it might be useful to know; Warabe Mura and Alishan Organic Center, as they have good support for English speakers. Most local "Co-op" chain supermarkets will have a good quality supply of locally grown foods and vegan staples.

    There is a healthy vegan, vegetarian and macrobiotic underground in Japan. Most major cities will have at least one veggie friendly cafe and a few European style delis where you will recognize regular foods. Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo have many more.

    On the road, you will at least be able to survive at udon and soba (noodle) shops if you avoid the dashi (dip) and just use the shoyu instead. We recommend you copy and bring the Japanese pages from the Vegan passport as not many Japanese will recognize the word vegan.

    If you let us know where you plan to go, perhaps we can make recommendations. The most sublime vegan experience is probably visting Koyasan (Mount Koya) which is about 45 minutes from Kansai (Osaka) airport in the mountains, a 1500 year old temple complex where you stay in a temple inn and they serve "shojin ryori" (vegan temple food).

    The oldest vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Japan (in Kyoto) is about 460 years old.

  2. #52

    Default Taken from another topic

    Quote kokopelli View Post
    It is very interesting to read your posts, vegan-japan, I really appreciate your perspective, because as I'm sure you're aware, our impression of Japan and Japanese culture has been formed by biassed representations in our media. For example, throughout the Thatcher years, Japan was held up as an example of high-tech industrial and economic growth and dedication to hard work that we in the UK were encouraged to emulate and compete against. Now history has shown that the period of rapid expansion actually led to an extended period of economic difficulties, deflation etc.

    I have always admired the Japanese elevation of simplicity and domesticity to an artform and the buddhist asceticism and avowal of animal produce. A book which has really inspired me is 'The Book of Tofu' by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi. They toured Japan searching out traditional farmhouse tofu makers and describe the processes in the book. It seems they have been largely responsible for bringing more widespread appreciation of tofu, soymilk, soy sauce and miso to the west. It's good to know that traditional tofu makers have survived and continue to thrive in Japan.

    It's kind of ironic that at the same time as western consumption habits are being embraced by the east, eastern frugality is (hopefully) gaining adherents in the west.
    In the UK, you also have Paul Jones who really started the Tofu industry there, in my opinion. He was part of the early Macrobiotic scene inspired by George Ohsawa. It interesting but I think people do not realise just how much of an influence Japanese dietary culture has had on the Western wholefood scene, in the USA (through Michio Kushi) and in the UK through Craig and Greg Sams. You can read about it here, History of Macrobiotics Movement and here, Greg Sams wholefood history. In short, it would not have happened without the Japanese pioneers and about 70 to 80% of your/our diet was brought in or influenced by them.

    The Japan you speak about has almost been destroyed entirely post-WWII although a tiny small wholefood, LOHAS, macrobiotic movement is retracing its steps.

    For vegans though, the one beneficial thing that does remain are a large number of small, craft level businesses making traditional vegan foods. Not because they are "vegan" (the owners are not) but just because that is what they always made; many misos, many tofus, sesame tofus, grain syrups, rice wines, naturally sweet rice pudding (amazake), sticky rice buns (mochi), noodles, pickles, seaweeds, and many other rare items that you will not even have dreamt of, e.g. fern or seaweed jellies, mountain yam or kudzu cream products, wild plants and roots, 'sweet charcoal bamboo' (delicious and good for digestion) etc. Almost all of the traditional sweets are vegan by default.

    These still exist in every town or city and make Japan a very special place to visit, and learn from, for vegans. The variety of foods is very wide.

    We should also look back to the 150 odd years of the Edo Period as a study of how to create a high sustainable society. Although not 100% vegan, Edo was a plant-based and heavily recycling-based society. It would have been 80 ... 90% or more a vegan society. And, at that time, Edo (Tokyo) was the largest and probably the most civilised city in the world. Japan has very few energy resources and so it was an exceptionally energy efficient society.

    Traveling around Japan, you notice one thing immediately. There are hardly any animals in the fields or on the land at all. There is just no room for them. Every parcel of land is either used for plant-based agriculture (small fields of rice growing even in the cities), or it is mountain. Where it is mountain, you might find terraces of citrus and fruit growing. There are only a very few places animals are kept. This is an unspoken joy for vegans.

    Unfortunately, part of the American plans to dominate the Pacific-Asian region included turning the region into consumers for American products and American-style unsustainable lifestyles. A diet and lifestyle Japan itself cannot sustain because of a lack of natural resources.

    What I mean specifically here is a market for American and then Australasian foods; beef, dairy and pork industries. Unfortunately that means many of the simple foods you know in Europe are full of dairy ... bread is almost universally inedible. it is full of everything. As a relative, it is worth bearing in mind that a memorial to the first cow killed for beef for Townsend Harris, was created only as late as the mid-1800s.

    The other killer has been both that same Japanese technology of which you speak and the fruit of the economic bubble period. Specifically, advances in refrigeration which allowed industrial fishing boats to travel into deep sea and all around the world but that is only since the 70s/80s. Japanese consumption of fish is not triple that of European countries and it is very hard to avoid. Fish (dried bonito or sauce) is in everything, quite unnecessarily.

    It is often easier to eat in mountain areas where they use mushrooms and beans for stock instead.

    Without knowing the spoken and written language, it is very hard for vegans to avoid animal products. Yes, there are a growing number of cafes in the main cities but these most are small, shut early, appear and disappear rapidly and English is not still not spoken.

    Sadly, most Japanese have no concept of what the word vegan means. Something we hope to change! Nor even vegetarian ... thanks to all the confusion created by fish eaters. Like most other Asian nations, "pork" is not "meat" (meat is beef). You might struggle to get noodles without fish dashi, only to discover lumps of fish cake on top of it ... because "that is what they do".

    You need to be very, very, very specific!

    Unlike America, where you can 'get what you want if you pay for it', in Japan, restaurants and ryokans (small hotels) tend to be very rigid about what they prepare and people unused to improvising. They just never get asked to. They seem to have no idea what to do.

    Many Japanese vegans find it easier just to tell them they have allergies and cannot eat stuff ... that seems to work. Owners are afraid of being sued or damaging their reputation by making some sick. In general, for many reasons, the ethical aspect of veganism is not understood. "Vegan", as in Shojin Ryori (temple food) is something you do at the temple on special, perhaps once in a life time, occasions ... even the monks are not vegan or vegetarian.

    Animal rights tend not to be discussed, nor explored, by the heavily controlled media for the "fear of causing offense". it is probably fair to say there is very little awareness of the idea ... but also very little need for them at a general level ... because there are relatively few industrial scale abuses unlike in the West (little history of animal husbandry). The suffering exists but back in the nations where the food (e.g. USA) or fur (e.g. China) is imported from. It is a very distant thing.

    There is also the "fear of ideologies" ... a sort of social taboo at holding strong, definite opinions that again goes back to the Post-War period and before. 100% veganism would be "offensive". One is expected to be flexible, "Japanese" first, and show respect to elders and superiors. To refuse would be too hard and insulting.

    This means many vegans in Japan are vegans by their desire but when they go out they find it very difficult not to share in shared meals, e.g. picking vegetables out of stock pots. At least the rice is OK to eat but it is not enough ... Personally, I call them 'home vegans'. People in the West, who have far more personal liberties, might not understand just how difficult it is and what the implications of being social ostracised are.

    Another problem also exists around the whole whale and dolphin issue. Most Japanese are entirely unaware of it and do not, in fact, eat either. Whale meat was only really introduced as a widespread food in the immediate period after WWII when there was very little food and a lot of starvation. It has a sentimental value for some of the old people a bit like, say, bananas would for Europeans during the Post-rationing period.

    Unfortunately, many activists in the West play the race card. Their voices are colored by institutionalised racism towards Japanese. A people who, nowadays, have no responsibility at all for the crimes of the past whatsoever (their grandparents were not even born when they happened).

    This makes the Japanese defensive, even vegan and vegetarians, and makes it very easy for the establishment to deflect valid criticisms. They can just say it is more typical racism and ignore it. Quite rightly, they say, "how can 'the West' criticise us for eating whale when you kill 100,000s of times more cattle?" etc.

    There is no ability for them to see the difference between Eco- and AR motivated voices in the West and the political and financial establishment, e.g. the meat industry, and no reason to. In my opinion, and partly from my own experience, the anti-whale and anti-dolphin movement is being defeated NOT by the whaling industry but by the use of racism in the attack.

    The effects of all this makes promoting AR (and hard core veganism) a very difficult equation.

    Historically, one also has to realise that Japan was only violently opened up to the West, via Commodore Perry, for the sake of the Western, read American, whaling industries. It was the wasteful whaling industries of the West that over-fished the Japan Sea and drove Japanese whalers out into deeper waters. Before that, Japanese whaling was purely at an indigenous level, like the Inuits, and used all of the animal not just its oil.

    This is just a personal observation, but one that I do not think has been identified, as to why historically and culturally the whaling issue is such a difficult issue between East and West.

    It would help if vegans and AR people in the West did not attack "Japan" because there are Japanese vegans and AR people in Japan who feel exactly the same way about it.

    I hope this goes a little further to let people see and understand what is going on in Vegan Japan.

  3. #53
    Princess Vegan MandyRanne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Evansville, IN

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    Hey everyone. I need some help.

    My tea ceremony teacher found out that I am vegan and won't stop bothering me about it. EVERY FREAKING WEEK she says the same thing, "You MUST eat animal protein. Your body can't do without it!" Apparently she heard it on TV. I don't know if the TV show was crack, or she misunderstood. She only says this to me because she is concerned for my wellbeing. Obviously we know this is B.S. I try to explain in Japanese that it is okay to only eat protein from plants provided you eat a variety of foods. But somehow this doesn't take. Does anyone know a published source of the correct information in Japanese? I just wanna shove it in her face so she will leave me alone about it instead of drilling me about what I ate every week.

  4. #54

    Join Date
    May 2011

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    Anyone here living in or near Tokyo?

  5. #55

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    I just landed in osaka and will be searching for stuff. That happycow link is really good. It's six years later, but thanks.

  6. #56

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Ureshino-shi, Saga, Japan, Jap

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    Hey I'm a vegan living in a town called Ureshino in Saga Prefecture in Kyushu. Looking for other vegans close by or not whatever. Let's be friends!

  7. #57

    Default Re: Veganism in Japan

    Please use this site.
    I made.

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