I tell you, being vegan in Japan is not so easy. Reason number 1, veganism and vegetarianism are hardly accepted in modern Japanese society. Number 2, thus there are not so many vegan or vegetarian restaurants. Number 3, social pressure of “being in the same and harmonize with others” is strong. If I said, “I am vegan,” I would usually get responses such as, “What’s that?” “are you some kind of cult religious?” or “But you eat eggs right?” I respond simply to avoid any complications. “I disagree with factory farming and commercial fishing. And it is also good for the environment.” The reactions vary. Some would get shocked to the idea itself and some would ask more questions with interests. They are not bad people, they just are not well informed, likewise me five years ago. In any case, it is not easy to be vegan in Japan. The safest way to eat vegan food without any stress is to cook at home. Actually a lot of non-meat ingredients are available at stores, including soy, kelp and dried vegetable products and so on.
For me, the most challenging situation is when going out with our business clients. Business over meals and beers is very common here. My husband and I have a business, so we occasionally need to go out to talk about business over meals with our clients. This is really merely to built rapport. We try to guide them to restaurants where we can order meatless food. But sometime, we fail to persist. (We ask the restaurants to take out meat and fish though…)
A list of vegan/vegetarian restaurants is a must item to take with me. There is a good website here.
Last month, I traveled to Hokkaido on business. I had imagined that eating out would be extremely difficult for me, because I was in the countryside. But fortunately a closest restaurant that was opened that day was a vegan place! Bravo! In the middle of a snow country, where the most of the businesses were shut due to the bad economy, there was a bright hope for me! The restaurant was very homey and welcoming. I highly recommend you dropping by, if you happen to travel to Kushiro.
5-38 Horikawa-cho, Kushiro-city, Hokkaido Tel: 81-154-23-5594