Veganism adherence is growing slowly but steadily in Japan, mostly out of ecological convictions, given the tropical forest’s dramatic reduction since meat has been taking a larger place on the Japanese plate. Several university campuses now offer vegan dishes, a proof that millennials are driving the movement. But the young are finding it sometimes hard to convince their families that veganism is a sustainable lifestyle. Many grandparents still remember rationing following World War II, when they had so little to eat and so they tend to see veganism as some kind of voluntary deprivation.
Your Japanese waiter/waitress or host will go to great lengths to satisfy your needs and dietary requirements. This being said, you will need to explain a lot what you mean by being vegan and most likely at the end of your explanation, you will be asked if you eat fish anyhow. Also, you might well be served food that includes dashi (bonito fish flakes) as it is considered more of a condiment than an animal product. Therefore, your explanations need to be detailed and include “no dashi” repeated for almost every dish. When at a loss, explain that you eat like a traditional Buddhist monk (though nowadays monks can be found eating eggs and fish and even sometimes meat).
This might get complicated by the fact that your waiter may not speak much English. Make sure to have our VEGAN WORDS page for Japan available. Menus in restaurants can be found in English, so stick to the vegan dishes that exist on almost all of them, but beware of fake friends like miso soup, usually served with…dashi. Consult our LOCAL FOOD page to know how to maneuver the pitfalls. Good news, soy milk ice cream is common and easy to find, as are vegan snacks from commodity stores such as Onigiris (rice and seaweed triangles with vegan fillings such as pickled plum) andsalads.
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