Interview With Ambassador: Living in Japan as Vegetarian 【Part.2】Eating Out
Part.1 was about why Amanda became a vegetarian, the mental and physical effects on her, whether living in Japan as a vegetarian is easy or not, etc. This time, in PART 2, the topic is about her eating out and home cooking.
―It is said that there are not many specialty vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Japan. Do you feel the same way?
I agree with this statement depending on where you are in Japan. There are many vegan/ vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo, Kyoto and Yokohama, but in the countryside, there are very few, and you won't really find many.
―How do you find a place to go for a vegetarian meal?
I usually look at the social media of my friends or groups. Or I just search 'vegetarian restaurant' on Google Maps, sometimes people write in the reviews as well if there is one or two vegetarian options or dishes on the menu.
―What do you consider in choosing a restaurant to eat out with non-vegetarians?
I look to see if there are large portions for me, (not just a small salad or french fries) on the menu online. I also consider the smell, if it is a fishy smell or grilling meat smell, I will usually choose to not eat there.
―Have you ever requested vegetarian dishes at a non-vegetarian restaurant? If so, what do you consider when you request?
Yes, I do this often, asking them to just take out the meat. Sometimes it is okay, and sometimes they will still bring me the dish with lots of fish, because the word "niku" in Japanese only applies to animal meats but not fish meat, so it is a little frustrating sometimes or sometimes they forget and put in the meat anyways, so sometimes I take the time to pick it out, but that can lead to many mistakes and hidden meat. If I am at a restaurant, and there are no vegetarian options, I usually always choose something on the menu and then just ask them to not add the meat or fish.
―If you have had bad experiences in ordering a vegetarian meal in Japan, please share them with us.
Once or twice there has been an occasion where we are in the countryside or traveling and there are not many restaurant options so we need to choose one with no vegetarian options and I just try to ask for something with no meat, but sometimes the servers or waitress comes back and says the cook says its not possible to do. So I end up not eating anything besides edamame and a drink while I wait for my friend to finish their meal. It is a little hard because I am so hungry, but I can only eat a snack size amount of edamame.
Also once I decided to be a vegan for 30 days, we decided to go skiing in Gunma at a small resort. In the resort it had a sign that read, "NO OUTSIDE FOOD." I looked at the restaurant options and there was nothing at all I could eat besides fries. I ordered the fries and they were so small and over cooked and not enough to last me through a full day of skiing. So I took out my lunch I had prepared before and started to eat. A man came up to me and told me that it was against the rules. I tried to explain that I am a vegan and I don't eat anything that came from an animal. He didn't understand the word vegan or vegetarian and told me to put away my food. Then another guy came and told me again. He also didn't understand and finally I just said I had an allergy to all meat and animal products and he finally left me alone. I felt bad I had to lie, but it just never seemed he was going to understand my reasoning or accept it.
―One of our members posted a comment on Comfort Japan's community, saying that "it is hard in Japan to find restaurants that serve vegetarian dishes, and many establishments do not understand what vegetarian food is". Do you feel the same way about it?
Yes, I agree. Like I said above, many Japanese people have never heard of these words, vegan or vegetarian or they think all vegans and vegetarians can still eat fish. Also dashi or fish broth, in many Japanese foods is not okay for vegans and even some vegetarians.
―Do you have any recommendations for vegetarian restaurants anywhere in Japan? If there are recommended points or your favorite dishes, please write about them, too.
I really love Coco Curry Ichiban, they have a vegetarian curry option and vegetarian meat option as well. They are everywhere in Japan and always have this option.
Coco Curry Ichiban（Coco壱番屋）
Mos Burger, a common burger chain in Japan, has the soy burger option, which I love.
Vegan Izakaya Masaka, has lots of good karaage:
Vegan Izakaya Masaka（真さか）
Most okonomiyaki places such as Dotonbori have these cheese or potato okonomiyaki:
Most family restaurants such as Jonathans and Royal Host have one or two soy meat option. Here is at Royal Host: the soy meat Loco Moco:
Royal Host: the soy meat Loco Moco
Here is a vegan chain restaurant in Tokyo called Two Foods:
Cooking at Home
Lastly, we would like to ask you about home cooking.
―Do you cook vegetarian meals? If so, what do you cook?
I usually try to cook my own meals atleast 3 times a week. Sometimes I cook easy things such a pizza and pasta, but usually I like to make salads, tofu dishes, ramen dishes, bean dishes, and dishes with lots of vegetables.
One of my favorite vegan recipes is Tofu scramble. Ingredients: 1 tofu block (with as much water squeezed out as possible), 2-3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 tablespoon of soy milk (or any kind of milk that you prefer) and salt and pepper. You add the tofu to the pan and cook for a few minutes until the water disappears, then you add all of the spices and stir it in. If it gets dry you can add soy milk.
―Where do you do your grocery shopping? Is there anything you think is important when you buy your food?
Personally I love to shop at Aeon supermarkets, they usually have a lot of vegetarian or vegan food. Or there is a branch of Sanwa called Food One supermarkets which also have a vegan/ vegetarian section of their supermarket which I enjoy. When I buy my food, I need to always remember to have some sort of grain or protein to incorporate into my daily meals so that I get enough carbohydrates to fill me up and enough protein to keep me healthy.
―Would you give a message to vegetarians who have just arrived in Japan and are having a problem with food, or to those who are interested in a vegetarian diet?
If you want to change your diet, please get used to the uncomfortable situations that might occur with your friends wanting to eat at Yakinuku or an Izakaya that has no food for you. You can try to ask them to go to another restaurant for you or just get comfortable with eating very little snacks or other small items on the menu which are not usually filling.
You should also get used to planning more for your meals, if you work, eating at the kombini everyday is not usually an option if you are vegetarian. Try to look for your staple meals which you can cook often and find the ingredients easily.
>> Interview With Ambassador: Living in Japan as Vegetarian―Part.1 Introduction