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OatsCurrySummer
December 19th, 2015, 06:48
Yes, I am one of those dreaded vegans (pls dont shit on me too much about it). Thankfully not the militant, kombucha-toting yogi type, but rather a junk food vegan (think: fries, bean burritos, PBJ sandwiches and mountains of oreos, which yes, are in fact vegan--not a drop of dairy in 'em).

Needless to say, its going to be a bitch trying to continue that lifestyle in Japan, so I'll cut my losses now and compromise by going back to vegetarianism. I am a (very) late alternate upgrade and will be departing for god-knows-where in a month, and was wondering what the school lunch system is like, if they will allow for meat-free requests, and how easy is it to find vegetarian options. I'd love to hear what it is like in different regions, both rural and urban, so that I can be prepared no matter what placement I get. I understand that most stuff will have dashi in it, and I can definitely suck it up and eat it lest I should offend my new peers and colleagues, but knowing I have other options would be nice too.

Definitely going to miss Toronto, as it was extremely vegan friendly (I am actually a vegan baker right now), but maybe I could use that to my advantage and start a baking club with my prospective students...or eat myself into a carb-induced coma. It remains yet to be decided.

Ok, now you can start flinging shit at me. I can handle it.

Ini
December 19th, 2015, 09:02
Dont have school lunch and bring your own or be prepared for a nutritious diet of milk and white rice everyday as everything else will have some sort of meat or fish in it.

Torinn88
December 19th, 2015, 09:55
Be sure to share this information with you JTEs and fellow staff members as soon as possible. First, they might be able to arrange something with the cafeteria at school given enough time. Second, you don't want them to find out the hard way after they made reservations for your welcome party at Gyukaku.

Ebi
December 19th, 2015, 10:49
Yeah, I agree with informing them ASAP. From what I can tell it's easiest to not be signed up for school lunch at the start. If you try to switch mid-year it will cause headaches for everyone. And Ini is right that pretty much everything comes with some sort of meat or animal product in it, except for the occasional pieces of fruit.

As for making special orders, no one seems very accommodating in Japan. Even if all you want is "don't put bacon in the salad", a lot of places just won't let you make changes or will make the situation really awkward by running back and forth trying to get permission while apologizing the whole way. If you do make requests, be extremely explicit. I was with a vegan girl who ordered pizza without cheese (チーズ) and although the staff was bewildered, they agreed to make it. But they brought it out covered in Parmesan (粉チーズ) since that's not quite the same.

"No animal products" or "no meat" probably won't be immediately understood. Most people just don't think about what products or foods have animal bits in them. Also, most people don't consider fish or fish-like animals (dolphin, whales, etc.) to be animals, so if you're opposed to fish then you'll probably need to explicitly say so.

mrcharisma
December 19th, 2015, 11:46
Yes, I am one of those dreaded vegans (pls dont shit on me too much about it). Thankfully not the militant, kombucha-toting yogi type, but rather a junk food vegan (think: fries, bean burritos, PBJ sandwiches and mountains of oreos, which yes, are in fact vegan--not a drop of dairy in 'em).

Needless to say, its going to be a bitch trying to continue that lifestyle in Japan, so I'll cut my losses now and compromise by going back to vegetarianism. I am a (very) late alternate upgrade and will be departing for god-knows-where in a month, and was wondering what the school lunch system is like, if they will allow for meat-free requests, and how easy is it to find vegetarian options. I'd love to hear what it is like in different regions, both rural and urban, so that I can be prepared no matter what placement I get. I understand that most stuff will have dashi in it, and I can definitely suck it up and eat it lest I should offend my new peers and colleagues, but knowing I have other options would be nice too.

Definitely going to miss Toronto, as it was extremely vegan friendly (I am actually a vegan baker right now), but maybe I could use that to my advantage and start a baking club with my prospective students...or eat myself into a carb-induced coma. It remains yet to be decided.

Ok, now you can start flinging shit at me. I can handle it.

Bury your head in some roadkill and get over yourself. You'll never feel more arrive than when you're feasting upon a still-warm carcass.

Rome wasn't built on a diet of mung beans.

OatsCurrySummer
December 19th, 2015, 12:27
Dont have school lunch and bring your own or be prepared for a nutritious diet of milk and white rice everyday as everything else will have some sort of meat or fish in it.

Just as I expected. As my boyfriend put it: "You're going to be that one picky kid at every Chinese family gathering that sits in the corner eating rice and soy sauce."


Be sure to share this information with you JTEs and fellow staff members as soon as possible. First, they might be able to arrange something with the cafeteria at school given enough time. Second, you don't want them to find out the hard way after they made reservations for your welcome party at Gyukaku.

Yeah, I agree with informing them ASAP. From what I can tell it's easiest to not be signed up for school lunch at the start. If you try to switch mid-year it will cause headaches for everyone. And Ini is right that pretty much everything comes with some sort of meat or animal product in it, except for the occasional pieces of fruit.

As for making special orders, no one seems very accommodating in Japan. Even if all you want is "don't put bacon in the salad", a lot of places just won't let you make changes or will make the situation really awkward by running back and forth trying to get permission while apologizing the whole way. If you do make requests, be extremely explicit. I was with a vegan girl who ordered pizza without cheese (チーズ) and although the staff was bewildered, they agreed to make it. But they brought it out covered in Parmesan (粉チーズ) since that's not quite the same.

"No animal products" or "no meat" probably won't be immediately understood. Most people just don't think about what products or foods have animal bits in them. Also, most people don't consider fish or fish-like animals (dolphin, whales, etc.) to be animals, so if you're opposed to fish then you'll probably need to explicitly say so.

Thank you both, this is all great advice! In the end, I'd rather be liked by my colleagues than sit alone at home eating rice and anko from a bag, so I'll definitely have to make compromises. I don't expect to be catered to, so maybe I'll just have to set aside my beliefs on social occasions. Thanks again for your help!


Bury your head in some roadkill and get over yourself.

There's the attitude I was expecting! To be honest, I'm a bit scared at this point to see how my body will react to a low-fibre, high protein diet. Exploding intestines is my guess.

Torinn88
December 19th, 2015, 12:44
Tofugu.com has a few good posts and links to a vegan cookbook that might be of interest to self-flagellaters.

How To Eat Like A Buddhist Monk, Part 4: Get Cooking! - Tofugu (http://www.tofugu.com/2012/10/23/shojin-ryori-cooking/)

OatsCurrySummer
December 19th, 2015, 12:49
Tofugu.com has a few good posts and links to a vegan cookbook that might be of interest to self-flagellaters.

How To Eat Like A Buddhist Monk, Part 4: Get Cooking! - Tofugu (http://www.tofugu.com/2012/10/23/shojin-ryori-cooking/)

5397

Jiggit
December 19th, 2015, 18:39
As for making special orders, no one seems very accommodating in Japan. Even if all you want is "don't put bacon in the salad", a lot of places just won't let you make changes or will make the situation really awkward by running back and forth trying to get permission while apologizing the whole way.

Is this what they call omotenashi?

webstaa
December 21st, 2015, 08:24
I have a couple vegan/vegetarian friends here who carry business cards around with a simple explanation of what they don't eat. Apparently it helps at restaurants. Even though I mock them for being card-carrying vegans... (Luckily I met them a long time ago and live on the other side of Japan from them.)

I have another vegetarian friend who lives in Shiga who was automatically enrolled in kyuushoku when he came (dropped right in the predecessor's place.) He's stuck with it until April, eating only one or two things a day, except on a couple of lucky days when there's a vegetarian entree. And it all comes from a kyuushoku center, so there's no special ordering available. For me, I could stop kyuushoku any time (the kyuushoku overseer/coordinator thinks its a waste because I don't eat fish...)

weepinbell
December 21st, 2015, 08:36
We're expecting a late upgrade here and we just lost a vegan girl... longshot maybe, but that'd be kinda funny if you were taking her spot. She had a suuuuper hard time with her veganism... I think the only compromise she'd make was dashi. And yeah regarding the ordering stuff, she'd try to make order like sans cream on top of Indian curry or something and they'd still do it lol.... so yeah, definitely don't expect special orders to always go your way. There are a couple vegetarians here who are really relaxed about it and make sacrifices where they need to. Honestly, I think that's the smartest way to do it. Do what everyone's saying, don't sign up for school lunch, etc. (though one of the vegetarians does school lunch and they actually compromise with her to make it veg which is super nice of them). Just try to be open to compromises/making sacrifices with your diet. You'll be able to cook vegan meals no prob, though. Just not many options when you go out.

mothy
December 21st, 2015, 08:49
Yeah, unless they're willing to not mind occasionally breaking their diet, I really don't see how vegans survive in Japan without completely isolating themselves. I can see being able to do vegetarian, but all the way vegan? That would be real tough. I think you'd pretty much never go out to eat. And since that's how so much socialising is done in Japan...
But it's not like people don't do it. I've known a couple. I just don't see how they managed it. And like most people living a non-mainstream lifestyle, the closer you are to a major city like Tokyo or Osaka the easier it will be.
Good luck to you.

weepinbell
December 21st, 2015, 09:07
Yeah, unless they're willing to not mind occasionally breaking their diet, I really don't see how vegans survive in Japan without completely isolating themselves.

Bingo. That's exactly why we're getting an upgrade. And I know it partially had to do with the diet... she was getting sick a lot because she wasn't very flexible. And it's a big diet switch as it is even if you are planning on staying strictly vegan - it's so different in the west and so much more accessible. I'd try to make small changes before coming here if you can so you don't get sick right off the bat.

mothy
December 21st, 2015, 09:43
Also, and this may be obvious and the OP may already know Japanese, but if you have any dietary needs, better start studying food kanjis ASAP.

OatsCurrySummer
December 21st, 2015, 13:28
I have a couple vegan/vegetarian friends here who carry business cards around with a simple explanation of what they don't eat. Apparently it helps at restaurants. Even though I mock them for being card-carrying vegans

That's actually kind of brilliant. Definitely don't want to get caught by the vegan police and have my vegan powers revoked

http://images.tapatalk-cdn.com/15/12/20/d3037cac07fe05e8a8f4dbe232d1ce5e.jpg


We're expecting a late upgrade here and we just lost a vegan girl... longshot maybe, but that'd be kinda funny if you were taking her spot.

Oh god could you imagine? What are the chances?! At the very least I'm open to making compromises because having no social life is a sure way to earn yourself a bad case of culture shock.


Also, and this may be obvious and the OP may already know Japanese, but if you have any dietary needs, better start studying food kanjis ASAP.

First thing I learned was how to ask if a restaurant has vegan dishes (though correct me if this is wrong): ビガン りょうり は ありますか?But yeah, good advice all around, thanks for your help!


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Gizmotech
December 21st, 2015, 13:36
While I commend you on researching that question, it won't help you at all. You need to be clearer when you say NO MEAT AT ALL as they may or may not understand what began means, and even if they give you a knowing nod they're probably rushing to the back going "some foreigner just asked for a virgin dish, we can make that right?"

Virgil
December 21st, 2015, 13:42
If I was vegan in Japan I would just prepare all of my meals and drink my meals when I went out.

OatsCurrySummer
December 21st, 2015, 13:48
While I commend you on researching that question, it won't help you at all. You need to be clearer when you say NO MEAT AT ALL as they may or may not understand what began means, and even if they give you a knowing nod they're probably rushing to the back going "some foreigner just asked for a virgin dish, we can make that right?"

Yeah I figured as much, I should learn how to really explain it in detail. A statement like: "no meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy" would do I suppose. But more likely I'll just eat whatever I'm served bc I don't like to make people cater to my whims (I always hated that about certain people with niche-lifestyles. They tend to get all huffy when the rest of the world doesn't bend over backwards to accommodate them).

Or I can try to find one of those super strict Buddhist restaurants that the monks frequent. Are those common at all in Japan? Being vegan in Thailand was a breeze because of them.


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Ini
December 21st, 2015, 13:49
A statement like: "no meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy" would do I suppose.


poor, naive fool......

OatsCurrySummer
December 21st, 2015, 13:51
poor, naive fool......

Elucidate, if you'd be so kind?


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weepinbell
December 21st, 2015, 13:53
That's literally exactly what our vegan girl said every time we went out, and even more detail... basically never worked, and she was like N2 lol....

it's just the service industry here, they're usually great and go out of their way for you for a lot of other things, but meal exceptions is a rare one.

OatsCurrySummer
December 21st, 2015, 13:57
That's literally exactly what our vegan girl said every time we went out, and even more detail... basically never worked, and she was like N2 lol....

it's just the service industry here, they're usually great and go out of their way for you for a lot of other things, but meal exceptions is a rare one.

Ahh I see! I'd like to spare them the trouble then.

Two years vegan, and Japan will prove to be the combo breaker--ah well.


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uthinkimlost?
December 21st, 2015, 13:58
Yeah I figured as much, I should learn how to really explain it in detail. A statement like: "no meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy" would do I suppose. But more likely I'll just eat whatever I'm served bc I don't like to make people cater to my whims (I always hated that about certain people with niche-lifestyles. They tend to get all huffy when the rest of the world doesn't bend over backwards to accommodate them).

Or I can try to find one of those super strict Buddhist restaurants that the monks frequent. Are those common at all in Japan? Being vegan in Thailand was a breeze because of them.


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Well, ham is a seasoning, not a meat, here. They really won't understand. Fish stock is in most things. Pork stock is in what's left. Lots of people I know think they're being vegetarian when they order miso soup. they're not. I never had the heart to tell the Muslim guy that his miso ramen was made with pork stock.

Ini
December 21st, 2015, 14:01
The lesser spotted Japanese is a curious species know for its unique inability to process behaviour that is different from their accepted norms. Saying "i dont eat meat" is fine but you will still get bacon bits on your salad because thats not what they consider "meat". You might not get served a salmon steak but your pasta sauce will be full of shrimp because they aren't seafood, its just shrimp. They will make you a delicious vegan okonomiyaki and then cover it in mayo and fish flakes because thats not food, they are just condiments.

OatsCurrySummer
December 21st, 2015, 14:03
I never had the heart to tell the Muslim guy that his miso ramen was made with pork stock.

Aww, that's sad, though I think you did the right thing.

Also, I'd be wasting a damn good culinary opportunity if I really tried to be a strict vegan in Japan. One thing I really regretted about being vegan when I did research in the UK is that I never tried proper scones or bread pudding. I'm not going to leave Japan feeling the same way.


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Virgil
December 21st, 2015, 14:14
Is this what they call omotenashi?


SAY IT WITH ME

O MO TE NA SHI

Gizmotech
December 21st, 2015, 14:22
I once asked for a chefs special pizza at my local izakaya (cuz I'm classy like that). I also ask for it without seafood because, reasons.

The chefs helper dude hears the instruction, looks at the boss confused, comes over to us and goes "is sea chicken okay?"

My buddy is N1 and Pre 1 Kanji test. I can hold my own. We both stare at this guy until he realizes he just said the stupidest in his life.

ambrosse
December 21st, 2015, 15:05
There are an absurd amount of picky eaters in the JET community (more specifically, folks from the U.S.). No mushrooms, no eggs prepared other than scrambled, no mayo, no beef, no shrimp, no tofu, no green vegetables, etc.). What the hell do people eat?
During my prefecture's orientation, one person's homemade bento was just rice and grated daikon....

I was never vegetarian or vegan, but the food service industry in Japan is take-it-or-leave-it. Just the other day I went to a restaurant with a few people and it was a limited menu. My friend wanted her meal to come without the poached egg, but they gave it to her anyway.

Don't isolate yourself by adhering to nearly impossible dietary restrictions. Though I've heard some people can easily get away with a pescatarian diet here if you're interested in that.

Jiggit
December 21st, 2015, 18:57
The lesser spotted Japanese is a curious species know for its unique inability to process behaviour that is different from their accepted norms. Saying "i dont eat meat" is fine but you will still get bacon bits on your salad because thats not what they consider "meat". You might not get served a salmon steak but your pasta sauce will be full of shrimp because they aren't seafood, its just shrimp. They will make you a delicious vegan okonomiyaki and then cover it in mayo and fish flakes because thats not food, they are just condiments.
I want to emphasize this. Your dietary choices will probably make no sense to them, so even if they try to acquiesce, they'll leave things in without realizing it's even an animal product or that it matters. They've heard of "vegetarian", in the way that we may have heard of "halal" food. It doesn't mean they have any real understanding of what is or isn't allowed.

Remember as well cultural views of food can be very different. Simple "no meat or fish" doesn't mean the same thing in Japanese as it does in English, even if translated directly.

Frap
December 22nd, 2015, 16:07
I don't know how people have the energy to be begetarian and began.

RavenParadox
December 23rd, 2015, 10:56
I know of a vegan 'franchise' called the Loving Hut, but I think there is only one in Japan, in Tokyo, if I'm correct. I personally love their food, but unfortunately, since each franchise is family owned, each menu will vary, sometimes drastically, according to foodstuffs that are available in the vicinity. And it's pretty affordable as well. But I'm sure if you do a good amount of research, you'll find a few good places to choose from.