Eating in Japan! - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 09-21-2007, 04:31 PM
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I may be going to Japan in the spring! It's not certain yet, my mother and I still have to attend a meeting about financial stuff, but if we can afford it, there's nothing that's going to keep me away from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'd be going with the Young Ambassadors group from my area, and we'd be staying with a local family, not in a hotel.

However, I'm really concerned about food. My friend, who has studied Japanese culture for a long time, told me that the Japanese don't really understand vegetarianism. I'm sure that there are Japanese vegetarians, but apparantly the country is heavily reliant on meat. How would I go about explaining myself to people?

Has anyone here traveled to Asia, or to Japan specifically? What kind of food options are there? It's a 3 week stay, so if it really comes down to the wire, I can survive on McDonald's salads and vending machines, but I would rather eat decent food. (Japan has one vending machine for every 23 people. How crazy is that??) If anyone has traveled there, what is it like? What should I be prepared for? Gosh, I'm so excited, I really hope I get to go! It would mean either giving up or really working ahead on my spring term, but I can always make up classes (yay college!)

So, yeah, that's basically it! Any advice?
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#2 Old 09-22-2007, 01:37 AM
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Lots of info here: Do you speak Japanese? At least a little bit?

You'll need to write to your host before you go explaining your dietary restrictions. They most likely will be very puzzled by it. My friends wife is pesco-vegetarian and from japan and she says vegetarianism is not widely understood at all. If you are expecting your host family to cook for you, you may be in for a struggle.

I would start learning about japanese food ingredients right now as well as how to cook vegetarian versions of japanese foods. I learned a lot from this book

Also, Japanese food stores will not stock the stuff you normally buy. And theres a good chance Japanese McDonalds will have completely different ingredients in their foods (I know the ones in Europe are different than the ones in the US). Also, menus in restaurants and on food containers will not be written in English quite often. To communicate with waiters and shop keepers it may help to print this out and carry it with you.

You'll over all need to take responsibility for your own food. When you see something you can eat, buy two and take some back to your room. Get a stockpile of foods you can eat so if your host serves you something you can't eat then you have something to eat in your room.

But its really important to get in touch with your host family right away and give them as much information as possible in their own language so they can prepare and understand before you get there.
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#3 Old 09-22-2007, 10:59 AM
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Hey.. I studied there for a year from 2002-2003.

On your own, it's really easy to eat veggie or vegan - they have some fantastic quality fruit and veg at great prices, even in Tokyo.

It is harder though staying with a family - as Mr Falafel said, you need to contact your host family *now* (in Japanese if possible - I'm happy to help if you want although I'm a bit rusty) and explain what you can't have and what you can.

However, please keep in mind that just like anywhere else sometimes people misunderstand/forget, and therefore you may be served a fab dish but fish stock or bonito flakes may have been you either need to be very specific, pick round it (really hard to do without anywhere), or just deal with the fact that some of your food may be "tainted".

Re places like Mc Donalds, - when I was there most of their salads had meat in I'm afraid, but of course, these things do change.

A word of warning, if Mosburger are still doing their Tofu burger, it is *not* vegetarian.

There is chicken in it (pieces of, not just stock).

Excelsior cafe used to do cheese pasty type things (I can't comment on whether the cheese is rennet free or not though).

Convenience stores are pretty good -

egg sandwiches

veggie onigiri (you'll have to get someone to check the ingredients labels, but there are some fab ones with ginger, umeboshi etc).

And, plenty of the instant noodles and soup bowls are veggie provided you don't use the stock packet and remove those pink and white fishpaste swirls.
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#4 Old 09-22-2007, 11:53 AM
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Thanks so much for the help, guys! I am going to an information meeting about the trip in October, and if it looks like I can afford it, I'll talk to the group leader that day about my dietary needs. And no, I speak absolutely no Japanese, although I'm very quick with languages. I speak Spanish fairly well, and I've only taken one year of French, but neither language gave me a lot of trouble, so I think I'll pick up Japanese fairly quickly. I'd be going with a group of people from my area, and I'm sure the group leader speaks Japanese.
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#5 Old 09-22-2007, 12:28 PM
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Rice is safe I hope while your over there. Unfortunatly I think Pocky might be out though. I think it used to have Hydrogenated fish oil....I miss Pocky especially mousse flavored.
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