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Vegan in Japan (Part One)

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History and Practical Tips

We made history running the very first vegan group trip to Japan, and it was a huge success. (And then we ran a second right after!)

While Buddhism-inspired vegetarianism has been part of the Japanese culture since around the 6th and 7th centuries, “veganism” as a concept is very new. In this first episode of what will be a podcast series, I provide a frame through which to understand the challenges and the threads of eating plant-based in Japan, including 

  • the influence of Buddhism and other factors that resulted in a mostly plant-based culture for a good portion of its history
  • how the move toward modernizing Japan — as of 1868 during the Meiji Restoration — instilled the habit of meat consumption 
  • the fact that Japanese cuisine is very regional and dependent upon tradition and location
  • how chefs are revered as the end-all, be-all of food preparation and to question ingredients they use (including animal products) could be seen as a challenge to their skill and expertise
  • the “foodie” fervor surrounding Japanese cuisine can sometimes border on the absurd, which gives rise to elaborate food rituals and ceremonies but can also provide ample material for satirical commentary

In the episode, I also provide a number of suggestions for what to look for generally if you are traveling in Japan as a joyful vegan, including

  • which items to look out for that typically have animal products in them
  • what and how to ask for vegan options
  • where to find the best options, generally speaking

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About Colleen

Hello, and welcome. I’m Colleen, aka The Joyful Vegan, and I’m here to give you the tools and resources you need to eat, cook, travel, and live compassionately and healthfully. 

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