タグ: Vegan

Some expressions to survive as a vegan in Japan 2 (ryokan or hotel)

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If you are a vegan and are going to stay in a Western style hotel in Japan, you won’t have much problem. Many of these hotels serve buffet breakfast and you can eat what you can eat.

 

On the other hand, ryokans – traditional Japanese hotels – serve dinner as well as breakfast. You can ask them not to serve dinner for you, of course, but most ryokans serve traditional and regional dishes, which are often fantastic, and it’s shame if you cannot enjoy them. Some ryokans can serve vegan dishes and I strongly recommend you try asking if they could prepare something for you.

Ryokans are pretty popular among Japanese for their kind and sophisticated services. There you will be able to experience some other traditional features of Japan, such as sleeping on futon (mattress) used directly on tatami (flooring material made of straw), as many Japanese people have traditionally been doing.

In hot spring areas, most ryokans are equipped with hot spring baths. There are also lots of Western style hotels in many hot spring areas but the quality of baths is generally much better at ryokans than at hotels.

 

In short, you will feel you are really in Japan at a ryokan.

 

Would you be interested in staying at a ryokan? If you are a vegan, vegetarian or have any dietary restrictions, you have to explain what you request very carefully so that the ryokan can really understand what you do not eat. But, unfortunately, there are not many ryokans that have English speaking employees.

Another problem is that some ryokans cannot offer vegan / vegetarian meals because, as you may know, dashi – soup stock mostly made from fish – is so important in the traditional Japanese cuisine.

 

For these reasons, it is recommended that you contact the ryokan before you book.

 

Following are some expressions that would be useful when you write to ryokans.

 

I would like to make a reservation but I would like to ask you a question. Would you offer vegan meals? I do not eat any animal products, including fish, egg and dairy products. ==> 部屋の予約をしたいのですが、お聞きしたいことがあります。ヴィーガン向けの料理をお手配いただくことはできますでしょうか?魚や卵や乳製品も含めて、動物性のものは一切食べられません。

I do not eat soup stock if it is from fish or chicken. ==> 出汁についても、魚や鶏からのものでしたら食べられません。

It would be much appreciated if you would let me know if this is possible. ==> ヴィーガン向け料理のお手配の是非について、ご返信いただけますと幸いです。

 

If the ryokan responds to you in Japanese, you will have to use Google Translate or another similar service. However, machine translation still cannot be 100 % correct.

In addition, Japanese people prefer to say negative things in a very indirect way. This would make it more difficult for you to decipher the response.

 

To avoid such a problem, I would recommend that you add one (or both) of the following sentences.

 

We do not speak Japanese, so it would be appreciated if you could answer with simple expressions so that we could understand it by machine translation, or in English. ==> 私たちは日本語が話せませんので、機械翻訳できるよう簡単な表現か、英語でご返信いただけるとありがたく思います。

 

If you could offer vegan meals, please start your response from “yes”; if not, please start from “no”. ==> もしヴィーガン向けの料理をお手配いただけるようでしたら、ご返信を「はい」から、そうでなければ「いいえ」から始めていただけますでしょうか。

 

I know it is very complicated to customize these expressions if you are not familiar with Japanese (or even if you have studied Japanese for a few years…). Google Translate would be able to help you but it would be better that you have your email native checked to avoid any misunderstanding.

If you are not hurry, you can leave a comment here. I will check (or translate) your sentences.

 

Following is an example email and its literal meaning.

 

2 [number of people] 人向けの部屋を6 [month] 月の1 [check-in date] 日から3 [check-out date] 日まで2 [number of nights] 泊予約させていただきたいのですが、お尋ねしたいことがあります。

私たち [or just 私 if singular] はヴィーガンで、魚や卵や乳製品も含めて、動物性のものは一切食べられません。

和食では難しいこととは思いますが、魚の出汁も食べられません。

動物性のものを一切使わない食事をお手配いただけるかどうか、お知らせいただけませんでしょうか。

私たちは日本語が話せませんので、機械翻訳できるよう簡単な表現か、英語でご返信いただけるとありがたく思います。

よろしくお願いいたします。

 

I would like to book a room for 2 people for 2 nights from 1 to 3 of June but I would like to ask you a question.

We are vegans and we do not eat any animal products, including fish, egg and dairy products.

I imagine this could be complicated with Japanese dishes but we do not take dishes made with soup stock from fish.

Could you let us know if you would be able to offer any meal without animal products?

We do not speak Japanese, so it would be appreciated if you could answer with simple expressions so that we could understand it by machine translation, or in English.

Thank you.

How to find vegan / vegetarian restaurants in Japan

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There aren’t many vegan / vegetarian restaurants in Japan but it won’t be very difficult to find one if you are visiting a big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, etc. Here I will show you how I find vegetarian / vegan restaurants in Japan.

 

HappyCow

 

As most of you must know, HappyCow is an excellent app for vegans and vegetarians and there are a lot of Japanese restaurants registered. Try look for vegan restaurants in Tokyo; you will find plenty of options. There website is here and the app is here.

 

 

When I travel abroad, I usually download map data of the area into my smartphone using the “offline maps” tool of Google Maps. Then I search for vegan restaurants and shops with HappyCow and mark all look nice as “favorite” in Google Maps. In this way I will never miss the restaurants even if I’m offline.

Searching “vegan restaurants” directly on Google Maps, however, doesn’t work well in Japan. I don’t know why but fast food chains like McDonald’s or KFC are in the search results…

 

Website of Japan Vegetarian Society

 

Japan Vegetarian Society is a Japanese NPO that provides much information for vegetarians and vegans. I often refer to their vegetarian restaurant list when I travel. The list isn’t complete and there are some vegetarian / vegan restaurants missing, but most of the restaurants in the list are high in quality.

The list is available only in Japanese but some restaurants have their own website and some of them are available also in English. Another solution is automatic translation by google; if you use Google Chrome, just right-click on the page and select “Translate to English”.

 

 

Or you can copy and paste the address into the search bar of Google Maps to see where it is.

 

These two tools, HappyCow and the website of Japan Vegetarian Society, are practical when you travel in Japan. If you are still wondering if you could come to Japan, just try looking for restaurants around your destinations.

Some expressions to survive as a vegan in Japan 1 (Restaurant)

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Are you interested in coming to Japan? Or do you already have a flight ticket?

Travelling or living in Japan as a vegan is not impossible but not very easy either. It is quite difficult to find vegan / vegetarian meals on the menu of ordinary restaurants; I would say more than 90% of Japanese restaurants are not very aware of vegetarianism.

However, some of them would offer some vegan / options if you ask.

The problem is, most Japanese people are terrible at speaking in English, while many of us are rather better in reading. If you cannot make yourself understood in oral communication, try writing down the sentences you are saying; the waitperson might understand you.

He / she still doesn’t understand you? Try following expressions before giving up.

 

I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat any animal products. ==> 私はベジタリアンです。動物性の食品は一切食べません。

 

The word vegetarian (ベジタリアン or ヴェジタリアン) is already common in Japan (while there aren’t many vegetarians) but there are not many Japanese that understand what vegan (ビーガン or ヴィーガン) means. To avoid any misunderstanding, it is recommended that you describe yourself as carefully as possible. It is safer that you say “I am a vegetarian” and give details about what you eat and what you don’t eat than you just say “I am a vegan (私はヴィーガンです)” because the waitperson probably doesn’t know what vegan means.

 

I don’t eat any animal products, including fish, egg, milk and cheese. ==> 動物性の食品は一切食べません。魚や、卵や、ミルクやチーズも食べません。

 

As I mentioned above, it is safer you are as precise as possible. Many Japanese people think vegetarians eat fish and you will have to clarify that you don’t eat fish. It is better you say “milk and cheese” rather than you say “dairy products” (乳製品) because people sometimes don’t think much about the origin of milk and cheese are the same.

 

Could you please double check if the dish doesn’t contain fish stock, chicken extract and gelatin? ==> 魚の出汁やチキンエキス、ゼラチンが含まれていないかご確認いただけませんか?

 

Many people aren’t aware what gelatin is made from; it’s better that you mention you don’t take it. As you may know, fish stock is almost indispensable for traditional Japanese food. Some restaurants can offer dishes made with vegetable stock, but some would just decline you, knowing you don’t take fish stock. It isn’t because they are mean but it’s just because they believe they wouldn’t be able to serve the best dishes they could normally serve without fish stock. In this case, let’s forget about the restaurant and find another one. Chicken extract and pork extract (ポークエキス) are also often used with many dishes.

 

I hope these expressions would help you to make yourself understood.

Which is the best sushi-go-round chain for vegans?

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Which sushi-go-round chain can vegans enjoy the most?

 

In this article I compare popular sushi-go-round chains from a vegan point of view.

You may have heard about a unique type of sushi restaurants in Japan: sushi-go-round or conveyor belt sushi. Ordinary sushi restaurants are often very expensive but I would say sushi-go-round restaurants are almost fast food and reasonable. The quality of dishes are not the best obviously but they are of good value for money.

Sushi is typically made with fish as you know, but actually there are lots of dishes made with vegan/vegetarian friendly items. I myself often eat in sushi-go-round because it’s easy.

There are 4 big sushi-go-round chains: Sushiro, Kura Zushi, Hama Zushi and Kappa Zushi. The number of their outlets is more than 1,700 in total and you can easily find at least one of them in most cities. They certainly offer some vegan dishes and I believe it is much safer to eat in them than in other Japanese restaurants.

Each chain offer different items but, when it comes to vegetable sushi, there are not much differences. However, some offers more vegan options than the others. Let’s see which is the best for us vegans.

The sources of information are their websites (SushiroKura Zushi, Hama ZushiKappa Zushi). Hama Zushi doesn’t release information about ingredients but I checked the list at a nearby outlet.

(Note: these sushi-go-round restaurants offers dishes which you don’t find ordinary sushi restaurants like chips or salad, but I don’t take them into account as my aim is to compare them as sushi restaurants.)

 

What vegan sushi items you can find in each sushi-go-round chain?

 

Item Sushiro Kura Zushi Hama Zushi Kappa Zushi
Natto (fermented soybeans, 納豆) Vegan Vegan Vegan Vegan
Cucumber (かっぱ or きゅうり) Vegan Vegan Vegan Vegan
Dried gourd (かんぴょう) Vegan Not vegan (contains squid) Vegan Vegan
Inari (fried bean curd, いなり) Vegan Not vegan (contains mackerel) Vegan Vegan
Eggplant with wasabi (わさびなす) Vegan Not offered Vegan Vegan
Nozawana (green vegetable, 野沢菜) Vegan Not offered Not offered Not offered
Inari of the season (季節のいなり) Depends Not offered Not offered Not offered

 

As you see above, Sushiro offers more options than others. Depending on seasons, “inari of the season” can also be vegan; please ask the waiter. Even though the inari of the season is not vegan, you still have more options than in other chains as it is only Sushiro that offers nozawana.

The only weak point of Sushiro is that they offer natto only as gunkan (battle-ship roll, whose sides are surrounded by nori seaweed) and not as maki (roll). This is important for those who love natto like because some want to try both forms to enjoy it most (though many foreign people, and also some Japanese people, dislike natto…). If you are a natto lover, Hama Zushi or Kappa Zushi would be better options. Have you not had natto? Please try and see if you will like this very Japanese food.

Kura Zushi, on the other hand, cannot be recommended to vegans. Their dried gourd and inari contain animal products and they have only two vegan sushi items (natto and cucumber).

What vegetarians and vegans can eat at Coco’s

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Coco’s is the 4th biggest “family restaurant” chain in Japan and they have about 600 outlets all over Japan. It is not as common as the biggest ones like Gusto (about 1,350 outlets) or Saizeriya (about 1,050 outlets) but we often find it in many cities.

 

Options for vegans

 

Following are meals that vegans can have.

 

  • Green salad (グリーンサラダ) * the dressing may contain some animal product
  • Potato chips (やみつきカリカリポテト) * but served with mayonnaise
  • Potato chips with avocado and salsa (大人のやみつきカリカリポテト)
  • Rice (ライス)
  • Baguette (バゲット) * served with butter
  • Rye bread (石窯パン) * but served with butter

 

Unfortunately there are few options and no main meals.

 

The following seems to be the only option for main which could be vegan with some changes.

 

  • Japanese style spaghetti with oyster (広島産牡蠣の和風スパゲッティ)

 

If you don’t eat seashells you have to ask to remove oyster of course and it also contains chicken.

 

Options for vegetarians

 

Following are meals that vegetarians can have (except for the dishes that I already mentioned above as vegan options).

 

  • Pizza margarita (マルゲリータピザ)
  • Avocado cobb salad (アボカドCOBBサラダ)
  • Vanilla icecream (バニラアイスクリーム)
  • Chocolate icecream (チョコレートアイスクリーム)
  • Maccha icecream (宇治抹茶アイスクリーム)
  • Baked cheese cake (北海道産クリームチーズのベイクドチーズケーキ)
  • Danish (ココッシュ)
  • Banana crepe (バナナクレープ)
  • Zenzai (sweet bean soup) with rice-flour dumplings and vanilla icecream (白玉ぜんざいバニラアイス添え)
  • Bracken-starch cake with maccha icecream (わらび餅宇治抹茶アイス添え)
  • Japanese style parfait with maccha and soy bean pudding (宇治抹茶と豆乳プリンの和風ミニパルフェ)
  • Greek yoghurt with four kinds of berry (4種ベリーのギリシャヨーグルト)
  • Low carb Greek yoghurt with yuzu (柚子のギリシャヨーグルト)
  • Low carb maccha dessert with yuzu (柚子香る宇治抹茶のグラスデザート)
  • Low carb gateau chocolat (ガトーショコラ)

 

My understanding is that ordinary cobb salads contain bacon or chicken but the one at Coco’s doesn’t contain any of them.

 

Following is my conclusion.

 

I don’t recommend Coco’s to vegans and vegetarians

 

As you read above there is no main options for vegans. The options for vegetarians are also not as wide as that at Saizeriya. My recommendation is to eat at another restaurant if you have other options.