Doing some research I discovered that it is not easy to be a vegetarian in Japan. Although Japan has a low cancer rate and a long life expectancy, it's not because they stop eating meat. In fact, the Japanese diet is made up of a lot of meat everywhere, making life difficult for vegetarians or vegans.
Although you can find several dishes that apparently don't have meat, most of them have sauce and broth with fish oil and meats, sometimes even the salad has fish flakes. Being a vegetarian in Japan is complicated, mainly due to the fact that in Japan it is not customary to change or remove any ingredient from a particular dish. Asking the cook not to add a certain item to the plate is considered rude and so some refuse to do so.
What is a vegetarian called in Japan?
Vegetarian in Japanese is called bejiitarian (ベジタリアン) a word borrowed from English. The native concept in Japanese is the saishokushugisha (菜食主義者) only they can still eat fish.
The closest thing to strict vegetarianism that we know of in the West is the shoujin ryouri (精進料理) or devotional cooking that comes from the practice of Buddhist monks with principles of non-violence. Here they avoid eating even plants where it is necessary to kill the stem like potatoes and carrots.
Japan consumes a lot of meat, even in dishes that shouldn't have meat they add. Surveys claim that only 0.08% of Japanese are ideological vegetarians.
Tips for Vegetarians in Japan
It can be difficult but not impossible to find vegetarian restaurants, especially in cities like Tokyo. Just do a quick search on Google Maps and find the location you want. If it's hard to find a vegetarian restaurant, we recommend a list of dishes that don't have meat (I hope). Unfortunately, buying vegetables and fruits at the market can be a little expensive, but nothing exorbitant. Take the opportunity to access some articles about the foods mentioned below, by clicking on them:
- Gohan – ご飯 – White rice;
- Tempura – 天ぷら – Many vegetarian options;
- Kappa maki – cucumber sushi;
- Tsukemono – 漬物 – Canned vegetables;
- Tofu – 豆腐 – Looks like cheese made from soy;
- Zaru soba – Cold noodles, just don't dip it in the broths;
- Onigiri – Rice cake, be careful that some are stuffed;
- Bakeries – Great place to find meatless treats;
- FastFood – McDonald's potato is perfect;
In addition, you can find industrialized products for vegetarians such as meat, hamburgers, filets and even soy sausages. Being a vegetarian in Japan may seem complicated, but despite the difficulty that people talk about locating, Japan is rich in choice and variety of foods. Do you know or have any tips? Leave it in the comments. To finish I will leave a video with an interview that a friend did with a vegetarian who lives in Japan.