My love affair with Japan has been a long one, but some of my earliest memories of trying to eat in this country are somewhat traumatic. Ordering dishes that surely would have been vegetarian in Vancouver, my 14 year old self was repeatedly dismayed by the meaty meals I was served. After resorting to bowls of white rice and combini yogurt to avoid gambling with restaurant food, I was cranky and disappointed to be missing out on real food in Japan. Then, a miracle happened. My Dad and I happened upon a vegetarian restaurant while walking the streets of Kyoto. After filling my belly with a real meal, I started chatting with another customer, who turned out to be a vegan guy from the states. Armed with print outs from Happy Cow (which I hadn't heard of before that day), this guy said he'd been eating well the whole trip. I was in awe. What a difference a little thinking ahead makes!
Before moving to Japan in the summer of 2008, I did myself a huge favor and learned how to explain what I couldn't eat in Japanese. My language skills at that time were pretty lacking, but I made sure I had at least a few ordering phrases down pat. With a little bit of Japanese, the Happy Cow website, and an understanding of what dishes are usually safe, modifiable or impossible, I've usually been able to eat well in this country. Since moving to Tokyo about 2 years ago, I've found tons of fabulous vegan, vegetarian, and veggie friendly restaurants that have kept me happy and well fed.
With this blog, I hope to share some of what I've learned over the past few years. Japan is an amazing place to travel and live, but I highly recommend veggie travelers or soon to be Japan residents do to their homework before hopping on a plane. I know not everyone will have the chance to study Japanese before they come, but it will help you immensely if you can memorize a few phrases and a handful of vocabulary before you visit. I plan to include some language help content on this blog to help you with this. Of course, you're going to want to get yourself to a proper vegetarian restaurant once in a while, so I'll be posting some restaurant reviews, maps and other practical information to help you select and find a place.
Mostly, I hope this blog will be a celebration of veggie cuisine in this fine city. Eating in Japan shouldn't be about deprivation and survival! If you know where to look, or how to ask, Tokyo is going to feed you well.