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Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/16 08:11
Hi everyone,

I plan on cooking my own food while staying in Japan. I follow a gluten-free vegan diet and I'm assuming that isn't a common diet to have in Japan. I also practice zero-waste - It is what it sounds like, most of the things I buy come in zero pacakaging. If I MUST buy something from a pacakage it comes in paper, glass, cardboard etc. and it is 100% recycable. I do not purchase anything plastic as I have banned it from my household (trying my best to reduce waste and help the planet and my health out). I know it will be difficult traveling this way but not impossible. It takes planning and preparation even living in California so I know it's going to take major planning traveling to place I have never been before. I plan on bringing a couple mason jars and my own utensils (wood). Anyways, can anyone recommend bulk stores in which I can buy rice, veggies, fruits, beans (this feels silly to ask, but does Japan have access to that?) etc? I plan on staying in an AirBnb so I will have access to a stove and a fridge, I will not be eating out much... if at all.

Thanks for your feedback!
by rhiannonpearl  

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/16 12:58
Japan is the WORST for plastic waste... so many things come individually wrapped! You might have to bend a little here and there because as much as I admire trying to cut plastic out, I can honestly think of a dozen situations where you aren't going to have much of a choice... rice being one. That said, let me go through your list one by one.

"Bulk stores" in Japan is Costco, and you need a membership to shop there, or a special one-use ticket. It's possible that if you've got a membership in Cali, you could use the same card here... but don't quote me on that, and if you do want to shop at Costco I'd confirm before coming.

Regular grocery stores do have all that stuff, but obviously not in the same amounts. But I can think of a few cases where Costco definitely packs in plastic and regular stores don't, so you might end up going to both anyway.

Rice: Costco and regular stores, but if you buy in bulk they come in plastic bags, and if you want smaller portions they come in plastic trays in small-sized portions. I think maybe I've seen rice in burlap sacks in the US, but never in Japan. Maybe a super fancy brand might come in a cloth sack? I've never seen this, but I also hardly ever buy rice in bulk. You might have to buy one regular big bag and just deal with the one plastic bag it comes in.

Fruits and veggies often come in plastic bags if you're buying a few, but can also (sometimes) be chosen one-by-one so you don't have to use the plastic. Costco occasionally puts bulk fruits/veggies in cardboard boxes, but just as often in plastic. Especially things like lettuce, berries, even the zucchini I bought recently. Note: at the checkout, they may try to put individual fruits/veggies in a plastic bag, so just tell them you don't need it. You could also look up any Farmer's markets. They aren't as common as in the states, but they do exist.

You can get beans in a can (although a small one) at regular grocery stores, and I've found bigger cans of black beans and kidney beans at specialty stores like Kaldi. Occasionally I've seen them dried... in plastic bags. Chickpeas come in a sort of heavy-duty paper container you cut open. I don't think it's plastic, anyway.

This goes without saying, but bring your own canvas shopping bag so you're not given plastic in the stores (I've never seen paper as an option), and also note that if you have a big item like a bag of rice that doesn't fit in a bag, OR you're just buying one or two things and don't want to use a bag, they put a plastic piece of tape over the barcode of the item as well. So don't forget your own bag even for one or two items.

Good luck and enjoy your trip!
by scarreddragon rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/16 13:11
What with the people who post asking for help on places and they dont really specify at least where they will be at. A simple oh I'm coming to Japan/Tokyo/Osaka can you tell me where to buy this nada nada.

At least have the courtesy to point us to the nearest train station or landmark etc.

Anyway, your best bet to buy in bulk will be to hit those wholesale/bulk supermarket or 業務スーパー "gyomu supa". Just do a google map search on 業務スーパー near your place.
Or checkout the local farmer/Sunday market .

As scarreddragon mention, japan is the worst/best place for packaging. They tend to over do it even though trying to pledge reduce and reuse. So best bring your own bag when shopping.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/16 22:38
Please take the following comment with a grain of salt. My aim is not to upset or judge.

I used to live in Japan for 3 years and had a friend who was Vegan who found it challenging to find the food he could eat when traveling around, even when staying at places where he could cook.

Bringing a lot of the basics in your luggage from home will be your best bet.

When it comes to plastic bags, you may be able to try and limit their use but in many locations they must be used - in the most unexpected of places. Japan is very fussy when it comes to sorting your garbage, specifically with recyclables. This is probably something you will be expected to do if your the only person staying in a Air B&B.

Depending on the city, trash will only be collected IN PLASTIC BAGS which are a specific colour and a specific trash can only be placed on the side of the road on a specific day.

My opinion is to try and limit your waste but understand that it may not be possible to be totally zero waste.

One of the biggest things you may be missing is the amazing food that Japan has to offer. Unless you have gluten intolerences/allergies, syouzin ryouri (Vegan Buddhist food) can be extremely tasty stuff and is something that I will go out of my way to actually eat and I eat most foods. The Happy Cow website was invaluable for my friend for finding Vegan restaurants.

I'm sorry if I came across as condescending, that was not my intention if it sounds that way .
by mfedley (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/17 10:48
If you have US Costco membership it should work in Japan. I asked this question at my local Costco and they claimed my card would work. I never ended up going to Costco in Japan, because I didn't need to.

Depending on where you are going there are a lot more vegan places in Japan now then just a few years ago. I'm not vegan (just vegetarian) but enjoy going to vegan places because I know the food is safe. A few of my favorites are now gone, but there are just so many more options and so many new places to try. Some have a decent amount of gluten-free and some do not.

To me, most fruit in Japan is expensive. I've gotten lucky a few times with "imperfect" fruit being sold at some of the shrine flea markets. (Tenmangu in Kyoto had several people selling peaches, which were so juicy in June.)
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/17 14:53
I plan on staying in an AirBnb

Do what you're going to do, but you should be aware that most AirBnb rentals in Japan are illegal. You might get away with it, but sometimes contracts are canceled at the last minute, or even while someone is already staying in a place if they get caught. AirBnb rentals also increase the pressure on local rental markets, reducing the options for local renters and driving prices up.

Anyways, can anyone recommend bulk stores in which I can buy rice, veggies, fruits, beans

There are such stores, but Japan is a very big country. Where will you be staying?

I also practice zero-waste

Sometimes the things you do at home aren't necessarily the most effective use of your efforts when you're traveling. The Japanese retail system produces a lot of packaging, and as has been mentioned above, plastic bags are an integral part of the recycling system here. Nonetheless, overall carbon emissions per capita are less than half that of the US. Japan does a lot of things well, including recycling waste and maintaining a robust public transportation system.

I'd suggest making the effort to learn how your local recycling system in Japan works, and learning a few Japanese phrases to indicate that you don't need a bag because you've brought your own. But don't fret if you somehow use a few extra plastic bags while you're traveling - in the overall picture they're a very minor component of global pollution compared to wasted food, for example. And they're just a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket compared to the carbon footprint of your round-trip plane trip between the US and Japan.
by Umami Dearest rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/17 18:47
I don't think you need to go to a bulk store for your purpose. A farmer's market has all from rice, veggies, fruits, beans, etc. at one location. They are less packaging. You can buy by weight or from just one piece. You can take your own bag or basket and tell them you have "MY" bag before they put in a plastic bag.

Open-area farmer's markets are normally held Saturdays and Sundays in Tokyo. If you are unable to go there due to your schedule, you can go to a local vegitable shop (ya-o-ya) or rice shop (kome-ya) for no packaging.

I have seen more products labeled "gluten-free," mainly in "natural" stores, so it is possible to live "gluten-free" in Japan. It might cost more.

by Naoki (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/17 18:51
Open-area farmer's markets are normally held Saturdays and Sundays in Tokyo.

I only know the one in Aoyama. Are there others? I would be very interested to know of any.

I don't think I've ever seen rice at that farmers market, but I may have missed it. It tends to be almost entirely produce (fruits and vegetables) in my experience.
by Umami Dearest rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/18 02:37
Thanks everyone for your feedback! I actually spoke with a co-worker last night and she confirmed a lot of what you all said about the plastic packaging in Japan (she has been there before). I will do my best! As far as diet goes, I forgot to mention that I do have ulcerative colitis so I have a gluten intolerance, I am also allergic to seafood and fish. I would hate to miss out on a wonderful trip to a place I've wanted to visit for a long time because of the restrictions in my diet. This is the early planning stages of my trip and I am not sure exactly where I'm going to stay yet, which is why I haven't shared where I will be staying specifically. I realize that isn't very helpful but I am speaking in general terms right now just so I can get ideas.
by rhiannonpearl rate this post as useful

Re: Vegan, gluten-free, zero waste 2017/9/18 02:50
My friend and I plan on staying in the Eastern region of Tokyo (関東). Hope that helps!

ありがとうございます 😊
by rhiannonpearl rate this post as useful

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