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A vegetarian in Japan. 2006/10/29 11:29
Is it Do-able?

I am going on a student exchange through Rotary and I want to know how much trouble it will be and how do I tell my host family?
by Anna  

impossilble 2006/10/29 16:11
if your host family is not a pries of buddism,
It never be possible
by hanasaki rate this post as useful

... 2006/10/29 16:35
The fact that you are vegetarian is obviously a very important issue. that you have to mention at the time of filing an application. I also recommend to specify your special eating habits in detail as early as possible, i.e. a list of food that you don't eat (meat, fish, eggs, etc.).

There are very few strict vegetarians in Japan, and some people do not understand the concept of "vegetarian" completely. Therefore, I recommend to provide a specific list of items you don't eat.
by Uji rate this post as useful

... 2006/10/29 18:54
It's quite do-able if you're okay with broth such as fish broth or meat broth. All they'd have to do is to take meat out of your plate.

However, most Japanese home-cooking is made by using fish broth or throwing in bits of meat in the pot. It would indeed be a bit of a hassle for your host family to prepare something especially for you, as it was for me when we banned all chicken and eggs from the house due to my son's allergy.

They should have less problems if you can do your cooking by yourself.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Possible to an extent 2006/10/30 10:34
Actually its bit tricky to handle the situation however if you are ready to stick with self cooking then its okay. You can make whatever you want. But while travelling outside its a great difficult, hence try finding some veg. salads which can help you.

by Sivakumar rate this post as useful

veggie stories 2007/2/4 07:58
i think its time for anne to share with us her veggie experiences...;-)
are you still in japan ?
by herwin rate this post as useful

Vegetarian 2007/5/9 08:06
I'm also going on an exchange through Rotary, so I was glad to find this!
I just specified I was a vegetarian (and listed what I wouldn't eat) in the 'dietary restrictions' box. The family was very understanding, and sent emails further asking what I would and wouldn't eat.
The japanese are very polite, so they don't want to offend you - they'll try and make you as comfortable as possible.
I haven't gone on the exchange yet, though, so I'm very curious as to what happens.
I'm a little worried I offended them, actually; they're taking it very, very seriously. I've decided that I won't outright refuse anything - if I suspect a little fish or something in my food, I'm going to eat it (and say a little prayer for the fish ;P)
After all - how many times does this opportunity come up?
by Sarah rate this post as useful

Difficult but not impossible 2007/5/11 09:42
As you are a foreigner, I am sure that they will take your request seriously and try their best to do the right thing.

However, in my experience, it is too easy for things to get confused. For example, if they make some usual meal for you and then suddenly realise there is some beef in the sauce; they will often consider a small amount to be as if it's a herb so maybe it's OK ? You will have to politely explain that you can't eat it.

Japanese people have said to me "where does ham come from ?". Once I was told "That's a croquette" - implying that because there is no meat in the name somehow it was immune from containing meat (in fact it was at least 50% meat).

On another occasion I was given a specially prepared bowl of noodles, no fish in the dashi, only vegetables. Great. I asked what the cute flower shaped thing floating on the surface was - "fishcake". Arrgggh! They had added it because they always do; brain had switched to autopilot.

Remember that even in your home country most non-vegetarians simply don't know what is in the food they are eating.
by koan rate this post as useful

veg 2007/5/11 10:07
Yes, it really is hard to be 100% vegetarian in Japan. Especially since social gatherings often involve eating out together. Your personal dietary needs will affect the entire group - from the choice of restaurant, to what is ordered (since it is very common to order many dishes and share them among everyone). When you're eating at home with your host family, they most certainly will have to cook seperate food for you, or they may just cook normally and expect you to "pick the meat out". I would be really interested to hear the experiences of the original poster.

That said, you are not the first vegetarian to come to Japan. You won't starve. Though you will probably lose some weight. You will also have to get very good at reading ingredients lists and also at explaining in Japanese exactly what it is you don't eat. At any rate, it will be a learning experience.
by sazae-san rate this post as useful

No weight loss required 2007/5/11 16:53

I am a strict vegetarian living in Japan. There is no need to lose weight, believe me!!

But your comment about group choice and going to restaurants is correct: I am always conscious of this.
by koan rate this post as useful

Host families do their best 2007/5/15 00:31
I take students to Japan several times a year, and there have been several vegetarians on board. The host family is the least problematic as they have done their best to provide. However, as mentioned already, there are many things in Japanese cooking that the Japanese don't think about. Dashi is the main flavoring agent of most food. It is fish derived. If it doesn't have fish in it, it isn't dashi. Almost all stocks have pork, beef, or fish flavorings. The problem is that Japanese consider seafood OK for a vegetarian to eat. In the past, even whale was considered a fish, so you could eat it and remain a vegetarian.

On the road, finding anything vegetarian is what's difficult. Unless you find a grocery store, the convenience stores have white rice and egg salad sandwiches. After a while, this can get boring. Your best bets for finding veggie stuff is in the large cities where lots of foreigners hang out, such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka. Most strict vegetarians in Japan are foreigners if customers in veggie restaurants are any clue.

Even there you have to be careful. A famous restaurant in Uguisudani in Tokyo, advertises its veggetarianess. They had a special not too long ago that was "shrimp vegetarian."

You're probably going to down something animal related, but even vegans get their B-12 from insect parts in their grains.
by Anaguma rate this post as useful

In Kumamoto... 2007/6/4 18:22
I did a three-month exchange, with three different families. Each tended to be different ^^ In general though they wanted to help, they just didn't really know how. 'We don't know vegetarian cooking' kind of thing. Some of the stuff I ate had had fish in, just taken out. One of my families would cook me a separate meal. It is possible.
Other hint - McDonalds chips ^^; Staple food for me when I'm in Japan :P Also, kitsune udon doesn't have fish actually added to it.
Japanese also don't count seafood as fish ^^; I've said no fish and no meat in a restaurant before, and been brought something with prawns. We had to return it, and specify nothing that lived in the sea :P. I tend to try not to think about things being cooked in fish-oil, and just work on getting no meat actually in my food ^^;;;.
A lot of places actually won't change a menu item either I found, like, just not add the fish or something, if that's how it comes. Cultural thing I guess...
But it is possible, if you're not too stricts about it ^^ and are willing to put up with a few mistakes/a lot of questions about what you can eat.
by Lie rate this post as useful

McDonalds is not vegetarian 2007/6/5 09:26
Fries in McDonalds used to be cooked in Beef tallow. I don't know if that is still the case.
by koan rate this post as useful

Depends where... 2007/6/5 13:23
They're not anymore in NZ or in Scotland/England.
I'm not sure about Japan, but since I had to eat something, and I'm pretty sure all the udon are cooked in the same place as the fish is, etc... There's only so far you can go in Japan ^^;
by Lie rate this post as useful

Very doable for ovo-lacto-pescatarians 2007/8/5 08:53
We just got back from a trip to Japan with my two daughters who are ovo-lacto-pescatarians - in other words, they eat fish and shellfish, eggs, and dairy products. They probably had a wider range of choices of good things to eat in Japan than at home, because there is so much fish and shellfish.

Since I am the Japanese speaker of the household, I would ask on their behalf before ordering in restaurants about meat.

The only glaring error was when a pasta sauce had ham in it. I remember that in the olden days, when Japan was officially pescatarian, wild boar was sometimes classified as "mountain whale" so the rules could be bent. We joked that this was the case with this dish. Well, we could joke, but the poor girl didn't really get dinner that evening.

My other daughter, who is less strict in her thinking, pulled a chicken meat ball out of a bowl of soup (also promised to contain no meat), and ate the rest anyway. Her sister might have been more upset.

If you don't eat fish or shellfish, your job will be much harder. Fish in various forms (broth in particular) is in nearly everything.
by Claire rate this post as useful

Vegetarian? No problem... 2007/9/21 19:55
Being a vegetarian always brings you special circumstances, you knew that before you decided to become one... Japan has also vegetarian people, I don't really understand what is your real concern.
by Gordman rate this post as useful

food 2007/9/21 20:40
Actually, Gordman, as a vegetarian who has lived in Japan for 9 years, I disagree. When eating out or eating at other people's homes, it is actually quite difficult, because many Japanese people don't understand the concept of vegetarianism. If I ask restaurant staff for something without meat, they will almost always point to menu items with tuna, crab or shrimp in them.

Really vegetarianism is not such an extreme lifestyle choice, it is certainly not a reason to stay away from Japan.

by Sira rate this post as useful

Vegetarians Dining in Kyoto TravelBlog 2007/11/23 01:39
My wife and I are strict vegetarians who just returned from a trip to Japan. Home-stays and business functions may be difficult, but travelers exploring Kyoto have many opportunities for fantastic vegetarian meals. We wanted to share all of our great experiences, so we wrote a food TravelBlog: http://VegJapan.LocalEats.net
We talk about various restaurants and have lots of photos. I hope it will be helpful to other vegetarians going to Japan, primarily Kyoto. -Ken
by Kenneth Goldberg rate this post as useful

Good site 2008/3/22 09:14
Sorry, but what is mariburjeka?

by sweet-rk rate this post as useful

, 2008/3/23 18:34
i don't think that's a Japanese word...
by Miyuki rate this post as useful

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