||Healthy vegan snack, vegan peach cobbler, stray
cats, and so on.
||Vegan pizza and brownie as well as experiences
at several vegan restaurants.
||New soymilk product and vegan ramen noodle, and
||Stories about the meeting with Japan Vegetarian
Society chairpersons, vegan wedding meal, and experiences in
Kyoto and Vietnam.
||Attended Japan Vegetarian Society's meeting,
delicious vegetarian food in YOKOHAMA China town, wasting time
and money on staling foods, and trip to Penang.
||Experimenting some vegan breakfast recipes, receiving
an e-mal from the reader, pondering bug's life, and so on
|| Tried a macrobiotic restaurant in Tokyo, and
the trip to Laos.
||Struggling to get a vegan flihgt meals at Malaysian
|| Having vegan wedding plates again, business
trip to Cambodia and Vietnam, and busy days.
|| Nayonnaise discovery and some food disasters.
||Life is going on.
|| Attended a meeting on refugee issues in Japan
held by Amnesty International Japan
||Fresh soy milk and fasionable fake leather sneakers,
||A conversation with my husband over a TV show
and "Meatarians vs. vegetarians."
||A trip to the U.S. for research. Had an opportunity
to attend a fantastic vegan wedding of my friend's.
||A thought on eating whale meat.
Besides some macrobiotic groups, the only vegetarian organization
in Japan is Japan Vegetarian Society (JPVS) in Osaka, the
second biggest city in Japan. They founded JPVS more than
ten years ago but have gained only over 500 membership by
now. I became a member two years ago to get information about
vegetarianism in Japan but have always been wondering why
they were not so active in promoting vegetarianism. Once you
see their web site, you may be able to understand what I am
As a journalist who is interested in vegetarianism, I contacted
with the chairman of JPVS several times. He wanted my help
to publish books on vegetarianism and I could make it to go
to Kyoto, thirty minutes from Osaka, to do some research,
I made an appointment with him.
The office was in women's college because the chairman, Dr.
Kakimoto, is also the chair of the college. Well, that is
one of the reasons why JPVS can't be active enough: The main
staff are doctors, professors, presidents, and the directors
of hospitals and are too busy to work for JPVS. They publish
four-page newsletter four times a year, hold events five or
six times a year, and running web site. I was told that only
five people are involved in those activities.
While I was helping a vegetarian organization based in Baltimore,
I heard the complaints that they never get answers from JPVS.
Now I understand why.
But things are gradually moving in Japan, Dr. Kakimoto said.
There are many inquiries from food companies including major
ones about vegetarianism. One of restaurant chains has recently
begun to add vegetarian menu. Dr. Kakimoto himself feels raising
concerns about the relationship between health and vegetarian
diet by hearing questions at number of meetings.
Dr. Kakimoto told me that it was hard to respond to foreigners'
questions because of lack of time. I asked him how many those
e-mails JPVS got and the answer was around five a month! Piece
of cake. I offered Dr. Kakimoto that I could help them.
Two weeks past after the meeting, however, they never sent
e-mails even to me!
| Kyoto is a thousand years capital of Japan. Officially
current Japanese capital is Tokyo but Kyoto is still the center
of most traditional, good-old Japan. With old temples and shrines,
wooden houses, peaceful ZEN gardens, and young GEISHA girls
wearing gorgeous Kimono, tourists find beautiful image of Japan
that they kept embracing.
In addition to those classic remains of Japan, Kyoto is famous
for its exquisite culinary mainly coming from tea ceremonies
and Zen Buddhists that had been taking major part of Japanese
traditional culture for thousand years. If you are a vegetarian,
you must be blessed much more than in any other cities in Japan:
Kyoto has plenty of Zen-vegan cuisine.
There are many to try. Tofu, Yuba, Hiryozu (a kind of deep fried
tofu product), fu (Japanese style wheat gluten), and variety
of vegetables. You could have Zen-Buddhist style vegetarian
cuisine in several temples but one disadvantage is its cost.
Generally you should expect more than 3,000 yen (almost $30)
for one course. Being myself is a needy free-lancer, I would
like to tell much more reasonable way of enjoying being vegetarian
First choice is Niken Jaya, a casual traditional cafe inside
Yasaka Jinja shrine. Along with some Japanese sweets (they are
vegan too) and green tea, my recommendation is DENGAKU, tofu
skewered by bamboo stick and grilled over charcoal fire topped
with paste made of green vegetable and miso. If you are not
a tofu lover, you can't be helped to change your mind after
tasting the silky, mousse-like texture of Kyoto's tofu. The
cost is 700 yen (almost $7) for a plate of three DENGAKU.
The second recommendation is NISHIKI market. You will see variety
of foods particularly produced in Kyoto. Among a hundred small
shops, there are many vegetarian delights. Besides tofu products,
fu, and Kyoto vegetables, you can taste pickled vegetables or
take some vegan sweets like Fu manju (a kind of buns with azuki
bean paste) to your hotel. Unfortunately most of them are perishable
so the souvenir you can buy there is limited. I would like to
recommend dried Yuba and miso that are specialties of Kyoto.
Miniature basket made of deep fried Kombu would be fancy gift
As other areas in Japan, the problem of being vegetarians in
Japan is fish, especially DASHI, the soup made of fish extracts
and used in most dishes. However, the restaurant I had dinner
in Kyoto told me if I called them in advance they would prepare
vegan DASHI instead of fish DASHI. The restaurant, TOSAI, serves
mainly organic tofu dishes as well as has the English menu.
Actually I didn't make reservation as a vegetarian but enjoyed
full of dishes there: Nama Yuba sashimi, Nama fu isomaki (deep
fried fu rounded with Nori seaweed), Yamaimo Tanzaku (salad
of a kind of yam), Hiyayakko (raw cold tofu), and Mochi (rice
cake). And the cost is less than 2,000 yen (about $20)!
Still, with just one night stay, I couldn't try all treasures
of Kyoto's vegan cuisine neither its historical tourists' spots.
But I could go there again only to taste that magnificent texture
of tofu! (I am planning to write an article of my Kyoto experience
for Vegetarian Journal too.)
| It was a special wedding to me: It was I who
introduced the bride to the bridegroom two years ago. And the
wedding day has come at last. I should ride in a plane to Vietnam
early in the next morning, but how could I miss such a wonderful
Another great thing was the restaurant that the party was held
in asked if the guests had any special requests for their meals.
Of course I had! Therefore I requested that I wanted meatless
meals. Since the restaurant was French, I did not expect that
they could serve vegetarian foods so that I just said "meatless,"
compromising on fish and fish is still okay for me anyway. What
amazed me was the restaurant, Chez Matsuo Salon, suggested completely
vegetarian menu without meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Here is the detail: "Variety of Salad (carrots, avocado, tomato,
white mushrooms, and asparagus)," "Fricassee of mushrooms (lightly
sauteed variety of mushrooms)," "Gallete of potatoes and leek
with truffle," "Mint Sorbet," "Vegetables braised in herb wine
sauce (carrots, asparagus, turnip)." All of the plates were
arranged exquisitely in Millenium way and my tastes bud thrilled
to enjoy the delicate, fresh flavors. Without saying, all the
guests but me enjoyed their meatful meals as usual weddings.
I don't know what they thought of my vegetarian dishes but one
thing was clear: Their plates were not as beautiful as mines!
If I skipped wedding cakes and ate only fruits for dessert,
it would become perfect vegan wedding. But I wanted to feel
to join the celebration by eating the cake together. Moreover,
there was the story behind the chocolate cake. On the couple's
first Valentine Day, the bridegroom baked the chocolate cake
though he had never experienced baking before. (Love is power,
indeed.) So the couple was eager to serve their guests the cake
coated with chocolate as well as their Valentine memory. Well,
say again, how could I resist accepting such a treat?
|11/05/2000 - 11/12/2000
| Traveled to Vietnam. It was a business trip with
my friend photographer to make a book he plans to publish. The
theme of the book is colonial hotels remaining in Asian countries
such as Thai, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sri
Lanka, and Vietnam. I help him as a writer as well as an editor
and got the chance to go to Vietnam with him.
First experience as a semi-vegan traveler always starts from
the flight meal in the plane. This time, luckily enough, I was
able to have delicious one: Tomato sauce with mushrooms over
baked tofu, steamed broccoli and boiled potatoes, fresh asparagus,
tomato, and mushroom salad with lemon, a fruit platter, and
crispy French bread. The photographer (let me call him "Mr.M")
who seated in business class complained his normal meal was
terrible so that I, stayed in economy seat, felt victory-like.
I knew that Vietnamese cuisine is deeply connected with fish
as in Japan. Especially, the fish sauce called "Nuoc Mum" is
supposed to be hidden in every meal. But reading Vegetarian
Journal's article about Vietnam, I didn't worry much and I was
right. Thanks to their Buddhist tradition, people in Vietnam
understand vegetarianism much more than Japanese and they themselves
eat vegetarian way several times a month to service for their
ancestors. In the restaurants, especially in big city like Ho
Chi Minh City, the vegetarian items were included in the menus
and the servers easily take my order to take away meat from
my dishes. One time, a waitress explained to me that the item
I picked contained chicken broth though they could serve it
vegetable toppings. They must got accustomed to vegetarian guests!
In Vietnam, vegetarian meal is called "com chay." Because Mr.
M and I stayed in international hotels and ate in those hotels'
restaurants almost every time, I didn't need to use that word.
Originally Vietnamese dishes contain plenty of vegetables and
I enjoyed variety of vegetarian cuisine. My favorite was vegetarian
pho (Vietnamese style rice noodle soup). Vegetarian spring rolls
topped on fresh lettuce and basil also pleased my palate. Tofu
and tofu products like yuba were used a lot in those dishes
and I couldn't stop thinking that common wisdom through Eastern
Asian vegetarianism: Take protein from soy!
Speaking of nuoc mum, it seemed that they substituted tamari
soy sauce for that fish sauce in vegetarian meal. At a Chinese
restaurant in Ho Chi Minh, I saw that the bottle of tamari with
the label of vegetarian fish sauce placed on the table along
with real nuoc mum.
It might be difficult to find vegetarian meal at street vendors
where you can see and smell a lot of seductive food. But the
good chance is on the days of service for ancestors. Fortunately
I encountered nuns selling com chay foods in the market. I bought
some of the products such as dried fake prawns and fish. I also
got fake meat but it became stale before I come back to Tokyo.
Another regret was that I missed to buy vegetarian cup noodle
sold in the airport shop. I don't understand why I didn't grab
some packages at that time.
Mr. M was a meat lover. He said to me, "I admit vegetarian meals
are delicious but as a physical labor I can't maintain my condition
without eating meat." But what actually happened to us was that
my vegetarian plates always looked more tasteful than his meat
dishes. One time, rib steak he ordered smelled like wet dirty