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Old 22-11-2003, 07:40 PM
Jennifer Huebl
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

I was just in Japan for two weeks and wanted to give a report about my
food experiences in case anyone here ever needs it. Keep in mind that
these are my personal experiences so if I missed something that was
staring me right in the face it's only because I had no way of knowing!


Japan is a WONDERFUL place and you'll have a lot of fun, see a lot of
amazing things, and will be thrilled that you went...but if you don't
prepare you'll also starve. And boy....I was definitely starving a lot!!

Firstly, it's VERY difficult to be a vegan traveler there. Having one of
those vegan passports with you helps a LOT, but you're still pretty
limited. White rice and spaghetti with tomato sauce are the main options
you'll have in most restaurants (but if you're lucky you'll luck out and
find roast potatoes or veggies or something). If you can find a Mexican
place you may have luck if they don't use lard (and you can communicate
to them), but we didn't pass any. Most of the food places we passed were
Japanese. There were also a good number of Chinese and Italian places,
but other foods weren't as popular.

I found it easier to explain what I wanted in Tokyo than anywhere else.
It was a bit odd, but even with the vegan passport people in other
cities were confused when I'd ask for just rice or just spaghetti.
Several times they sent 2 or 3 people to my table to try and understand
what I wanted. In Hiroshima the poor waiter was so flustered that he
asked me if everything he gave me was okay (is salad okay? Is lettuce
okay? Is olive oil okay? Etc). I felt really bad at times like that, as
I confused them yet they really wanted to help.

I was also questioned about the vegetarian thing by the few people who
spoke some English. We went to the house of one woman we met and her
entire family questioned me for about half our visit there. They
apparently don't see many vegetarians in Japan!

I brought some snack food with me from home, but I didn't bring as much
as I should have (because I assumed things would be easier than they
were food wise). I also got VERY tired of the food I brought very
quickly 'cause there were nights when I was eating my stuff for
breakfast AND dinner. Towards the end of the trip I started skipping
breakfast because I couldn't face my snacks anymore.

My advice is to bring soup stock, minute rice or ramen, and cans of
whatever food you like that travels well and that you can eat raw (like
beans or canned veggies, etc). Both of our hotels had hot water
machines, and I'd assume that a lot of other hotels have similar setups.
The hot water machines in Japan were impeccably clean (unlike the ones
they always seem to put in my rooms in Europe, where I only use them if
I desire a cup of floating amoeba).

Also, if you like junk food, bring some with you too! When you do find
Western snacks (like at the American Pharmacy or at a specialty store),
they will be expensive -- we're talking $5 for a bag of tortilla chips
and $5 for a little jar of salsa. The American Pharmacy had vegan
chocolate from the UK -- but it was something like $4 for a TEENY TINY
little bar. Still, if you're desperate, you'll pay for it! The American
Pharmacy is right in Ueno station, so if you stay near there (as we
did), it's convenient.

There's probably a lot of vegan friendly Japanese junk food...but you
can't read the ingridients, so you can't just run to the store if you
have a craving. Also, some of it may not be to Western tastes. When I
did finally break down and buy a can of what seemed to be regular
Pringles, I brought them to the hotel (which had English speaking staff)
and asked them to read me the ingredients. They said they were indeed
plain Pringles.....but the list of ingredients was VERY odd sounding.
One of the things included was mushroom powder. I can't stand mushrooms
but figured I wouldn't taste them....I was wrong. I ate about a quarter
of the can because I was starving, but then I started to feel sick to my
stomach 'cause they had a strong mushroomy taste. The Japanese probably
don't even notice the mushroom taste.

Of course, if you like plain tofu, you're in luck. But unfortunately I
don't, so I bypassed that section of the foodie stores.

Getting back to restaurants, there ARE veggie restaurants in Japan, but
the trouble is finding them. Also, if you travel with a non veggie
person (as I did), that helps to complicate things.

On one of our first days I tried to seek out Good Honest Grub (since
they have non veggie and veggie items), and that was a disaster. We told
the cab driver where we wanted to go, and we figured it wouldn't be far
as we calculated we were about a mile or so away from the restaurant.
Instead we ended up on a wild goose chase with what may have been the
only insane cab driver in Tokyo (most cabbies there are impeccable).

He nodded that he knew where the address we showed him was, but....he
didn't! (or maybe he did??) So he just kept driving till we were nearing
a residential area. When we showed him the address for the second time
after finally making him stop the car, he started talking non stop,
laughing to himself, and quite frankly, freaking me out. We got him to
take us back to the station and ended up paying about $18 for nothing
(he didn't stop the meter at any point, he just kept talking and
cracking himself up). I don't know if he was just nuts or taking two
foreigners for a ride. Anyway....if you can find Good Honest Grub, let
me know how the food is!!

As my friend collects Hard Rock Café pins, we ended up at a number of
HRCs. I recommend the HRC as your emergency meal backup plan.
Unfortunately the only thing left on the menu for vegans since the
changed the veggie burger is chips and guacamole...but if you're
starving this will be heaven to you! You'll probably have a hard time
explaining that you only want the tortilla chips and beans (with no
cheese or sc) to the waitress, but in the end they always seemed to
finally understand....even if they have to bring out another person to
talk to you.

We tried to find this veggie supermarket/café in Yokohama which was in
the mall in the center of town, but it had shut down a while back
according to the information desk people. We did find an Italian
restaurant in said mall that was much better than any others, and had
roast potatoes on the menu. The potatoes were like heaven to me by that
point.

In Osaka we spent over half an hour trying to find the vegetarian Seed
of Life restaurant that I'd read about. We finally found it almost by
accident. They've changed their name to Green Earth and are now a
regular restaurant and no longer a buffet place. The owner(?) was
incredibly kind, spoke perfect English, and asked a lot of questions
about veggie restaurants in New York. I gave him a list of my favorite
places. The food was very good and they had a number of things for
vegans to eat and several vegetarian items as well. The owner was
grateful for the NY info and gave us a sample of the special of the day
and a bag of green tea cookies. I had the cookies later and they were
melt in your mouth delicious. I only wish we could have gone back but we
were on a tight schedule.

Also in Osaka is a chain of French sandwich & coffee shops. I can't
remember what they're called, but they had the word France in the name
and it was easy to spot. They had no vegan food, but they do have soy
milk available. On their menu they advertise things like soy lattees as
well. We didn't go in till our last day, which was unfortunate, because
the soy lattees were terrific!. Soy milk seems to be a rarity in Japan
for the most part, so this was a very welcome treat (btw I never checked
the Japanese Starbucks, so I'm not sure if they had soy milk available).

In Kyoto we went to Cafe Peace, but we were there for their cafe hours,
which has a very limited menu. During lunch and dinner hours they
supposedly have a very extensive menu, so I was a bit bummed about that.
Their food was a bit more adventurous than I thought it would be, but it
was very good. They had vegan items clearly marked as well. The
restaurant seems to be mainly geared towards students, so they have a
lot of political flyers and stuff spread around, as well as items on
animal rights.

It was in Nara that I got my biggest surprise (and my best meal). When
we asked for a map at the train station, they told us that we could get
a free personal guide from the YMCA. We set that up and were told to
walk a few blocks to the information center to meet her there. Inside
the info center I spotted flyers for a place called Falafel King (their
tagline was something like "authentic food from the Middle East"). This
was near the end of the trip and I had been starving for days by this
point. I immediately became obsessed with the idea of falafel, hummus
and anything else I could stuff my face with.

As it turns out, this is the restaurant they recommend to tourists who
want veggie food. While the restaurant is in a hard to find street,
there are numerous signs directing you to it along the main street in
Nara. So in the end it ends up being very easy to find. FK was very
small, but there is room to sit inside and eat. And the food was
DELICIOUS!! I ended up going back a few hours later to get some to take
back to our hotel. The owner of the restaurant is from Israel and speaks
English, which helped a lot when asking about ingredients.

Oh, one thing I noticed in ALL restaurants -- drinks (sodas, juice, etc)
were all about $5 each on average. And your choices are usually very
limited (diet soda was impossible to get in a lot of restaurants).
Drinks from vending machines and grocery stores were normally priced, so
if you're a soda junkie, just have water with your dinner and wait to
have your drinks till later.

Anyway, that's about all I can remember at the moment. I hope this helps
someone if they're planning to go to Japan anytime soon. I searched for
info forever before we finally went on this trip, and in the end I came
away with the impression that while it would be hard to find food, I'd
still do okay. In the end I find that was a very wrong impression to
have! When you're vegan and you visit Japan, you really need to assume
the worst about finding food...at least that was my experience. And it's
how I'll prepare for it again whenever we get to go back (or if we get
to any other Asian countries anytime).

J.C.

  #2 (permalink)   Report Post  
Old 22-11-2003, 07:53 PM
Rubystars
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!


"Jennifer Huebl" wrote in message

snip article

I don't think I'd be able to enjoy a trip if I was hungry all the time! Why
couldn't you buy produce from the grocery stores? Surely they had fruit you
could munch on?

Maybe you could've bought some soy sauce to liven up the plain tofu too.

-Rubystars


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Old 22-11-2003, 08:14 PM
usual suspect
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

Jennifer Huebl wrote:
...
Also in Osaka is a chain of French sandwich & coffee shops. I can't
remember what they're called, but they had the word France in the name
and it was easy to spot.


Vie de France. They also have soups and salads, the latter of which can
be made without meat (I'd guess their soups have meat, dairy, or both,
but I don't have a copy of their menu).

snip
Anyway, that's about all I can remember at the moment. I hope this helps
someone if they're planning to go to Japan anytime soon. I searched for
info forever before we finally went on this trip, and in the end I came
away with the impression that while it would be hard to find food, I'd
still do okay. In the end I find that was a very wrong impression to
have! When you're vegan and you visit Japan, you really need to assume
the worst about finding food...at least that was my experience. And it's
how I'll prepare for it again whenever we get to go back (or if we get
to any other Asian countries anytime).


It really helps to know the language, even if just to cover ingredients
you want as well as what you want to avoid, or at least try to make a
friend who knows your language and the one of the country you're
visiting. Many Japanese are fluent in English, and many more aren't but
love the chance to practice. Same is true throughout Asia.

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Old 22-11-2003, 10:56 PM
Jennifer Huebl
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

In article , you say...

I don't think I'd be able to enjoy a trip if I was hungry all the time! Why
couldn't you buy produce from the grocery stores? Surely they had fruit you
could munch on?


If we'd seen some grocery stands I would have been thrilled. But we only
saw two. The first was on our first night, when there wasn't a food
problem yet. A lot of the streets in Japan are winding and confusing,
and I said that if we found that stand again, I'd like to stop in. Well,
we didn't find it as you can guess.

The second place we saw a grocery/fruit stand was on a day trip. The
stuff in the store didn't look all that appealing, and it was mostly
vegetables. I'm sure we were near fruit or veggie stands plenty of
times....but good luck finding them!

Maybe you could've bought some soy sauce to liven up the plain tofu too.


As I mentioned, if you like plain tofu (and I HATE IT beyond all
description), that's a big plus. But if you don't like plain tofu,
that's a big minus!

J.C.



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Old 23-11-2003, 11:22 PM
El stinky
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

Jennifer Huebl wrote:
I was just in Japan for two weeks and wanted to give a report about my
food experiences in case anyone here ever needs it. Keep in mind that
these are my personal experiences so if I missed something that was
staring me right in the face it's only because I had no way of
knowing!

(snip)

I apologize for your trip being a culinary disaster. I've been to Japan
twice and had no problem at all finding vegan food.

Before i had gone i had heard all these horror stories about 50 dollar
glasses of whisky and 25 dollar beers in bars. I had heard it costs as much
as 5 dollars a soda and it goes on and on from there.

when i went there I asked immediately about food. i was informed that its
very hard to be vegetarian or vegan becuase everything, including some white
rice had some sort of fish broth attached to it.

so i just looked around and there it was. Potato Cakes, Vege Sushi in the
7-11's and Lawson. vegan noodle cups with Curry, Edamame all can be had
quite quickly and cheaply (50-300y) A trip to the market found many things i
was able to eat. in tokyo i stick to mostly the side streets off of ameyoko

I went there and was guided around by local punks, not tourists. they were
able to find all the cheap bars(20 bucks ea. for an entire night of food,
Sho-Chu, Sake and Beer) cheap record shops(punk and independent record shops
are about the price of chain stores in the states) and cheap places to eat.
I was paying about 110-130Y for cans of beer and Super Chu-hi at alleyway
markets and beer machines

even on the highway j-station a bowl of soba with soy broth went for 175y,
of course they get you for the cost of travellign the highway... and bean
curd a plenty in almost any form and flavor you can think of.

at one point by request, on the 2nd trip we did venture to the tokyo tourist
part(shibuya) where i saw all the evil, overpriced things that i had heard
about. we saw nothing but consumeritis-infected westerners, no beer machines
and souvenier shops carrying mostly chinese and korean made goods.

yes in smaller towns it was more difficult to find anything until we got to
the nightly izakawa but that was quite alright with me. The smaller market
areas are always your best bet for quick energy.


--
_________________________________
Home Of The Tiltwheel
http://listen.to/tiltwheel
singing about dumb stuff for a while now...
_________________________________


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Old 01-12-2003, 02:00 PM
Adam D. Moss
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

El stinky wrote:
I went there and was guided around by local punks, not tourists. they were
able to find all the cheap bars(20 bucks ea. for an entire night of food,
Sho-Chu, Sake and Beer) cheap record shops(punk and independent record shops
are about the price of chain stores in the states) and cheap places to eat.
I was paying about 110-130Y for cans of beer and Super Chu-hi at alleyway
markets and beer machines


Wow, Tokyo sounds very attractive suddenly! Is it possible to
rent a punk for an evening? Sounds like a brilliant idea.

--Adam
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Old 03-12-2003, 08:21 AM
El stinky
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

Adam D. Moss wrote:

Wow, Tokyo sounds very attractive suddenly! Is it possible to
rent a punk for an evening? Sounds like a brilliant idea.

--Adam


you could probably get a ticket for that but try the red light district in
osaka!!... ummmmm ok bad joke
--
_________________________________
Home Of The Tiltwheel
http://listen.to/tiltwheel
singing about dumb stuff for a while now...
_________________________________


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Old 07-12-2003, 02:25 PM
Adam D. Moss
 
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Default Japanese trip report or... I'M STARVING!

El stinky wrote:
Adam D. Moss wrote:

Wow, Tokyo sounds very attractive suddenly! Is it possible to
rent a punk for an evening? Sounds like a brilliant idea.


you could probably get a ticket for that but try the red light district in
osaka!!...


Okay, will do.


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