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Staying vegan and vegetarian in Japan while on a budget

By Janna Kollen

So you’re a vegan or vegetarian that just moved to Japan. There is so much to explore: entertainment, fashion, nature and delicious food. There’s just one problem: you’re in a country where vegan/vegetarian lifestyles aren’t very popular yet.

Unfortunately, substitutes you could find at home (Beyond Meat, Boca Burger, MorningStar Farms, etc.) will most likely be scarce, if at all available. Still, it’s not impossible to stick to some of your vegan/vegetarian routines—it just might be more expensive than what you’re used to.

Searching vegan and vegetarian food in Japan almost always lead to excellent cafes and restaurants lists. But what if you don’t have the kind of budget to eat out every day? It’s common for people to switch to pescetarianism in Japan to make life easier—but if you’re dedicated to your lifestyle choice, you’ll need to try a bit harder.

Convenience or inconvenience?

You can find vegan and organic foods at Natural Lawson. Image: iStock: winhorse

Often, foreigners in Japan gravitate towards the konbini (convenience store) because they are everywhere, and there’s bound to be something substantial for them to eat. For vegans and vegetarians, choices are actually very slim. Besides snacks and a few onigiri (rice balls), almost everything has meat or animal product. Even the salads frequently have chicken or bacon mixed in.

One konbini that stands out from the rest in terms of choices is Natural Lawson, a more organic, health-oriented version of the regular Lawson. Here, you can find all kinds of vegan and vegetarian-friendly snacks, drinks, desserts and meals. And they’re sometimes labeled as such.

Keep in mind that while options are much better, the best items suited for vegans and vegetarians tend to be packaged in small portions. As a result, it can be easy to spend more than expected if you do all your shopping here.

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I wish they would stop adding milk, eggs and meat extract in foods they label as 'plant-based'. Ignorant.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

just go outside Tokyo and you can find a lot of fresh food at reasonable price.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why be a Vegetarian? This is the best place on earth for excellent cuisine, beef, etc. Sounds silly to me to adopt vegan lifestyle.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Why be a Vegetarian?

Er, do you know what goes on in these oh so lovely slaughterhouses?

As for the dairy industry, did anyone see the Panorama documentary recently?

At the end of the day, seesaw, nobody is forcing you to be vegan, but do you always go up to Muslims and tell them it's silly to go to a mosque? You do your own thing and let others do want they want. I really don't care if you have health problems like clogged arteries or diabetes.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Nothing wrong with vegan or vegetarian dishes, they make a nice accompaniment to meat!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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