A Vegetarian in Japan: SAY WHAT?

If it was up to me, I’d be a carnivore. I love meat. There are few things that tickle me more than a slow cooked lamb stew or the scent of fried chicken. Mmm… mmm… mmm… I could never be vegetarian. 

Having said that – I’ve grown more health conscious as I’ve gotten older. I don’t enjoy eating out the way I used to. Ever since I learnt how to cook, my palate is super sensitive to processed food, empty calories and unhealthy saturated fat. Unless you’re got one heck of a sweet tooth – most of these decadent calories come from meat sources. 

According to this study, there is a correlation between the consumption of red meat and colon cancer. I grew up in a household where discussions about ayurveda were the norm. According to holistic Indian medicine, vegetables are generally ‘lighter’ and easier to digest. Even meat-eating Hindus like myself can go on and on about the health benefits of vegetarianism without practising it. Hey – even the staunchest carnivores know the importance of having a salad with that huge juicy steak. 

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Now… Welcome to Japan. A country with the second highest life expectancy in the world. I’ve been here two and a half years and I still haven’t met a Japanese vegetarian. Not saying they don’t exist – just saying it’s not common. So OBVIOUSLY – you don’t need to be a vegetarian to stay healthy and live for ages. 

As some of you may know – I purchased the Wildwood Tarot Deck recently. It got me thinking about mankind’s relationship with nature. One thing led to another and my thoughts meandered to vegetarianism and compassion towards animals. It’s not really something I stop to think about when I bite into a juicy piece of fried chicken – but that chicken was once a living thing. I don’t know the circumstances of its life, but I do know that it was slaughtered before it wound up on my plate. 

Whilst I see the compassion and rationale towards vegetarianism – the truth is – I could never do it. I love food too much. I love preparing it. I love eating it. I love the joy it brings to my life. But what I can do is go on a fast to understand the whole idea better. 

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I’ve done it quite a few times in my life – gone vegetarian for a month. I wouldn’t describe the process as difficult – but it always gives me a lot to think about. You really do have to stop and think – ok so what are the ingredients in this – before you blindly bite into it. And how many people actually take a moment to do that? 

And if you live in Japan like I do – you’ll probably find yourself cooking almost every meal because restaurants don’t offer very many options. Try telling the average Japanese person that you’re vegetarian and they’ll ask you about shrimp and fish. Bless. You might find a vegetarian dish or two, but most of the condiments and sauces have God-knows-what in it. 

Ah well… Back to the kitchen it is. 

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Considering how particular I am about everything I cook – my diet is the currently the cleanest it’s been in months. I can no longer give myself the I’m tired, I’m going to grab whatever at some nearby restaurant spiel and be done with it. Due to LONG working hours (welcome to Japan, yo!), I’ve eaten out way more I would have liked. I wouldn’t say I’ve been bad, but I haven’t been good. 

At the time of writing this post – I’ve been vegetarian for a week. I’ve eaten out a couple of times but my options have been restricted to Indian and Italian food. Hmm…

If I find a Japanese-style vegetarian restaurant worth raving about, I’ll let you know. If you have any recommendations for me in the Tokyo area – I’m all ears. PLEASE TELL ME. PRETTY PLEASE.

Till then, I’ll be staying far far away from KFC. I’m not a fan of fast food, but man… the way it smells… It just does something to me. It’s physical. It’s logical. I must try to ignore that it means more than that. Ooo….

Author: Dipa

Tarot Tales from Japan

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