Sunday, December 28, 2014

Vegan dishes in Japanese restaurants? A difficult proposition till recently but not any more!

Those from India visiting Japan for a short duration would have realized how difficult this country is for people unable to eat meat and fish based preparations to even survive because practically no restaurant serves pure vegetarian dishes. Probably the concept of vegetarian way of life is some thing modern Japanese generation does not understand as meat and fish are most ubiquitous in their daily diets. If recent reports emanating from Japan are any indication this county is poised to bring about a paradigm shift in its appreciation of vegan diets and one of the reasons could be the tourism boom it is expecting from India in the coming years running up to the Olympic games scheduled to take place in 2020. Naturally a significant population from India are non-meat eaters, most of whom are rich enough to afford a trip to Japan because of their wealthy background. Read further below about this new happenings in a place like Tokyo where many restaurants are serving vegetarian foods alone or as a part of their menu.range.. 

"Tokyo may be the gastronomic capital of the world – with more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city – but it has lagged behind in catering for those who don't eat meat. But with Japan hosting the Olympics in 2020, and the associated influx of vegetarian tourists, the group Tokyo Smile Veggies aim to get 50,000 restaurants – the number of convenience stores in Tokyo – to offer vegetarian dishes by the time they arrive. They plan to do this by hosting workshops explaining what vegetarianism means, by offering recipes and training to chefs, and by getting restaurants that are vegetarian-friendly to display signs. "We don't want to increase the number of vegetarian restaurants," said one of the group's four founders Aya Karasuyama. "We want vegetarian food to be served in normal restaurants. This hardly exists at present. People think vegetarians are strange and only eat salad." Over the past decade there has been a rise in popularity in vegetarian and vegan food in Japan alongside a boom in macrobiotic food, which has led to the opening of about 500 vegetarian and macrobiotic (which serve meat but have many vegetarian options) caf├ęs and restaurants, according to Tokyo Smile Veggies. The macrobiotic trend started not long after Madonna appeared on the Japanese show Smap Smap in 2006 hailing her macrobiotic diet, according to the owner of one restaurant. But traditional Japanese restaurants tend not to include vegetarian food, and instead have lots of meat and seafood dishes – noodles have fish stock or pork as their soup base – or specialise in one type of food. Vegetarians are often met with a look of panic when they say that they don't eat meat or fish. Hanae Matsuya, a food PR, said: "Vegetarian restaurants open all the time but end up closing. Japanese are very good at cooking with vegetables at home so when they go out they like to eat meat." 

No wonder that sustained campaign by many groups who propound vegetarianism as an answer to many ills that befront the world to day has created better awareness about the virtues of avoiding animal based foods as far as possible. industrialized foods churned out by the food processing industry, especially the meat and poultry industry have a poor track record regarding good manufacturing practices which seek to avoid environment pollution, optimum safety of products and cruel animal rearing practices. Though consumers do raise their concern regarding these issues. they are all swept under the carpet by the industry due to its tremendous clout on the political-bureaucratic law and policy makers who refuse to implement or delay consumer friendly practices under one pretext or the other.  When one talks about vegetarian diets, it should not be forgotten that eating is a personal choice and compulsions are not acceptable to change these habits. What the vegan activists are seeking is gradual changes in dietary habits, respect for the environment and fellow co-inhabitants in this planet and ultimately a healthy society of future generations.


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