i'm not vegan, i'm japanese

Australia is one of the most vegan and vegetarian friendly places in the world. Many of my friends are vegetarian/vegan and for a girl who lives on a budget, vegetarian home cooking is a great way to save money.


For a few years now, I have claimed to be a ‘flexitarian’. What that means is that I am flexible in my dietary choices. I would say that 65% of the week at least I eat vegetarian meals - sometimes less, and sometimes more.


I moved in with a vegetarian about 3 years ago, and that’s when my curiosity towards vegetarianism really began but I never committed to becoming a full fledged vegetarian until this year, but more on that later.


The three most common reasons why people become vegetarian or vegan are;

  • For animal rights

  • For the environment (the agricultural industry is one of the biggest contributors of CO2 and reason for global warming, plus overfishing is killing our ocean)

  • For health reasons (though there are as many studies against vegetarianism/veganism as there are against eating meat)



*環境のため(農業はどの業界よりも一番CO2を排出し、温暖化への誘因でもある。そして魚の乱獲も海のエコシステムを破壊し始めている) *健康のため(肉食の食生活への反論もあれば、ベジタリアニズム・ヴィーガニズムに反する意見も同じくらいある。

My reasoning was a mix of the first two. With social media and fast access to information online, it is becoming harder and harder to be ignorant to the fact that most farmed animal products (meat, dairy etc) that end up on our table comes from farms with cruel and disrespectful treatment of the animals.

Movies like Cowspiracy and videos on YouTube shows the devastating conditions these animals are forced into, and really freaked me out about eating meat.



I am also very passionate about healing our mother earth, our environment. Knowing that by purchasing meat or fish I am actively being a part of a highly unregulated, damaging food chain system breaks my heart.


Yet still, I was on the fence.




Because I’m Japanese.

(I can hear vegans/vegetarians say ‘what the hell has that got to do with it?) Well, let me explain.

それは日本人だから。 (ヴィーガン・ベジタリアンの人が「それがどう関わるの?」と聞く声が聞こえてくる)


One of the greatest part of Japanese culture is our food culture. Japanese food, washoku, is a heritage listed item. The world has recognised the intricate and thoughtful, highly nutritional and tasteful culinary art that is Japanese cuisine.


Growing up I was encouraged at home and at school to learn where food came from. And through growing up on a Japanese diet as a child I also learned about how wonderful food tastes without seasoning.

Japanese seasoning is very subtle, it is there to enhance the flavours of the produce rather than the other way around which is the western style of seasoning, where you enjoy the flavour that was put on the produce. (probably why my Australian friends like to furiously salt the food I make for them while I sit and enjoy an undressed salad).


With the rise of vegetarianism/veganism came the food trend ‘clean eating’ where people would just eat raw or unseasoned vegetables for health reasons. But I think ‘washoku’ or Japanese food has always been steps ahead of ‘clean eating’ for many hundreds of years, because we do need some salt, some yeast, some sugar etc in our diet and ‘washoku’ is probably the closest thing to ‘clean eating’ before ‘clean eating’ ever became a thing.

こっちではベジタリアニズム・ヴィーガニズムの人気が出てきてから「clean eating(クリーン・イーティング)」というダイエットが流行った。生で味付けのない野菜を食べるというコンセプト。でも私に言わせれば和食はそれより先の考え方をもう何百年と保ってきたと思う。なぜかというと人間は塩だって、イースト(酵母菌)だって砂糖だって必要である。和食はそれを理解して、バランスを保った美味しい食べ物となっている。

‘Mottainai’ is a very important Japanese word. It means ‘too good to waste’. Everything is pretty much too good to waste in Japanese food culture. The stems, the root, the water you washed your rice in (women used to wash their hair with it)! And that includes animals.

’If you eat the fish’s head you’ll become smarter’ — something adults used to say to me at dinner time. I love fish’s eyeballs, and I started eating them because I was told it would improve my eyesight (which I kinda still believe in a black magic way).



I was taught that if you are going to kill an animal and give it to yourself, you must not waste it, and you must appreciate it, hence why we say ‘Itadakimasu’ before very meal, which is a sign of appreciation not only for the cook but the food that is on the plate - the life that was ended to feed us.


But despite that pretext I decided this year that I would try vegetarianism anyway. I had run out of excuses not to, so I did.


It really wasn’t that difficult. Japanese food is so vegan/vegetarian friendly. You can easily replace katsu (bonito fish) based dashi (stock) with konbu (seaweed) or shiitake mushroom based dashi and voila, there’s nothing in my way from cooking Japanese food.


However, I did find myself a little more sluggish than before, and with a more intense craving for meat especially when I was on my period. The way my period was also showed proof of how imbalanced my diet was without meat, it wasn’t as ‘fresh’ coloured like it usually is.

ただ体の変化もあった。いつもより疲れやすく、特に生理の時は肉が食べたくて食べたくて…しかもベジタリアンをやっていた間の生理はいつもと違って、ドライで色もいつもとは違っていた。 It might have felt easy at first to be a vegetarian, but the truth is, you must truly commit to research the nutritious value of the food you make as a vegan/vegetarian. Just simply eating food without meat does not make for a healthy diet. You must still have that balance of nutrition, and it isn’t easy to do with just vegetables - it is, absolutely achievable and very good for you.

4 months into vegetarianism, I couldn’t help but shake the nagging feeling that it wasn’t right for me.