vegan pizza

Photo:Jenni Kotting

Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival

Being a vegetarian in Japan can feel hopeless at first. The culture shock, combined with miscommunication, has resulted in many vegetarians adapting different foods into their diet. Some people end up ignoring their beliefs during their stay in Japan. ("When in Rome...") The term ‘vegetarian’ is unheard of by many Japanese locals living in rural areas, and it is popularly misunderstood in urban sectors. A vegetarian dish served in a restaurant in a bustling city may still contain bacon or be made with ingredients mixed with pork. There is no doubt about it, but the Japanese diet relies heavily on meat: fish, pork, beef and chicken.

As a consequence, to be a strict vegetarian and reside in Japan, one would have to make many homemade meals. Eating out tends to result in uncomfortable social situations caused by misunderstanding. However, it is slowly changing. The term vegetarian is becoming increasingly understood and respected. Many restaurants are now more willing to accommodate vegetarians and make small changes to their menu where they can.

Photo: Lisa on Flickr

Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival seeks to increase awareness and educate the wider population on vegetarianism. The festival not only seeks to provide a better understanding of vegetarianism; but also seeks to help vegetarians access indispensable resources. Information is provided on vegetarian restaurants and establishments where organic products can be purchased. Products include grocery, clothing, cosmetics and accessories. More than 80 vendors, representing vegetarian and environmentally friendly establishments participated in the festival.

These vendors sold vegetarian dishes, organic beauty products, environmentally-friendly clothing, and more.

The vegetarian dishes sold included burgers, fresh oven-baked pizzas, smoothies, and desserts. I really enjoyed the scrumptious vegetarian burgers and healthy desserts.

Photo: Dano on Flickr

The staff was very informative. Information was readily offered on ways to make creative vegetarian dishes using vegetarian mince. They also provided information on where to purchase natural ingredients and great places to eat out.

Apart from the great food, drink, clothing, accessories and cosmetics, there were beauty lectures and free outdoor yoga, too. The beauty lectures revolved around the concept of making homemade products or buying organic cosmetics.

The free yoga was led by a well-known yoga instructor and free mats were available to borrow. There were so many participants that there weren't enough mats, and many people used a piece of clothing, towel or whatever they could find to act as a yoga mat. It was amazing, moving in sync with over a hundred people to one sound.

Photo: Rafael Montilla on Flickr

Overall, if was a relief to eat without having to ask a barrage of questions. It was refreshing to order and not have to annoy the chef with my many dietary restrictions. Therefore, I would recommend attending and enjoying some delicious vegetarian dishes; that will make you wonder why you ever ate meat.

Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival is scheduled for May 15 this year, and will take place in Tsuruma Park. This year will be the third time it is held. Last year there was a massive turnout of approximately 5,500 people. Hopefully the weather this year is also great.

According to the event organizer's website (Japanese only), there are also events scheduled for Tokyo and Kyoto later in the year. The Tokyo event will be held on October 2 in Kiba Park.

For pictures from past events and more information, please check out their Facebook page.

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