From time to time the question arises in online discussion forums: what’s the best way to see a new city? Some travelers plump for hitting the highlights by whatever means necessary, jumping from site to site by train, plane, or automobile. That’s a very effective means of checking off a list of “top ten temples,” or whatever, and can be fun in its own way (ask me about my four-day, whirlwind tour of southwest Iceland last March). It’s efficient, which is why most guidebooks are organized around such a style of travel. There is, however, another way of travel, one which may add little or nothing to your bucket list, and for which there are few guidebooks, but may give you a better understanding of the place you’re visiting – and just maybe the place you came from. That’s to get off the train… and walk. Immerse yourself in one area. Walk its sidestreets and alleys. Linger at neighbourhood spots which will never make a traditional guidebook but say something authentic about the lives of the people who live there – even if this means not checking all the “Must Sees” on a list. As John Ruskin puts it,
Erin and Simon, over at Never Ending Voyage, have added a page on Japan to their growing list of resources for vegetarians on the road (other pages cover Hong Kong, and parts of South America).
I spent three-plus years living as a vegetarian in rural, remote Hokkaido. Then again, I lived with an awesome vegan cook at the time, so it was no great hardship for me. The reality for most vegetarians, however, and especially travellers, is that Japan is a surprisingly challenging destination for non-fish eaters, in particular, as this recent thread at Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree attests.
In a pinch, you can always go Indian. Erin and Simon, however, provide some survival tips, such as useful words and phrases in Japanese, pictures of vegetarian-friendly dishes common in Japan (think tofu! And Mos Burger’s carrot and burdock-root “burger” on a rice cake bun), and a short list of restaurants — mostly in Kyoto — which the authors recommend.
All in all, a virtual tabehodai of useful information for vegetarian travellers to Japan.