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Vegan Deception in Japan

Ewa Nowogorski

Are you a vegan? Are you in Japan or planning to visit Japan? Well you could not be screwing yourself over more. It’s a combination that just doesn’t work well. It’s not impossible, but you will struggle. I have lived here for almost 4 years as a vegan, and I have made countless mistakes along the way. The most recent mistake was eating some famous cookies called genji pies.

I definitely read the ingredients of every new item I purchase. I even check the ingredient list of things I have purchased multiple times in the past just to make sure that there haven’t been any changes made to the recipe. And sometimes I do get screwed over. But this innocent looking cookie hides a dark secret. One of the ingredients is margarine, which is technically not vegan by default, but the labeling of the package did not indicate milk as an allergen. In fact, there were absolutely no allergens listed on the package, which is what made me assume that these guys were ok. But it turns out that the margarine is actually derived from fish oil, a discovery I made while surfing the web. You can imagine my surprise at finding out this piece of information. What other products have I potentially been deceived by?

It seems that Japan loves to put fish in everything. They put it in soups, in miso, in tofu, in rice crackers, in rice seasoning, in kimchi, in everything! Fish meal is a cheap ingredient, and it’s a taste that Japanese people love, so companies can get away with adding it to bulk up their product. I wish they didn’t do this. They needlessly put in milk or eggs or fish into things that absolutely don’t need it, and you will find yourself in the fresh produce isles most of the time because unprocessed foods are basically all that you are left with. Sometimes the same versions of a food will have slightly different ingredients depending on what brand it is. It can be a frustrating battle, and you are always learning new things.

 It’s a sad reality that you better be prepared for when you come visit here.

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