The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has recently stated that the city is actively working to increase its food options to be more inclusive for vegans and vegetarians. This is because figures show a decrease in international tourism in Japan and there are now attempts to correct this to make it more attractive to foreigners. Indeed, in 2019 Japan had 32 million visitors, while three years later only had 3.8 million tourists.

In 2019, the government began promoting services for vegetarians and vegans before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, postponed due to the pandemic. This included creating food guidelines to help restaurants increase vegetarian menu options, subsidies to support those options, and certification marks to identify which items are vegetarian and vegan. As a consequence, the number of vegan restaurants in Japan jumped to 1,000 in 2020 compared to 400 in 2018.

Traditional Japanese cuisine often relies on dashi, a cooking stock made from fish flakes, which is why many restaurants are unsuitable for vegans. Katsumi Kusumoto, the owner of Tokyo-based Saido restaurant, said, “When people visit Tokyo to eat delicious food, there are lots of Michelin-starred restaurants but many vegetarians still can’t eat at them. That’s said. So, I’m doing my job hoping the number of restaurants catering to them increases.”

Haruko Kawano, the founder of the non-profit VegeProject Japan, said, “A lot of restaurants think making vegan dishes is very, very difficult… In Japan, there are few vegetarians or vegans, (so owners) don’t know about them, or what they really want… There are some very good dashi made without animal products… If they try and understand how good it is, they can maybe make very beautiful, delicious Japanese food.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.