We met Nicole just over a year ago and immediately loved her environmentally conscious attitude, progressive childrearing philosophies and overall style. Nicole moved from the U.K. to Tokyo, and then after having her first child, she moved to a more rural part of Japan called Sendai to raise her family. Passionate about Montessori and about sustainable living, Nicole is an interesting person to learn from. We hope you enjoy this interview and realize that it is definitely possible to live as a vegan in Japan with kids, even outside of the big cities, and thrive.
Hello Nicole! Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your lifestyle and family situation as it relates to veganism here in Japan.
Hi, I am Nicole and I am a Brit living in Japan with my Japanese husband and two children (4 and 2 years old). We currently live in Sendai in a small ground floor apartment. Someday we’re interested into buying our own home as I want to live a more zero waste and environmentally friendly lifestyle. We are hoping to move to a house where there is at least a small amount of garden is available as it is one of my dreams to grow my own veganic vegetables. Recently there is a new movement, it is based on standards such as the vegan organic network standard or the Biocyclic Vegan Standard and this is something I’m very much interested in doing in my own garden. I am also very much interested in vegan permaculture so will be building some vegan hügelkultur beds this season.
Tell us about your family and how you’ve been navigating veganism together.
First of all, myself and my youngest child are both full vegans and our home is a vegan home. We’ve been vegan for a year and a half now. I do not use my money to purchase non vegan items either. My eldest son eats mostly vegan (I even pack him a vegan bento every day for kindergarten). However when outside the home if someone else offers food, I allow him to make his own choice. My husband is still an omnivore however is happy to eat vegan at home and has reduced his meat and dairy consumption outside of the home significantly without me asking. He’ll always choose a vegan item if it is available. As for what we eat, well living in Japan it can be tricky if you want lots of convenience foods and fake meats and to eat alongside others in the same restaurants.
Also our only vegan restaurant in Sendai closed down in January this year. That said, I am a huge believer of the whole food plant based way of eating championed by the likes of Dr Michael Greger, Dr Cambell, Dr Bernard, Dr Cauldwell Esselstyn. They advise us to only eat whole foods rather than processed foods, for example sugar is only part of a food, same with oil. If you want fats in your diet you should eat an olive or an avocado, where you will receive the vitamins and minerals and fibre in the whole food alongside the calories. With sugar, eat fruit. I like to use dates or date paste to sweeten most things. I also like to follow Dr Gregers “daily dozen”.
What are the drawbacks and positive things about living in Japan as a vegan?
These kinds of healthy foods are readily available here in Japan but often are in small quantities and wrapped in plastic. It definitely is a trade off for me as I do not like buying things in plastic if possible. When we move to a bigger place, I am looking to buy things in bulk, I am also hoping to design a meal plan for our family based on local seasonal foods. The great thing about being vegan in Japan is that there is a great selection of soy milk without additives and tofu. Hopefully next year when my youngest enters Kindergarten I’ll start making our own soya milk and tofu and natto to reduce waste. We already make our own miso. I actually also love that there isn’t an abundance of vegan processed foods and treats as it helps keep my waistline down. I do have a habit of overindulging so this avoids temptation. I feel if I lived in the UK perhaps my eating wouldn’t be so healthy.
Could you share a favourite vegan recipe with us?
My favourite recipe would have to be the lentil shepherds pie from Dr Greger’s “How not to Die cookbook”. I really love lentils. One of my favourite foods, easy to find in places like Tomiz, import stores and health food shops here in Japan.
Thanks, Nicole! We love you!