A Teachin' Skatin' Drinkin' Prayin' Vegan in Japan

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Happiness Found in God’s Providence

An average night for a vegan in Japan, two tofu restaurants apologetically turn us away with the comment – “Sorry, everything has fish stock in it.”  I am sure I am more sorry than you are. I thought to myself. It’s bitingly cold, only getting colder. I angrily begin to blame her for saying that she knew some vegan-friendly restaurants.  “If it’s not definitively vegetarian, then there is no chance of it being vegan-friendly. Why haven’t you figured that out yet?” I jab sharply. I am starving and cold. This creature problems are getting the best of me. Though honestly I think that every time this happens a considerable portion is also aimed at the society that is so against crealty-free, healthier food and living. So ignorantly throwing away its own future health and environment for just a little “delicious” food.

“F#ck it” We are going to that place I told you about.

I trudged off angrily in the direction of the restaurant I researched before we left. Its on the other side of the city – about a 20 minute walk. My stomach growls as if imitating my mood.

Finally, as if by a miracle, we arrive without getting lost.  It’s after 8 pm. We haven’t eaten since 2:00 – a measly store-bought salad, bland inari sushi, and tofu constituted our shared “meal”. Kinatei – “happy vegetable stop”.

The restaurant sign says Kinatei “For Vegetarians”. The owner Kyoko welcomes us in. The place is surprisingly empty for a such a big day it was Wakakusayama-yaki festival day. Thousands of people had descended upon the city that day. “Dinner is a course-only menu. We have 2500-5000 yen courses.” She explained

“The 2500 is fine.” I replied.

“I was not going to open today. But it was too cold so he (pointing to the only other customer) and I found it too cold out at the festival. So we came back and starting eating out bentos here. I was not going to open at all today. If i don’t get a reservation, I am not opening up. I was going to close soon too. We just back. God must have been with you.”

I think he always is.

I am seriously God must have been with you. We would not have opened if we had not come back.

“Hallejah!” (in English)

She laughs, “People actually say that.”

“I do.”

Good conversation and a fantastic, vegan kaiseki (traditional Japanese multiple mini-dish course meal). I turned to my dearest. I am so sorry for being so angry with you. Thank God we found this place.

Thank you Happycow.com! Thank you God!

Thank you Kinatei (Kyoko-san)

P.S. Kinatei review to come. Find the link here.

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Video

Skate Montage

Not a really great skate video, just memories.
In HS, my best friends and I spent almost every weekend skating, hanging out and playing games or watching skate videos. I loved those days. I often watch this when I miss them. In memory to Ryan, John, and Bates

Open Letter to All The Companies That Employed Me In Japan

WARNING:

If you are an starry-eyed westerner looking to teach in Japan look elsewhere. Or please read this and learn the truth.

Dear Companies,

You suck.

While I got a pretty good deal with Interac and the staff never really tried to manipulate me, I know from others that I was just lucky.

I was never clued in on my rights. I was never told how the taxes and social securities or insurance systems worked. I was never helped. I was never taken care of. I was used for my convenience then dumped when no longer economically helpful. I am a foreigner in Japan, granted I am nearly fluent and I can read Japanese newspapers, BUT that is in NO WAY congruent to knowing the inter-workings and inanely bureaucratic machinations of the Japanese government.

Remember when you said to me in an meeting “What made you think that you could be fired at anytime?” You made me feel terrible. Then you made me feel like I was paranoid. I was not paranoid. I was right. It says in the freaking contract at the very end under “Probation Period.” – the director can terminate this contract anytime. Don’t make me quote it to you. But that is not the only shady then that went down.

How about the fact that you never told me what all these complicated government documents even mean or that the company was not going to be paying into my Social security. All I knew was that I was not getting Health care Insurance. Thank you for nothing. I am angry and I will not be appeased soon. If you or someone else in the company or any of the other god-forsaken companies i worked for in this country don’t tell me what all this deeply complicated social security, insurance, and social security insurance is, then, tell me, who is supposed to do so? Taking care of your employees? Ha what a joke! I have the government breathing down my neck to pay them a lump sum of over 100,000 yen. I don’t have it. I’m hoping that I can get the next years social security payments waved, because of this terribly unfair circumstance that in no way is my fault.

I buckled in the Social Security offices. Angry, hurt, abandoned. Forgotten and abused. I never felt so low – so unhappy with my life. My hands clasped my head. Tears welled up in my eyes. Japan the country I tried so hard to understand, the country whose language I worked to master. the country whose culture i loved, I know can’t stand.

Thank you dear lady in the Social Security offices who finally explained it all to me. It took great composure to treat me nicely as I almost lost in it on you.

Veganism and Skateboarding Part 1

On this blog I have talked about being vegan and a skater – its trials and tribulations. But I want to introduce the companies, organizations, and skaters who proudly fly the vegan flag.

First, being vegan is hard, Period. But trying to find vegan skate shoes, clothes, etc is very hard. Vegans everywhere are used to researching everything they buy.

Here are a few great places to find stuff. Emerica, eS, Vans, and Lakai are very supportive of veganism and have a wide variety styles, colors, etc.

Vegan skate shoe websites

vegan kicks

blog, links to where to buy shoes online, reviews, etc

vegan kinetic

Top Ten Albums of My Youth

Each album shared between my closest friends and fondest or hardest memories. In between the struggles of middle and high school – emotionally and spiritually – to the idyllic (in retrospect) nights of hanging out listening to Built to Spill in empty parking lots eating Wendy’s frosties. Skateboarding greatly influenced my upbringing, gave me confidence (when I had little), made me strong, gave me a solid identity that contrasted all I lived in. It was not my everything but because of it I am forever changed and continue to change as I continue to skate. Some of these albums came to me by way of artsy skate vids, like transworld, and others. I love music. I love art. I love skateboarding. All three in one thing.

Interpol “Turn on the Bright Lights”

The Strokes “This is It”

The Smashing Pumpkins “Melancholy and Infinite Sadness”

Modest Mouse “Building Nothing out of Something”

Built to Spill “There’s Nothing Wrong with Love”

Bright Eyes “Lifted”

Muse “Absolution”

Cursive “Ugly Organ”

Death Cab For Cutie “Something about Airplanes”

Yeah Yeah Yeah “Fever to Tell”

Aarti’s Kobe-Based Indian Restaurant Chain アールティ天王寺

I live in the Tennoji area, where I am lucky enough to have this great Indian food restaurant. Apparently a chain since there are store all over the Kansai region. However, the original is in Kobe, thus the name.

This restaurant though no vegan is very vegan and vegetarian friendly. One of the staff’s English is quite good but he is not always been there every time I have gone. Fortunately I am essentially fluent in Japanese. Vegetarians have no worries as like most Indian restaurants in Canada, USA, and Britain have dahl (lentils, or beans) curries as well as vegetable curries. These curries are always are part of the set menu choices as well! (a big plus because it is not always the case in Japan).For vegans you must explain that you want no milk or butter in your naan, and curries. This can be done in English if the English speaker is there. The chef (an kind Indian man) also speaks some English.

The main thing here is there are a ton of vegetarian options that can be made vegan by asking for oil instead of butter, and no butter in the naan. Usually either of those two things is impossible or only the later (the naan) is in most Indian food places in Japan.

Aarti’s I give you a 4/5 for vegan-friendly(only because it is a little expensive).

Access: Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi St. Follow signs to to the Lucias Building 1F basement. Tennoji JR or Subway is more complicated but just follow signs to Kintetsu Lines, then signs to Lucias Building.

For Valentine’s Day I used their coupon called ahead explained I wanted to use the coupon and wanted our food to all be Vegan. So they traded out the tandoori meat with a tandoori seitan like thing and one extra samosa! This is unheard of food service in Japan.

Photos from that AMAZING meal

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http://tabelog.com/osaka/A2702/A270203/27064492/dtlphotolst/P17157276/?smp=1&ityp=1#photoheader

Map Tabelog

GOOGLE

Green Earth Vegan Restaurant – Hommachi, Osaka

I have been meaning to blog here about my vegan adventures in Japan. From this day or this post forward I promise to bring my readers and followers at least weekly updates, reviews, recipes, etc veganism in Japan.

First, some thoughts on veganism in Japan: first, despite the history of vegetarianism and vegan cooking in Buddhism in Japan, most if not all people have no idea what veganism nor vegetarianism is, second, vegan restaurants or accommodating restaurants are few and far in between, however (third), a strong soy culture makes home cooking, and convenience store vegan meals possible.  \

GREEN EARTH

A long established quaint vegan restaurant in the nearly the very middle of Osaka boasts a fantastically diverse menu of western vegan dishes, desserts, and drinks (including pizza!). The owner speaks fluent English. The store sells a guidebook to Japan for Vegans and Vegetarians, as well as a plethora of take-out goodies like Soy Bean kara-age, beans, and vegan cookies. ON TOP OF ALL THAT, They are extremely affordable! A lunch set for 700 yen with a 800 yen big size (more rice). Nothing on the menu is above 1000 yen, even the pizza.

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On nice days, there is a pretty green terrace that if not for the occasional traffic noises you would think that you are in a nice cafe away from the city. The above pictures are taken there.

ACCESS:

happycow

Google Maps

Take Midosuji line to Hommachi station, exit out of Exit #14 after the family mart that you will see on your right turn immediately left down a semi-narrow street (the restaurant has a green porch) it will be on the left. It’s hard to miss.

ENJOY!

Pumpkin Spice Vegan Scones and Strawberry Ice Cream

Pumpkin Spice Bran Almond Raisin Vegan Scones

I considerably altered this recipe but often using a basic recipe such as this as base or a foiundation for creative changes according to taste and desire is really what makes a baker out of an ordinary person.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Scones

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin

Pumped-kin Spice Vegan Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup bran cereal (ground)
  • 1/2 cup crushed almonds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allpsice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

First, a precaution: if you are using canned pureed pumpkin then the above soy milk amount will make this too wet and much more flour will be necessary.

I used Japanese pumpkin for this recipe.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 F or 210 C

Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl until well combined.

Add vinegar to soy milk wait 30 seconds to a minute puree with pumpkin, maple syrup, and oil in a blender until smooth.

Scoop out puree with gum spatula into the dry mixture. Mix well.

Scoop out dollops of dough onto  a baking sheet covered cookie sheet.

Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

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Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

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RECIPE

Ingredients

210 g strawberry diced

105 g soy milk+soy heavy cream

30 g sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup (or agave nectar)

(optional binding agent) 1 tbsp naga-imo … i think it helped…

Instructions

Mix sugar and diced strawberries and leave to sit for half an hour.

Add the strawberries and other ingredients to a blender and puree.

Pour into Ice Cream Maker.

Finished!

SO YUMMY!

Shitennoji Temple Flea Market Part 2 (Day 2)

Having in mind (generally) what teapots caught my eye, I set out on the second day of the flea market in search of that bargain teapot. But the day turned into a relaxing day meeting new and interesting people. Truly the most charming part of these markets is mixing, meeting, and talking with the shops owners. I met a certified coffee specialist, an Indian-American from NY who runs an Organic Indian cafe in Kobe, and a talkative Brazilian Japanese Christian jeweler. In the end I bought my teapot and relaxed enjoying delicious tea and vegan Indian wraps. Viva la flea market!

Konomi

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With a portable bean roaster, raw columbian beans, and the proper tools, he tenderly prepared a fantastic cup of coffee for only 250 yen! He runs a cafe called Konomi in Hyogo prefecture.HERE。 He often visits flea markets in the Kansai area so KANSAI keep an eye out for him!

We conversed about life, life abroad, america, coffee, food, the scary reality of modern man dinner plate filled with unknown untested chemicals, the foolishness of the average persons diet, etc. THANK YOU! 🙂

ZEST

The Indian-American NYer who ran the tent representing this delicious restaurant talked commiserated about how crazy the economy and economic foreign policy of the states is getting with me, while assuring me that the restaurant takes their vegan and vegetarian menus very seriously. He even commented, “Have you tasted that American (read white) vegan food? It’s tasteless. It’s just veggies. Indians had no choice but to be vegetarian for ages so, you know, they had to get creative.”

A fair summation of Indian vegetarianism but I disagree with his summation of the average American vegan’s plate.

I bought his vegan vegetable curry wrap. SO GOOD!

Back to the teapot mission.

So I ditched this one and went to the best tent I had seen with the massive eclectic collection of ceramics at this man’s shop. With a ceramics album, and art history book on hand at all times he is both an aficionado himself and a dealer. Japanese ceramic dealer for the common man. He apparently also frequents the Toji Temple flea market in Kyoto. A great description here.

The piece I settled on (after haggling him down a 1000 yen from 4000 yen to 3000 yen ->YES!!) is this beauty

Also hagi-yaki, comes with kyusu (teapot), pitcher, and 6 (yes you read that right) tea cups. I am so excited.

四天王寺フリーマーケット: Shitennouji Temple Flea Market PART 1 

Every month I wanted to go this massive flea market event 5 minutes push on my skateboard from my apartment. But, alas, the event is held every month on the 21st and the 22nd. No exceptions. Which means if you are not retired, homemaker, or loather then you cant make it usually because of work. That sucks. That was me until NOW! Finally not only was I off from work but I had time to go!

INFO

Shitennoji Flea Market

TIME: Every month 21st&22nd.

PLACE: Shitennoji Temple grounds

ADMISSION: FREE!!!!!

ITEMS 4 SALE: used and handmade clothes, Japanese ceramics, tableware, accessories, antiques, trinkets, and a myriad of curios – oh and food for the especially dedicated market fly (or flea?).

As my blogs earlier posts demonstrate I love ceramics, particularly Tea ceremony tools (i.e. sado). I love art. I love Japanese cultural arts. So this is a particularly fun event. I love inspecting every stall or tent that catches my in search for eclectic, rare, and interesting ceramics at rock bottom prices.

If you can speak Japanese then this place is bargainer’s heaven! I mean “Come on its Kansai! The city born on a businessman’s back!”

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I was looking for a teapot set. I have made many a teapot but not a good set with three or so cups. I can’t really understand myself at these events because I want some many beautiful pieces – maybe I am meant to be a rich art collector one day. hehe that would be fun but I doubt it.

Anyway, below is a gallery of more shops, antique shops, furniture, bonsai, old clothes etc.

Literally anything its here. even porn unfortunately… if you look close at that trinket table you will see it.

Tomorrow is the 22nd and I believe I will be making a second trip. Lookout for part 2 tomorrow!