The Government Cafeterias Spreading Veganism in Tokyo

Image courtesy of Free From Inc

It is not widely known here in Japan that a vegan menu is available at a cafeteria of the government office of this country. That cafeteria is named “Kishocho Syokudo” and is based at the Meteorological Agency located in Tokyo. Having opened last November, this cafeteria offers a vegan menu on one day per week. Hiroto Yamazaki of freefrom Inc reports.

Of course, it is available for the public, not just for government officials. In fact, the ratio of vegan people in all customers coming to the cafeteria is low, which suggests veganism is achieving penetration as one of the options of food eaten outside of the home. 

The cafeteria is managed by Nikkoku Trust Co LTD, a foodservice company founded in 1941 offering meals to cafeterias in many sectors. Having sympathized with the movement of Meat Free Monday, they began their own initiative called “Meat Free Monday Project” in 2017. In March of that year, they introduced a vegetarian/vegan menu to a cafeteria of the central government agencies as the very first attempt ever in Japan.

Image courtesy of Free From Inc

Although the meat-free day was only offered one day per week at that time, it has currently been increased to two days per week and there are plans to make it even three days in the near future. Besides that, vegan confectionery and breads for emergencies are also sold inside the central government agencies, which are all placed along with the Green Recovery Project of the company.

Their project is not limited to that extent. Surprisingly, they offer a vegan menu to as many as 90 companies’ cafeterias around the country. The provision is fixed on Monday every week, and the number of vegan meals offered on Monday in total reaches 4000 on average. The menu changes on a weekly basis, and has a variety of ramen, vegebowl, curry, and Japanese noodles, which have a good reception among government workers. In particular, the Tantan noodles made with almond milk and dishes such as the hamburger steak, are popular overall. They also invented an original vegan product, a rice ball called “Soy musu”, which has been eaten at cafeterias across Japan every Monday since July last year. 

Tantan Men, Image courtesy of Free From Inc

Mr. Abe, who is in charge of the project, says the introduction of a vegan menu is being gradually accepted as environmental awareness increases in Japanese society. This transition seems to derive from various factors such as social interests in SDGs since approximately 2017, preparation for Tokyo Olympic games, and damages caused by big typhoons.

“Enterprises incorporating vegan menus to their cafeterias and our food supply companies can promote their ‘contribution to SDGs’ and their ‘results of the introduction to central government agencies or major corporations’ respectively. In that way, I hope our project can benefit all people involved,” says Mr. Abe.

Another person in charge, Mr. Ichikawa says it is ideal that we can realize a society where vegan is available as a food category. Spreading veganism through a cafeteria project, a challenge of Nikkoku Trust has perhaps already created a big impact on society, without being widely recognized until now.         

Image courtesy of Free From Inc