Kano Sekine, currently working for a Japanese to English translation company in Tokyo, has been vegan in Japan since 2010. Even today, in 2018, veganism is still a very unknown - or at least misunderstood - concept in Japan. So when I heard that not only had Kano become vegan while being in Japan almost 10 years ago, but that along the way her parents went plant-based as well, I knew she would make a very interesting guest for the podcast.
In this interview, we cover her path to veganism, and focus especially on when and how her mindset changed in regards to animal products. She also talks about how her practical and social life changed as she went vegan, and explains how her parents came to lead a mostly plant based lifestyle. Then, we finally end the podcast by some rapid fire questions.
This was a very interesting podcast for me, as I am fascinated with what makes people - me included - act the way they do. If, like me, there is a part of what brought you to veganism now and not earlier that you cannot clearly explain, or if you simply are curious about how one Japanese managed to become - and stay! - vegan in a country that barely knows what it means, I am sure you will find Kano’s story interesting as well.
After listening to her own interview, Kano asked me to add the following corrections and extra information to her answers, so that to avoid any misinterpretation of her story and views.
- When talking about the consumption of eggs and dairy, she says in the interview that she continued to eat eggs or milk until September 2009; this is not accurate, she had them until around New Year 2010.
- About her aunt, who she presents in the interview as being vegetarian, Kano adds: “my aunt, the yoga instructor, has been a health conscious practitioner of macrobiotics and has been keeping her macrobiotic diet for ethical reasons too since I introduced her to veganism.”
- Kano’s last addition addresses the end of the interview, where she briefly talks about B12. To her words, she adds: “Though I gave nutritional advice, I believe some vegans are okay not to take b12 supplements. I actually haven’t had any until this Autumn.
In East Asia, because people often eat and can digest seaweed products which contain b12, most Japanese vegans stay healthy without supplementing.
For example, Japanese Buddhist monks in zen temples have followed a plant based diet for a long long time without tablets of B12.”
About this added comment, remember that it is Kano’s views on the matter of B12. Neither of us are health professionals, and you should always seek advice from a qualified doctor regarding serious health matters.
Lastly, before jumping into the interview, keep in mind that Kano is expressing somehow complex ideas and feelings in a foreign language. I know first hand how challenging an exercise this can be, which is why I allowed myself to, sometimes, help her find her words or “finish” her sentences; each time making sure with her that I did not misinterpret her thoughts.
- Introduction, corrections and additions to some of Kano’s answers (her consumption of dairy/eggs and her views on B12, among other)
- 0:03:20s - Kano’s path to veganism
0:06:00s - Encountering the concept of veganism for the first time, abroad
0:08:20s - Going plant-based after watching ‘Our Daily Bread’: what in that documentary decided Kano to act?
0:13:50s - Kano’s representation of where animal products come from before going vegan
0:18:30s - Kano’s opinion on ‘ethical’ meat
0:21:13s - First few days after the documentary: how did Kano feel and eat
0:23:00s - Why did she not go vegan from the start?
0:29:55s - Coming out socially as a vegetarian/vegan
- 0:38:00s - How, and why, did Kano’s parents go plant-based
- 0:42:05s - Reaching out to family: ethical or health arguments?
- 0:50:45s - How did becoming vegan change Kano’s diet and eating lifestyle
- 0:54:10s - Being the only vegan in Japan you know… until joining Tokyo Vegan Meetup
- 1:01:45s - Eating out vegan in Yokohama/Tokyo in 2010
- 1:06:15s - Most positive/negative thing of having become vegan
- 1:11:30 - Rapid fire questions
- 1:25:30 - Last words about B12 (see introduction for an update about this)
Introduction BGM: "Corporate Japan" by Birocratic (http://birocratic.lnk.to/allYL)
Additional notes and links
- Tokyo Vegan Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/vegan-389/
- Vegan Tokyo: https://vegantokyo.org/
- ciplantgo Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ciplantgo/