It’s been a little difficult for me to go back to writing about a vegan diet and new vegan recipes given events of March 11 and the ongoing crisis just 150 miles away in Japan’s Tohoku (northeast) region.
We grieve for those who lost loved ones and property, now staying in evacuation shelters and perhaps unable to return to their homes. Indeed, thousands have had their towns decimated, or made uninhabitable due to radiation. Countless farm animals and pets were swept away, and many roam in the perimeter of the reactors, without food.
Trivial by comparison are the psychological effects of those indirectly affected, and others who now realize they are living near active earthquake zones, coastlines, or more than 50 nuclear power plants in Japan:
- Some have lost family, friends or property to the disaster. Still others have had their families separated as a result of wives and children leaving Tokyo due to radiation fears.
- Numerous non-Japanese have either left Tokyo for good, or–having made a hasty departure and observing events from abroad–don’t know how or when they will ever feel safe there again. Many people were traumatized by the violent shaking, and cannot return to jobs in high-rise buildings, or ride a subway train, or step into an elevator.
- Most everyone has become more energy conscious at home (some forced to by scheduled power outages), and outside many escalators and public facilities are closed to conserve energy. Trains have been reduced and illumination in the stations turned down.
- Consumers are suspicious of vegetables–especially when they’re cheap–assuming they are contaminated with radioactivity. Japanese chefs are savoring their stock of seaweed. The Sanriku coastal area had produced the tastiest and most tender kelp (i.e. konbu, wakame) before the nuclear disaster.
- Natto, a strong (some say foul) smelling fermented soybean–which is either loved or hated–has been rationed since the earthquake, as many of the producers were in the affected region.
- Cherry blossom or “Hanami” season festivities were subdued out of respect for the victims and austerity.
- My cat tore off her toenail in panic during the earthquake, and–paw bleeding–would not come out of her litterbox. Now she goes to hide there every time an aftershock occurs.
Speaking of aftershocks, there have been countless significant tremors since the initial quake, including several during the course of writing this article, making it difficult to lower one’s guard completely.
Regardless of how dark things appear, we must be vigilant to look for bright spots: Like Sugawara-san, the heroic captain who headed out to sea following the Tsunami alert, to save his boat and keep his island from being cut-off, or Ban, the dog who survived 3 weeks floating on a rooftop before being rescued by helicopter and reunited with his owner.
I had visited Tohoku on two occasions. A guide from the Iwate prefecture sightseeing association took me to several historic temples in the Hiraizumi, a World Heritage nominated area filled with national treasures of the Heian period (794-1185) and natural beauty. I especially recall a 9th century temple constructed in a cliff, and a flat bottomed riverboat ride through Gebikei Gorge, which is breathtaking when the leaves are turning in the fall.
Afterward we ate lunch at a sake brewery in Ichinoseki (2 hours from Tokyo by bullet train) whose restaurant served rice cakes, or mochi, with many kinds of unique sauces, including azuki beans, chestnut, sweet green soy paste, and ginger. I am always delighted to find a meal that is unadulteratedly vegan, healthy, and delicious!
Shortly after the earthquake, I was relieved to confirm through Google’s People Finder that both the guide who showed me around Hiraizumi and a close friend of mine living in the seaport city of Kessenuma were both alive and well.
Apprehensively, I rang the number of the mochi restaurant a few days ago, fearing that the phone had been disconnected, or would ring endlessly. I felt so excited when they answered and told me they were spared major damage, and were in fact back in business. They thanked me for my concern, and I promised them I would return soon. I know that Tohoku and Japan will be back, too.
Many are saying there has never been a better time to become vegan, due to the benefits of plants for your immune system, to save energy and to reduce the burden on the planet caused by raising livestock. If you want to make the switch to a plant-based diet, check out the 21-Day Kickstart site today.