Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vegetarian in Japanese

In 2001, I went to Japan on my first business trip. I wanted to be sure I knew how to ask for vegetarian food, so I asked my Japanese-American colleague. He taught me a complicated phrase in Japanese, and explained it meant "Vegetable Eating Principle". He said this was the closest, since there is no equivalent word for vegetarian in Japanese. My trip was successful, thanks to local sales folks that helped translate and me keep alive, but on a couple of occasions I was on my own. I tried using the phrase he taught me, but it drew a blank - not sure if it was my accent or if it was that phrase. They would respond "Fish ok?" or "Chicken Ok?" and I finally settled for Ice-cream as a safe option!

After several years gap, I made a few trips down this year. Now, I have picked up the taste for Okonomiyaki, Soba, Udon soup, Teriyaki, Cucumber sushi rolls in respective vegetarian versions, so it isn't that difficult anymore. But, in my recent trip, I finally found an english speaking waitress at a Thai restaurant in Tokyo, and asked the question - "How do you say vegetarian in Japanese?". Her response, "Actually, it's the same word as english - vegetarian"! That was very filling indeed!

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