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Primal in Japan

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  • Primal in Japan

    Is anyone else over here in Japan (Kansai specifically) living and eating primally? I ask because, though it's relatively easy to find seemingly good food in the grocery stores, most stores tell you almost nothing about organic / pastured / natural / free range and the like. For instance, I've tried to find pastured / grassfed butter, but it's been entirely fruitless. I can find many types and brands, and they'll tell you where the milk is from, but nothing else... the story is the same for meat: it's from so-and-so prefecture. Great. How was it raised though? Eggs are a little better, but only marginally. The story is best for fish / seafood: wild caught vs farmed; fresh vs frozen.

    Basically, it's easy to know if something is domestic or foreign, but I've had almost no luck finding other vastly more important information (IMO). So, if anyone has any tips for finding more ideal animal products and produce in Japan, or can comment with some authority on how most domestic animals are raised, I'd be very grateful.

    The combination of seemingly lax food labeling laws and a general lack of interest in non-industrial farmed food here is pretty frustrating sometimes. But, I still eat primally, I just have little to no information about how what I eat was grown / raised.


    Primal food in Japan

  • #2

    Hmm I was going to post this earlier but forgot. Well since no one replied I will. I just came back from living in Japan for 2 years, lived just outside Misawa city about 30 minutes outside Hachinohe. As much farming that the North had, I was surprised myself of the lack of organic food. Then again the area was quite poor regardless, and definitely not a place for the truly primal to live in. None the less I ate out a lot at Yakiniku places, and bought eggs and produce, and mostly premade meals. I asked a few co-workers (Japanese contractors) a little about how much better their food was to the US. Apparently they said that their food was fresher and usually regulated better than in the US, but I really don't know if they knew what they were talking about. Obviously seafood is plentiful, I hate seafood myself. Plenty of stores sell all sorts of weird meat, including horse, which I really wanted to try but never did. Sorry wish I could help you more, but I had the same problems when I was there. grassfed and organic might as well have been a new concept to them, because even those who knew what I was talking about had no clue where to find it. Ganbatte ne!


    • #3

      I was going to ask a question about primal living in Japan. This is some pretty interesting info ... me, my husband, and four other friends will be traveling to Japan in November. I was really concerned about how primal eating was going to hold up. I'm not going to stress too hard because it is vacation, but I'm not the biggest seafood fan either ... at least not the real exotic stuff. I also don't want to get food poisoning.

      I'll have to do some more research on the subject; if I find anything of note, I'll pass it along.


      • #4

        yep, you won't usually see info about whether meat is free range or grass-fed;

        if you have enough money to buy "kokusan" meat, why not contacting the farm and ask how do they raise the cattle (i heard that to get that marble look of the beef producers feed beer to cattle)


        • #5

          It's fairly easy to eat primal in Japan if you do a little work. That being said, it's a lot harder if not almost impossible to eat "truly primal", as in grass fed anything and organic foods. You can't really do much though, I'm sure there are some people you can talk to but that requires really knowing the area and talking to a bit of people. My favorite restaurant is a Yakiniku restaurant, which for those of you who don't know is basically a restaurant where you order trays of raw meat. You sit at a table with a small built in grill and you cook it yourself. Some places (well called them "Vikings") had buffet versions, so you could eat as much as you want for roughly $15.


          • #6

            Oh Kaizen, my husband and I ate at a Yakiniku restaurant in Honolulu last year. I didn't know that's what it was called! We had NO idea what was going on because no one spoke English, but everything was delicious! I was vegan at the time so I had mushrooms and potatoes, but it was still a ton of fun. Thanks for sharing that bit

            We'll have a friend with us who took Japanese in college so hopefully we'll have the upper hand on most American tourists.


            • #7

              Japan is very foreigner friendly, just show respect and they LOVE it when you try to use Japanese to address them and thank them. Bonus points if you can say "good food" (Gochisosama) and show proper respect. Have fun, I truly love that country. Having a Japanese fiance definitely has it's advantages, hehe. Oh and just a heads up, as in any country, there are different "dialects" across Japan. So Northern Japan has more of a "country" Japanese, while some cities in Tokyo are more modern and sometimes even use slang. It's interesting that cities nearby, within 30mins to an hour have a completely different way of saying things. Have fun!


              • #8

                Thanks for the tips!! We'll be sticking mostly to Tokyo & Kyoto as far as I know. Tonight is actually our big planning night; we're going to a great Japanese restaurant and talking about what all of our friends want to accomplish while there since we'll be a group of six.

                I will definitely brush up on my Japanese phrases; I have a Nintendo DS game that teaches you some very basic polite and helpful phrases. I can't wait to be immersed in their culture. That is really odd that even over such a short distance, big cultural differences exist. Japan seems like a country of such varying degrees of technology and whether or not they choose to use it. Lots of "old school" Japanese, I would guess?

                And of course congratulations on being engaged! Are you planning to incorporate both of your cultures in the ceremony if you don't mind me asking?


                • #9

                  I never got to visit Kyoto sadly enough. It cost me quite a bit to travel to visit my fiance, who lives 4 hours away from Tokyo. I visited Tokyo twice, go down to Asakusa and ride the "man chariots", I don't know what to call them. But basically they have carriages with a man or woman in traditional garb pulling you around the city for like $30 an hour or something. I have a ton of pictures from that area, but I don't want to take over this thread. Some areas use old school Japanese, but it's mostly slang. You probably won't notice unless you actually live there and really get immersed in the language. Oh and I plan on getting married down there in Japan, so mostly a Japanese style wedding. If you want to know more, send me a PM and I'll be glad to show you pics and give you more tips.


                  • #10

                    I live in Tokyo and have been eating primal since Aug. 1. The difficulties that I have encountered are:

                    1) Rice is the best I've ever tasted. I was born and raised in Hawaii so I miss it with every meal and the temptations are great.

                    2) Japan makes the best breads and desserts. High-end bakeries all over the place.

                    3) There is a natural healthy fats supplement product I used to buy called Udo's Oil. It sells for 5 times more than the U.S. When I complained to founder Erasmus Udo about it, he said the only remedy is to move back to the states. So I don't buy it anymore.

                    4) Muscular physiques are not popular throughout Japan. Ultra slim is in, for males and females. Conforming with the masses is encouraged unless you are a sumo wrestler, in which case you are revered. The city parks are beautiful but pull-up bars are hard to find for some reason.

                    5) Many Japanese like to smoke and drink heavily. Salaryman workdays consist of long boring hours filled with make-work bureaucratic tasks. Still, on average the life expectancy here ranks in the top three globally so they are doing something right to counter all the negative effects. Perhaps the diet?

                    The advantages are:

                    1) The quality of food in Japan is much higher than in the U.S. I do think the government and/or the domestic food industry takes pride in ensuring that food is fresh, safe, nutritious, etc. For those that don't like seafood, I suggest Yakitori (grilled chicken) but have them use sea salt instead of heavy soy sauce to flavor it. I love the fish here. And I also theorize that the general population is healthy because of high seaweed consumption, which keeps your thyroid running right. So much iodine is apparent in the Japanese diet that salt isn't iodized here. There is a supermarket chain called National Azabu in Tokyo. It caters to expats so just about all of their products come with shelf labels that describe products, especially if they are organic, so they can charge a premium price. Unless I take trips to the farm and see for myself, I don't trust many people who say their products are organic or free range. I mean really, how can you confirm that every day for all that you eat?

                    The beef in Japan that's imported in is primarily from Australia and is grass fed. The high-end beef produced domestically such as Wagyu and Kobe go through an interesting process: They are fed beer to fatten them up. Also, the cows are massaged and pampered. Given that, I haven't investigated whether the beef or poultry industries here abuse animals U.S.-factory style but I believe the treatment here has to be a lot better than the U.S. or China.
                    Last edited by Godzilla; 11-28-2010, 09:49 PM.


                    • #11
                      i wonder where, in japan or us/europe the population is more (potentially) primal-friendly in terms of being ready to accept the validity, and implement in practice, basic tenets like "grain free" existence, that is if you take either an average american or a japanese and tell him/her "from now on, thou shall not eat grains", where the incidence of "are you crazy!?"-like reaction would be higher?
                      i personally think that for a japanese ditching rice would be much more difficult and even unthinkable than for a westerner to stop eating wheat: everybody eats rice, in huge quantities, almost three times a day, and, however incredible (and sometimes frustrating))) it may be, stays extremely slim


                      • #12
                        Most people here in Japan (Osaka) are indeed thin, or rather, a healthy weight, but I'm not so sure I'd call most healthy looking. A startling number of people seem to have various skin conditions here... I can't help but think it might be related to carb overload as well as the fact that damn near everything has "salad oil" in it (usually soy bean oil... but non GMO as if that made much difference). The Japanese may have had one of the longer life expectancies, but with all the absolute garbage the postwar generation is eating these days that will likely soon change.

                        Some typical breakfasts:
                        a slice or two of cloyingly sweet thick cut white bread with jam or honey, juice, maybe some yogurt
                        a bowl of rice with some sort of sprinkled topping (maybe natto, maybe dried fish, maybe dried salty shiso), juice / tea, and possibly soup

                        For lunch and dinner, if rice is served, it is considered the meal and everything else the accompaniment. And, if there's no rice for some reason, you can bet that there will be some noodle of some form.

                        The Japanese aren't fat in general, so perhaps rice at least can't be directly implicated as a cause of obesity. However, I'd be reluctant to call the majority of modern day Japanese adults "healthy". Doubly, nay, triply so for the work-a-day men here... admittedly it's a bit of a stereotype, but all too true at the same time: smoking, drinking, not sleeping, working 10+ hour days 6 days a week, no exercise, and a diet of, while perhaps not fattening, nutritionally dead white rice can't be good for one's well being.

                        Do the Japanese in general eat "better" than many western nations? Yes, especially the older generations. Are the Japanese the model of perfect health and longevity that CW would have people believe? Not unless your only metric for healthy is "not fat".

                        End mini-rant Japan is a fantastic place to live if you can escape corporate servitude somehow, but there are also an unending number of rant worthy topics -- change is a four letter word here
                        Primal food in Japan


                        • #13
                          I'm happy I found this thread. I'm planning a trip to Japan next spring for three weeks and I was a little concerned about what I am going to eat since rice and noodles are a large part of the diet. Wheat is also very popular. I love fish and seafood and of course beef, chicken and pork. I would assume I'd be okay with the many vegetables, but I know I'll most likely be tempted into trying many 'unprimal' things. I'll try to stick to markets as much as I can, but I like the suggestion of visiting Yakiniku. Are Yakiniku locations all across Japan? I could totally feast on meat! Cheers
                          I blog here:


                          • #14
                            Faumdano, I felt the same when I was there. I lived in Aomori and Nagano for a total of 3 and a half years, and anytime I hear a Westerner praising the Japanese for their long life span, I remember that the old people there are pretty much death warmed over. Sure you meet a few spry ones but they are definitely the exception.

                            There's always some kind of bug going around, teenagers and adults are chronically exhausted, like you said there are a ton of skin problems, and let's not forget the teeth.

                            I found out about the paleo diet and the PB through foreigner friends while I was in Japan. If you think it's difficult explaining this lifestyle to a Westerner, the Japanese are almost impossible. Whereas a Westerner might say, "I can't give up bread. I like it too much!" a Japanese would say, "I can't give up rice. I'm Japanese!" It's such a cultural thing. Suffice it to say that I got some truly incredulous looks when I declined rice at a meal.

                            It's a bit more expensive to eat Primally in Japan. I had a lot of chicken instead of beef. Good luck finding a nice fatty roast (or an oven big enough to cook it in, for that matter). Your best bet would be to learn to love seafood, from sea urchins and eels on up, and I mean the whole animal, head and guts and all. Vegetables are all right, and you can get olive oil, but I don't remember seeing coconut oil.

                            It is true that the ultra-slim physique is "in," but foreigners are expected to be more muscular when they're not outright fat, so don't worry too much about that.
                            You lousy kids! Get off my savannah!


                            • #15
                              I lived in Japan for five years, all pre-primal though, but I've been interested in good fresh food for a long time. Generally the quality of food is extremely high, Japanese are a nation of serious gourmets though that's not always obvious. Most of the beef you get will be from Australia and all-grassfed, and very nice. Seafood selection is probably the very best in the world. Veggies - the cheaper veg is imported from China, the good stuff is grown in Japan. "Grown in Japan" is about as close as you'll probably get to a "good quality" organic-type designation. If it's a shorter trip, I would encourage you to use up some 20% and try all the traditional foods. BTW, no HFCS, and things are far less sweet in general than the US.
                              If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least and this (personal fave):