Brighde and Colleen are enjoying their time; From Vegan Delights to Cultural Traditions: The Joy of Japanese Tea, Food, Film, and Religion | Colleen Patrick-Goudreau | Ep 117

From Vegan Delights to Cultural Traditions: The Joy of Japanese Tea, Food, Film, and Religion | Colleen Patrick-Goudreau | Ep 117

Introducing Colleen

Welcome to The World Vegan Travel Podcast! Today’s special guest is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, the joyful vegan. Colleen is an expert in compassionate living and a bestselling author. We’ll be discussing our shared love for Japan, its culture, art, and cuisine, along with the unique challenges and rewards of vegan travel. Join us for this exciting episode!

During this episode, Colleen and I will delve into the profound influence of Japanese culture on our lives. We’ll discuss what initially drew us to Japan and how our interest has evolved over time. From the captivating aesthetics and philosophical underpinnings to the mesmerizing art and tantalizing culinary delights, Japan has left an indelible mark on both of us. We’ll also explore our favorite aspects of Japanese cuisine and shed light on the unique challenges and rewards of traveling as a vegan in Japan.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Brighde explored the influence of Japanese culture on their lives.
  • Initial attraction to Japan and how their interest has evolved over time.
  • Appreciation for Japanese aesthetics, philosophy, art, and culinary delights.
  • Sharing favorite aspects of Japanese cuisine and incorporating them into their own experiences.
  • Discussion on how Japanese culture has influenced their creative pursuits, daily routines, and personal lives.

Learn more about what we talk about

  • Excitement about specific landmarks and activities in Japan.
  • Exploration of the impact of Japanese artists on their creative endeavors.
  • Reflection on participating in Japanese festivals and ceremonies.
  • Insights into the experience of traveling as a vegan in Japan.
  • Surprises and unexpected discoveries during their encounters with Japanese culture.
  • Mutual excitement for the upcoming luxury vegan tour to Japan.

Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode

Connect with Colleen


Brighde: Hello, Colleen, and welcome to The World Vegan Travel Podcast.

Colleen: I didn’t know, I was in The World Vegan Travel Podcast. I thought this was the Food for Thought podcast.

Brighde: Welcome everyone. Colleen and I are coming to you today to talk about our love and appreciation of Japan, and we’re super excited about it. Right, Colleen?

Colleen: I cannot wait. 

Brighde: So let’s talk a little bit about our love of Japan. I think you have been more interested in Japan as a destination for Joyful Vegan Trips to go to, more than me. So why don’t you tell us a little bit, about how we got talking about a possible Joyful Vegan Trip, to Japan?

Colleen: Well, someone asked me on an interview yesterday how we choose the places we’re gonna go, and of course, we choose where we wanna go, but also we choose where we think people would wanna go, especially as it relates to, can they find the food they want, can we make sure that they have abundance? If it’s a vegan-unfriendly place, we wanna make sure that people can experience the abundance and the sites, the landmarks of the place, and have the best food you could possibly have in the locations we’re going to. That’s a huge part of it. Obviously, we get to choose. There are places I’m not really interested in going and you know, some of those places. And there are places that I’m really interested in going and there are places that I’m interested in going back to.

That’s again, that’s my choice, especially as it comes to the Joyful Vegan Trips, cuz you guys can do whatever you want as World Vegan Travel. But when it comes to me being part of the trips and hosting the trips, I’m a bit particular about where I wanna go. So yes, it’s about where we wanna go on the trips and take people. Japan is obviously a place that people are very interested in. I think it’s because they’re aware that regarding the language outside of the cities, English is not spoken a lot, but also, once you’re outside of a city, where you can go to a vegan restaurant in Tokyo or something, you’re in the countryside and you’re trying to get a dish without fish, you’re trying to get something customized or modified, it’s a lot harder.

I think people are aware of that in Japan. That might be the start of what you’re asking and I’ll put it back to you, but my love of Japanese culture goes way beyond and goes much farther back than when I even thought about these as a group trip. And it’s a place that I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time. But why don’t I just put that question back to you? Like why have you thought about Japan as a destination?

Brighde: I really love Asia, as a destination. I’m really interested in Asian culture. I lived in Vietnam and Thailand for many years. Any opportunity to go back is really exciting, interesting, and something that I want to be a part of. I’ve had lots of Japanese friends in the past. I’ve taught Japanese students, I’ve got to know a lot of Japanese people over time and they’re very interesting. I really appreciate many of the things that they are; the way they communicate, their outlook on things, and the ideas that they have. I really am very interested in this society of collectivism that they have and what that looks like in practice. So these are all things that are very interesting to me. Until we went there for our scout just a little while ago, Japan looked incredibly beautiful and I realized that is true, but it looked really beautiful. I love the fact that there were seasons. It’s just a place that I really wanted to spend more time visiting and learning more about. So that was really the main reason that I’m excited about a trip to Japan for sure.

Colleen: Yeah. It’s funny because Japan is a place I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time, and for instance, Southeast Asia was not. Yet we’ve now been to Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam and Cambodia are kind of those areas, they definitely were on the radar. I wouldn’t say they were top of the list for me and Vietnam wound up becoming a place that was like one of our favorite trips that we’ve ever done. Whether it was a Joyful Vegan Trip or not, we loved Vietnam so much and we do wanna go back and we do wanna go to Cambodia and we wanna go to Burma and all those places.

But it’s funny cuz I haven’t been to Japan, which has been like a huge part, I say a huge part of my life in terms of art, in terms of culture, in terms of food, in terms of aesthetics, in terms of philosophy, in terms of religion, in terms of architecture, like design. Japan has just infiltrated my life without even knowing it. I’m influenced, I’m inspired by so many different cultures and so many different languages and foods and cuisines, and again, religions and philosophies. Like I’m inspired by a lot. There’s so much to glean and gain from just people around the world. Right? 

I know some people have been really drawn to India. Some people are really drawn to Hinduism. Some people are really drawn to Buddhism from India. That’s just not an aesthetic that I was ever drawn to, but Japanese Buddhism basically took it from Hinduism and Indian Buddhism. Like the Romans took a lot from the Greeks, the Japanese took a lot from the Chinese. I realized that some of the things I love about Japanese culture were inspired by the Chinese, tea in particular. So tea has always been an aspect of Japanese culture that I’ve loved. Now, my everyday tea tends to be Chinese, I do drink mostly Chinese tea, but I also drink Japanese tea. Matcha, anybody knows matcha is a Japanese tea? The tea ceremonies, which again, they’re Chinese tea ceremonies, they’re Korean tea ceremonies but the Japanese tea ceremony is something I’ve always been interested in. I would say that, was I really interested in Japanese culture, before I moved to California and I would say probably not as much because California’s a lot closer to Asia and so the Asian culture and cuisines are obviously a lot more prevalent in California than say when I was in New Jersey. In New Jersey it’s a lot more European, it’s Italian, especially in New Jersey or New York are Italian. So when I came to California that’s when I got really interested in Japanese film, food, art, culture, tea.

Brighde: I remember way back in like 2007, your podcast from 2007, 2009. You were talking about Japanese films that you really liked a lot actually. What are some of your favorites even today?

Colleen: My God. For those who have been listening to my podcast for a while, they know that film is one of the art forms that I really respond to. After high school, I went to film school. I really thought I wanted to be a filmmaker. Turns out I just wanna be a film watcher and a film critic. So I do watch a lot of films from a lot of different countries. I think the first Japanese film I saw, was in 1998 because I remember it was once we moved to California, and I believe it was Ran, it was Kurosawa’s movie called Ron, which is an adaptation of the Shakespeare Macbeth story.

It’s just incredibly vibrant and big and dramatic and melodramatic, it’s breathtaking. It just sparked an interest in Japanese film, I should say and that became an absolute love of an affinity for Japanese films. I am convinced, I think post-World War II, and 1950s Japanese films are some of the best films ever made.

Brighde: A big call.

Colleen: Definitely Italian films, around the war during the war, and Neorealism. Those are some of my favorite films as well. Japanese and Italian culture and Japanese and Italian cuisine, are my two favorite cuisines, cultures, and films, but Kurosawa, if anybody hasn’t seen any Akira Kurosawa films, they are the best. Seven Samurai is my favorite film. If you go down to my den, our den is where we watch our movies and we have movie posters from our favorite films. You will see Seven Samurai and you will see Yojimbo, and you will see so many Japanese films. I’m in love with them.

 So anything by Kurosawa, but then what happens is you wanna see every director and so we would start watching every director. We were in Botswana, I remember some of our travelers shared with me that they watched some of the films I recommended, which means so much that people trust my opinion and check it out themselves. So Kobayashi is a director who made such incredible films. A lot of social or justice-oriented, compassion-oriented films. His subject matter is very much geared toward people who wanna do the right thing. So The Human Condition, It’s a nine-hour long film, it’s a three-parter and the name of my cat, Miko came from that film, cause The Human Condition, the main character was Kaji and Michiko, which is a common female. Also, one of our travelers who were with us in Rwanda, Miyumi who’s Japanese American, her mother’s name was Michiko.

Brighde: Oh, oh, how lovely. Oh my goodness.

Colleen: Yeah, so she’s like, how did you choose your cat’s name? And I was like, well, it was from Kobayashi’s film, The Human Condition. So yeah, Japanese films I think some of the best films ever made.

Brighde: Yeah, so you have this incredible love for film and literature, but I’m also curious if you try to integrate any sort of Japanese practices into your everyday life as well because I know you are very intentional about the things that you do every day and the habits that you have. I’m wondering whether are any particular ones that have been inspired by Japan that bring you great joy.

Colleen: Well, in our last house that we were in, we had a blank slate in the backyard. We had nothing there and we did wind up planting 17 fruit trees and lots of plants and raised beds and all of that. But we built a Japanese tea house. Again, this is not unique to Japanese philosophy. It really is mindfulness, which obviously many cultures and philosophies teach. But the idea of a tea ceremony, it really is ritual in the sense that it’s creating ways for you to engage in everyday activities, in a mindful way so that you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing.

So that you can actually put your energies into something that’s just more significant than a mundane act. So the Japanese tea ceremony has always been that for me and we’ve been to several Japanese tea ceremonies. So, in California, there’s the San Francisco Zen Center. They have several locations and one of the places is called Tassajara. We’ve been there for a retreat and they have ceremonies there, and they’re up in Green Gulch. For those of you who visit San Francisco, I highly recommend you go to Green Gulch. They’re vegetable gardens there, but there’s also a working monastery and they have a working tea house, and they have a tea ceremony every month. We’ve been to the tea ceremony a lot. There’s an intention to bring that to my daily tea consumption. Certainly don’t do a tea ceremony. I’ve thought about actually learning. It’s an intricate, difficult, arduous ceremony, but I’ve thought about doing it because it does bring me great joy and I think about it often. I don’t know that you know this Brighde, but I actually took Taiko, drumming lessons.

Brighde: Oh, I did not know that about you. I also didn’t know that you went to film school. I’m learning so much about you in this conversation.

Colleen: Well, it was short-lived until I realized I wanted to go and get a master’s in English literature. So it was before I went on to grad school. So my love of film has precedes my love of Japanese film. It goes back to when I was very young. So I took Taiko, Japanese drumming for those who don’t know. In San Francisco, there is a Japanese cherry blossom festival every year. So we used to go and there would be Taiko drummers and again, food and tea. So that is incorporated into my life, I would say. Cuisine-wise, I love Japanese cuisine, who doesn’t, but?

Brighde: so good.

Colleen: It’s just so simple and that’s what I love about. Again, I really find this parallel between Italian cuisine and Japanese cuisine, there’s a simplicity in the ingredients. The typical ingredients in Italian cuisine are obviously what’s ever in season produce-wise. But then, you get olive oil, salt, and pepper, and what else do you need? Maybe some balsamic vinegar. In Japanese cuisine, it’s kind of similar, right? You’ve got some vinegar, you’ve got some tamari, you’ve got your salt right? You’ve got your flavors, pickles, but that’s it. You don’t need a lot more than that. And I love the simplicity of Japanese cuisine, especially Shojin cuisine. So when we moved out to California, we discovered here in the Bay Area, there was a restaurant called Cha-Ya. I wouldn’t say it’s rigidly Shojin cuisine. Shojin cuisine is the cuisine of temples, Buddhists, and monks. But it was inspired by it and so we would just go there all the time. Now there are other Japanese Shojin restaurants that have been founded and we tend to go there. We haven’t gone to Cha-Ya as much. Lately, there was a restaurant called Medicine, which is the worst, I think name for a restaurant, especially.

Brighde: Isn’t it?

Colleen: But right in the dot com boom. There was a restaurant for those who were in San Francisco around the very beginning of the two thousand, there was a restaurant called Medicine, it was Shojin Cuisine. Maybe this is one of the reasons I love it so much, it was my gateway to liking mushrooms.

Brighde: Oh, they do have a lot of mushrooms in their cuisine that’s very often what they will have, and a reason why Seb is not a huge fan. But yeah, they’re always beautifully cooked and absolutely delicious.

Colleen: It was chuchaqui mushrooms that we were at medicine. It was on a soup or something, they came and David said, just try. I tried and I went, oh my God. Like the flavor, the smokey and the meaty, so good. So the cuisine is just something I love as well. That’s incorporated into my life pretty regularly. I’m not an expert in Japanese cuisine myself, but it’s part of our lives here and I just love it. I just love everything about it.

Brighde: Yeah, me too. I went on our scouting trip to Japan, enjoying the Japanese food or the Japanese-style food that I’ve eaten in the past, but I’ve just come away with a much bigger appreciation as to the breadth of the Japanese food that there is available, even made vegan. I’m really excited to share that with people.

Colleen: So one of the things that I loved so much about Vietnamese cuisine in Vietnam because you might remember I’ve said that, prior to going to Vietnam, I was not a huge fan of Vietnamese food. I identified it as being very meaty and I didn’t really gravitate toward it for that reason. Thai cuisine, there’s a Thai restaurant on every corner. So sure, curries, you can get vegan, whatever is fine. But I wasn’t a huge fan of Vietnamese cuisine, but I have since become a huge fan having gone to Vietnam. One of the things about Vietnamese cuisine that were so eye-opening and beautiful was just their artistry and the pair they take. And I have a feeling that is probably similar in Japan. Can you share some of your experiences when you were there?

Brighde: Absolutely, yes. The food is very beautiful. Everything, even a bowl of ramen is just beautifully presented in my opinion. Then of course, when you go to the nicer restaurants, It’s very beautifully done. We went to a cooking school, which will probably be like a cooking demonstration when we go there with our travelers. I was shocked as to how many dishes she was able to create or have us help her create, which of course adds an extra layer of complexity when you’ve got two people that dunno what they’re doing, trying to help. She just created this huge array of food in a really short amount of time. In a way, there was no fluster.

It was just all calm and the way it was presented, maybe I’ll put some photos in the show notes or something. It was gorgeous. Everything was so perfect on these beautiful platters. The sesame tofu had these little bits of gold leaf on top. It was so colorful and beautiful. I’m not describing it very well but definitely, the aesthetics was really surprising. Lots of small portions of things. Never too much food. I always commented that, wow, there are so many bowls for each person who is doing all of this washing up. It must be a nightmare because there are like 12 bowls for some meals. But yeah, it was just lovely. It was funny because when you started talking about Vietnam, I thought you were gonna talk about Yuba.

Colleen: Oh God. I love Yuba so much. The thing that I remember most about, are you talking about our plane ride? Our plane ride to Vietnam. Do you? So our plane ride to Vietnam was on Tokyo, Japan Airlines. One of the à la carte items was a bowl of, I believe it was soba with Yuba. And it was on the airplane and it was like one of the best things I’ve ever had, but also in Vietnam one of the things I loved so much obviously, was when we had the pho it was with Yuba, tended to be more with Yuba even than with Tofu. And for those who don’t know what Yuba is, it’s just basically if you make a pudding, you have that film on top, you have that skin from the milk. It’s the same thing when you’re making soy milk and if it just gets hot enough, it forms this film on top and you get this really wonderful layer of this chewy skin basically, and God, it’s good.

Brighde: I love it. I love the texture, and I dunno whether I’ve shared this with you, Colleen, but we’ve actually found a Yuba restaurant.

Colleen: In Japan?

Brighde: In Kyoto.

Colleen: No, you didn’t share that with me.

Brighde: I know. Well, we wanted to save all of our discussions for Japan and the scout that Seb and I just completed for this conversation. But yeah, we found this. It’s not vegan, but they usually would have a fish day. So of course we can make it vegan very easily by just changing out the broth, but, they’ve actually been making tofa in Yuba at this restaurant slash small factory for nearly a hundred years or so.

 They basically made a whole meal with the basis of Yuba. So this incredible Yuba dessert, like really soft Yuba, not the stuff that’s been dried. Like a very nice kind of pudding slash dessert. And then there’s deep-fried tempura yuba and all sorts of things. I thought that’s what you were gonna talk about when you talked about Vietnam, cuz I remember you being a huge fan of the Yuba in Vietnam.

Colleen: I do love Yuba. You’re making me think also a lot of people, and over the years when I teach cooking classes and my recipes, a lot of my recipes called for tamari as opposed to soy sauce because Tamari is very similar to soy sauce, obviously, it’s a liquid salty condiment. I prefer tamari over soy sauce. Soy sauce tends to be Japanese and it’s not fermented the way tamari is. And tamari is just really richer tasting and more full-bodied, and I just really prefer it. I don’t think we could put this on the itinerary because we have a full itinerary, but it just occurred to me that it would be really fun if maybe there’s even an extra excursion or in free time if we can recommend it to someone.

But it would be really interesting to go see a traditional tamari workshop or plant because tamari for those who don’t know, is actually a byproduct of miso making. So again, when we think about the foods that we eat all the time, the tofu, the tamari, and miso, these are all Japanese, but tamari is the liquid that rises and when you’re pressing down the mash, plus the ferment to make miso. The Tamari is a liquid that rises to the top, and that’s how Tamari was invented, was the making of miso. But now, of course, there are plants that actually just make the miso and then ferment it and bottle it and sell it commercially. But I’m sure there are some traditional tamari-making plants.

Brighde: Yeah definitely. That’s something that we can add in the choose your own adventure part of the trip that we’ve been talking about for so long. For listeners who might not be aware, we have been wanting to put together a trip to Japan, I think for four years, and we had to wait until the Covid traveler restrictions were lifted. So we’ve had it on the World Vegan Travel website for a really long time and people have been signing up. We’ve got 350 people on this list, and I’m sure many of those people would like to bring a plus one with them as well. Seb and I, just came back from Japan and as we speak, we’re kind of talking about when the trip will be ready to book.

 I’m sure in the introduction that we’ll do to this podcast, we’ll be able to give a more firm date about that. I’m curious, Colleen, which destinations are you particularly interested in, for this trip that we are going to check out on this trip? Because really this trip is like an introduction to Japan. Maybe we’ll do more in-depth Japan trips in the future but with kind of hitting the big ones with a couple of little off-the-beaten tracks. So which places or activities or destinations are you really interested in?

Colleen: So for the listeners, we’ll say that right now what we are thinking of is Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Kanazawa. So these are the four cities that we are looking to hit in this probably 10-day trip. So when I think about those four, I know nothing about Kanazawa. So that’s very new to me and it’s everything you both scouted and showed us looks amazing. So I can’t say that I know much about it, so that was never on my radar. David’s been to Tokyo for business and just the excitement of the city. I’m excited about that. I’m not a big noisy city person, although I did love Hanoi in Vietnam, which was a surprise and a nice surprise. I really enjoyed it. 

So I’m looking forward to that. I am mostly looking forward to Kyoto, cuz that’s where a lot of the Buddhist monasteries are and a lot of the Shojin cuisine is. Just more nature and I just love to get out into nature and be more in those places. So I’m looking forward to that. If you can arrange for me to meet Tatsuya Nakadai, who is my favorite actor. He’s now 90. He is in all of these films. He was Kaji in The Human Condition. He was in The Sword of Doom. So he was the King Lear figure, won the Academy Award for best foreign film, so that would’ve been 98 or so. So that is now how many years? 25 years or something and he played this old King Lear figure.

He’s now 90. So even then he was playing this older figure. He is amazing. And I think about him cuz he was born the same year as my mother, who is now deceased. I don’t know, I have this parallel I think because they were born the same year and he’s still alive and kicking and he’s amazing. If you could find, where Tatsuya Nakadai lives, if I could meet him, that would be fantastic.

Brighde: Does he speak English?

Colleen: I don’t think very much. But I’ll learn whatever Japanese I have to learn to speak to him. So that would be something I’d love to see in Tokyo. But yeah, I think Kyoto and a tea ceremony. Japanese tofu, Japanese Yuba, like I wanna have the Food of Japan. And so for you, I know obviously Japan is a completely different place than, Southeast Asia or any of the specific countries. But tell me what was surprising for you. You lived in Asia for so long. You were in Indonesia, you were in Vietnam, you were in Thailand, you were in Southeast Asia.

But what was surprising? Cause you’re used to, I would say some of the more mindful mannerisms and a bit more of slowness and of respect. There are these elements too, I think a lot of the Asian cultures that we’re talking about. But what did you go in with thinking that you already knew or were surprised by? What were you just open to and were surprised by as well?

Brighde: Yeah, that’s a great question. Something that really surprised me was just how efficient everything was. I shouldn’t say that it was a surprise cause I think we all know on a superficial level that Japan is very efficient. It really, really is. It is incredibly efficient and I know you and I have already told this story and I talked about it in my email newsletter, but on day four of the trip, I lost my train pass, these kinds of things don’t usually happen to me, but they did. For listeners that don’t know, when you’re traveling around Japan, trains are widely used and you can buy a train pass that works out cheaper than buying train tickets individually.

So I had this train pass and I tapped out of Kanazawa and put it away or so I thought. Then at about seven o’clock that evening, like seven hours later, my train pass was gone. I had been all over town by that point. I looked online to see if this pass was replaceable and this isn’t really that surprising. If you know Japan very well or Asian culture. I wasn’t surprised that this was not a replaceable thing. It’s like cash. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I felt really, really frustrated with myself about this because this was not a cheap train pass at all and we would’ve had to buy just extra train tickets.

 They said, go to the train station, maybe someone handed it in. So we went to the train station. No one handed it in, but they said, to go to the police station. So we went to the police station, just outside. It was completely quiet. It looked closed, but it was not. We went in and we explained we’d lost this train pass. It was in this kind of little special cover thing that was cream in color. This is where we’ve been, we showed them our Google Maps timeline for that day so they could kind of see where we’d been. It turns out that we had walked through another police district that day. So they contacted them and we were with Alina, a Japanese-speaking person who was doing all of the explaining for us.

And as the police officer was calling through and they were having a conversation, she’d nudged me and said, They think they might have it. And I was like, fingers crossed, fingers crossed. Just the fact that they are going to so much effort to find this pass when it was not a crime. It was just me dropping this thing. Anyway, once the police officer had got back to the police station and checked yes, they had it, so we were just overjoyed. I said to Aleena, well, can you tell him? We’ll go there right now so we can go pick it up. And they said no, no needs. They’re gonna come and drop it off.

And 10 minutes later we had it. So within 40 minutes, I had my train pass in my hand. All of this is to say that it’s a very, very interesting culture. The fact that these people were so mindful that found my past to think, this could be of some value to somebody. Let’s drop it off at the police station as soon as possible. Let’s get it processed really quickly by the police officer, and then let’s get it back to the person. I mean, that kind of hospitality, care, and consideration for other people is something that I really, really love and appreciate in Japan for sure.

Colleen: Yeah, I’m thinking that no place is perfect and of course, there’s crime everywhere. But I’m thinking of a colleague of David’s who moved to Tokyo with his family, eight years ago or something. He had at the time, like a six-year-old and an eight-year-old, and they would take the train by themselves, from the little suburb they lived into Tokyo, like this massive metropolis at six or eight years old and they were very confident that they would be safe. Because traditionally this very collective mindfulness around. That’s why Japan stayed closed as long as it did. You can only do it for so long. I think even the best person would still revolt eventually. That is amazing that not only did you find it, but that there was the expectation that you potentially would, Right? That was even a procedure that you could go through, to potentially find it. Cause here we’d be like, are you kidding?

Brighde: Ah-huh. It was really incredible. I had heard that this existed in Japan, this idea, but I thought it was anecdotal and that it might not necessarily happen to me in this case. But yeah, it’s just really great. This is another interesting thing about Japan as to just how hospitable they are and they want to really meet everyone’s expectations. That’s why some hotels that we’ve approached have said to us, I don’t think we can do a vegan trip with you. Of course, we have found some that are really excited to work with us just because they wanna know that they’ll be able to actually deliver what was promised. So it’s not surprising that some of them said no, this is too much for us right now, we can’t do it or we don’t have the time to invest in it, but, needless to say, we have found some hotels that are really interested in working with us to create a delicious Japanese vegan adventure. So yeah, it’s exciting.

Colleen: That’s what’s so interesting, right? That means so much to them and if they feel like they can’t do it, then that’s amazing. They have the self-awareness to be able to say no because one of the things we talked about in other mediums and forums was the idea of, it’s not like what a lot of us are used to, and that I’ve been teaching for a long time, which is asking for what you want and they’ll accommodate you because you’re a customer and you’re paying. It’s like Yes and not always necessarily in Japan. Right. That’s what you found. And again, that was also you saying that we’re bringing a group of people that we need seats for all the people that we’re bringing in. You found that was challenging, that was something they weren’t necessarily really amenable to.

Brighde: Yeah. That’s a great point. Basically, if you go to a regular non-vegan restaurant, most of them will not have a vegan option. It’s gonna be very, very hard for them to accommodate you. There are some non-vegan restaurants that do have some vegan options, which is great. Awesome. Wonderful. But, Japanese restaurants are generally speaking quite small, and as a result, they might not have enough space for a whole group. So this is one thing that we need to think about. They also have a different attitude to dining. For example, generally speaking, most dinners are not a two-and-a-half-hour, three-hour affair unless, of course, it’s this multi-15-course feast, for example. It’s often a case of, you eat and then you go, if you might have like have Okanomiaki with friends before dinner and maybe do something after dinner.

But generally speaking, you don’t spend a long time over dinner because they only have small restaurants. They need to get you out. So the next lot of people can come in and there’s very often a waiting list to come in, if they take reservations at all that’s not necessarily a given. So there are definitely some challenges when you are going to Japan, whether you are in a group or you are not, as a vegan because there are many fewer restaurants that you can actually visit. Vegan restaurants are often smaller, just like many restaurants in Japan. If I look on Happy Cow, I see these popular restaurants and then we’re like, we waited an hour and a half to get in.

Colleen: My understanding when I think about and what I’ve read about Japanese people, especially in the cities, is they don’t have kitchens. They eat out, all the time. So the restaurants are used to just turning people over like they’re not there to be a living room. In Italy, most people are eating at home still, so going out to restaurants is kind of an extension of your living room, and it really is the expectation that you’ll be there for a while. Where in Japan, they’re turning it over pretty quickly because they’re really accommodating people who are relying on that restaurant for their meal, or their dinner.

Brighde: Yeah, absolutely. But despite all of those challenges, we are really excited about the kinds of food that we are going to be able to show our guests and have our travelers eat. Of course, the Shojin food that we’ve talked about. Lots of ramen. Seb and I have become huge Ramen fans and Noodle Soup fans. We absolutely love it. Okanonmiaki. There are lots of different cuisines because our goal with this trip is to allow our travelers to experience, as much of the breadth of possible Japanese food, but obviously made vegan. So that’s really what we are trying to do and before we run this trip in March, April 2024, that’s what we’ll be working on. But certainly, the Scout was really helpful in that way that we saw that it’s possible to do.

Colleen: Well, I know it was torture for you guys to have to go over there and enjoy yourselves and Japan. Thank you for doing it. It was really cute. Cause when you were saying like, we’ve been thinking about it for four years and we had to delay it because of Covid. It’s not entirely true, is it? We had to convince, Seb.

Brighde: What do you mean? Oh

Colleen: To do this trip because the truth is, look, there are certain cuisines that are not my favorite cuisine. Thai cuisine is actually not one of my favorite cuisines. Seb loves Thai cuisine. Japanese cuisine is not one of Seb’s favorites. Happens to be my second favorite next to Italian, right? So he is just not a huge fan of the cuisine and because there’s a lot of mushrooms, but there’s not only mushrooms. However, I know we get a lot of questions from people all the time asking for special dietary needs, but if you don’t like tofu.

Brighde: Mm-hmm.

Colleen: Would you agree? I know we have some regular travelers and friends of ours who don’t like tofu and they’ll make it work. But part of what we do on these trips is to really celebrate the cuisine of the place we’re in. So, it is an opportunity to maybe expand and try some new things.

Brighde: Yeah, I’m really pleased that you said that, Colleen, because something that really was hitting home as we were going through this trip is that, it’s gonna be hard to accommodate, allergies and these particular food preferences. You could go without or you could go and do something else, but especially for the first couple of trips that we’ve run. I think it’s just really important to make sure that we can deliver something that’s great, that nearly everybody will be very happy with, rather than expecting restaurants to, for example, no sesame oil, let’s say off the top of my head, So, I think that’s really important.

We are gonna be running hopefully two trips. We will see how that goes in the cherry blossom time, that’s April 2024. Honestly, we don’t know if we’ll be doing cherry blossom time again because it’s really busy and it’s much, much more expensive. So if, listener you are listening to this and you are interested in experiencing Japan in this way and at the cherry blossom time, then this might be your only chance because we don’t expect to be running cherry blossom trips frequently.

Colleen: Right. And the other ones because we would probably keep putting Japan on the list. But it sounds like the fall looks like a stunning time to go. 

Brighde: Yes 

Colleen: not necessarily less expensive, but just absolutely stunning, really nice, beautiful, mild weather before it gets too cold up in the mountains and up north. But just picturesque because of all the colors. It just looks absolutely stunning.

Brighde: May was lovely. We were there in May. The weather was glorious and so, so green, so beautiful. So that would be another time as well and the prices are a little bit cheaper than for listeners that cherry blossom time and golden week, which usually happens in one of the weeks in May, which is the time when Japanese people traditionally have the whole week off, so everybody is traveling and full-time with the changing of the colors around November. It’s very late, in my opinion, but that’s another very expensive time. So, if you’re interested in cherry blossoms, these first trips, we’ll give you the best chance of hitting them. Of course, there’s no guarantee that we will hit cherry blossoms, even though we are timing it to increase our chances the most, but we will be going to four different areas, so hopefully we’ll hit them at least once, maybe twice, maybe all four times. Who knows?

Colleen: Hopefully there will be a blossom of cherry. Come on. It’s a World Vegan Travel trip, we’re just gonna plant some cherry blossoms somewhere, aren’t we? Just drop them down somewhere. Take cherry blossom garland, somewhere.

Brighde: It’s a beautiful time. That is for sure.

Colleen: Awesome. I can’t wait. I truly cannot wait and I know that so many people who are on the list cannot wait. So they’ll be hearing, I don’t know, by the time this goes out, if they’re gonna have already seen the announcement, but as you said, there are hundreds of people on this list, and in the end, we’ll see who’s able to go in the time we’re able to go. And we already mentioned that it was gonna be a more expensive trip just because Japan, like Rwanda, I would say those are our two most expensive trips, they’re expensive places to go. They’re worth it. They’re once-in-a-lifetime trips, especially doing it the way we’re doing it and I can’t wait.

And thank you, I’m so glad we were able to convince Seb to do this and we’ll see how it goes. I know I’m super excited and I will definitely, for anybody who’s signed up, list out any movies. If you’re interested in any movies, right now, I would say, first of all, see anything by Akira Kurosawa see Seven Samurai, please. Seven Samurai is one of the best films ever made. That’s the thing about Japanese film too, is that Japanese film was influenced by American films. Obviously, Americans had a huge stamp on Japanese culture because after World War II. Also, Japanese films have had a huge impact on American filmmakers as well.

I can think of several off the top of my head and especially Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro, that impacted George Lucas, some of the characters from The Hidden Fortress, which was a Kurosawa film where George Lucas got the inspiration for R2-D2 and 

Brighde: Hmm. 

Colleen: R3. What is his name?

Brighde: C-3PO or something.

Colleen: C-3PO. Well, yeah, R2-D2 and C-3PO. I actually can’t remember who, which one was the little one. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I’m a Samurai fan, and if you can also make sure I see some Samurai fortresses like that would be amazing as well. I’m super excited about that because honestly, the Samurai films are my favorite films, and I know that sounds probably really weird from I don’t know, a female, modern American, but I love Samurai films so much. It’s kind of the same way. I love Westerns. I know you wouldn’t think that it would be something, it seems like really politically incorrect, but these films the Samurai films and the Westerns tend to be about being in a place of lawlessness and how you create justice in a time and a place of lawlessness. How do the characters respond to that? And that’s just something that really intrigues me.

 You’ll see it in American Westerns and you’ll see it in Japanese Samurai films, plus Nakadai was just incredibly gorgeous. Toshiro Mifune is also a Japanese film actor who’s amazing. He was in a majority of Kurosawa’s films, as well. He was incredible. So Seven Samurai is a film, everybody has to see. The Sword of Doom is a really interesting dark film with Nakadai, which I highly recommend. He’s a really difficult kind of, disturbed character, but he was amazing in it to watch vibrancy in this actor. Tatsuya Nakadai is like the Marlon Brando of Japanese film.

He was very forceful and emotional and he also just like Marlon Brando, would just get into the character and become the character. He’s just so vibrant to watch. He’s just incredible and he was, again, gorgeous. He’s 90, he’s still adorable, and he was gorgeous in his prime. So I’d say Seven Samurai, Sword of Doom, and The Human Condition, if you wanna watch nine hours, one of my favorite films. There are a lot of really wonderful ones that were post-modern kind of in the 1960s as well. There are a lot of really interesting Yakuza films, which is a Japanese mafia film. So I could go on and on, but we’ll have to just do an episode just on Japanese films.

Brighde: Of course. Well, I will definitely say that I am not nearly as well read and watched as many films and appreciate films, but I have really enjoyed Alice in Borderland. It’s on Netflix right now. It’s really good. I can tell you that it’s a little bit like Squid Games. In that, it’s based on a game situation, but I think that’s where the similarity stops. It’s really good. I just finished the first season. I love it. It’s great. I would recommend that, but it’s certainly not as classy as the films that Colleen is talking about.

Colleen: I’m not saying they’re classy. These are some intense films. Some of them are violent and et cetera but they’re wonderful. So yeah, there’s just so much I’m really excited about. Here’s the other thing. One of the reasons I love to travel, isn’t just what I’m bringing to it and what I’m hoping to get, the expectations that I’m bringing to it, right? Like, I love Japanese tea and food and language and film, so I’m bringing that, no. I can’t wait to learn more and experience more and have my life enriched by the experience of a completely different place. A place that is so different from the world that I grew up in, the world that I live in every day.

Yes, I’ve been inspired by aspects of Japanese cuisine that is very different than being immersed in the culture and living there. I know some things about Japanese culture, but I am most looking forward to learning more, and that’s what travel is about. It’s about learning and understanding and coming home with a passion for learning more and reading more and having a better understanding of other people who live on this planet. So I am so excited for so many reasons to go to this incredible place.

Brighde: I totally agree. It’s gonna be amazing. So if you are interested in this trip or what World Vegan Travel does, you can go to, worldvegantravel.com. You’ll find the link to the Japan trip and we encourage you to go check it out and see if it’s interesting to you and Colleen.

Colleen: Yeah, exactly and joyfulvegan.com is where you can find everything I do. I used to have blog posts about my favorite Japanese films, my favorite films in general. I need to get that back on there, but people can find my favorite films. I do a list of my favorite films each year that we watch, so you can just type in films or movies, but just obviously we’d love to see you on any of the trips and you can find that over joyfulvegan.com and can’t wait to see you again, my friend. So we’ll see each other very soon.

Brighde: I can’t wait either. Thanks so much, Colleen.

Colleen: Thank you. Bye.

Sign up to be notified first!


This trip is still in the planning stage, but you can expect:

Scheduled for September 2025
100% vegan local French cuisine
stay in a château!
Visit castles and medieval villages
17,000 year-old prehistoric cave art
Visit & tasting at a Loire winery

Sign up to be notified first!


This trip is still in the planning stage, but you can expect:

Scheduled for September 2025
100% vegan local French cuisine
stay in a château!
Visit castles and medieval villages
17,000 year-old prehistoric cave art
Visit & tasting at a Loire winery

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