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Vegetarian/vegan parliamentary group aims to ease concerns among Tokyo Games visitors

The vegan boxed "bento" lunch served at the inaugural meeting of a parliamentary group on the promotion of a vegetarian- and vegan-related system. Only the ketchup was vegetarian. (Mainichi)
Members of a newly established parliamentary group on the promotion of a vegetarian- and vegan-related system try vegan boxed "bento" lunches at the group's inaugural meeting on Nov. 6, 2019. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, legislators from ruling and opposition parties launched a parliamentary group to consider how vegetarians and vegans visiting Japan from abroad can do so without worrying about where and what to eat.

Established Nov. 6, the parliamentary group on the promotion of a vegetarian- and vegan-related system will deliberate the implementation of symbols showing goods that are certified as suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and if and how public funds could be used to support vegetarian menus.

With the rise in the number of inbound tourists, the number of vegetarians and vegans visiting Japan has risen, and according to the new lawmakers' group, some statistics show that the number of vegetarian and vegan visitors exceeds the number of Muslim visitors. However, it has been pointed out that Japan lags behind in the number of restaurants and menu items that are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and in letting such people know where they can go to eat, as compared to the strides that have been made in the availability and accessibility of Halal food and restaurants.

In addition, it is said that the methane that is produced in the process of raising cows -- through cows burping and passing gas -- makes up 16% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, and the understanding that excessive livestock raising is one cause of climate change is spreading. From this standpoint, too, there is a demand for vegetarian and vegan options.

"The Olympics and Paralympics are fast approaching, and we are entering an era of 40 million inbound tourists," said former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, who was appointed the legislator group's chairman at the inaugural meeting. "We would like to deliberate what related government ministries and agencies can do while listening to the requests of interest groups and organizations."

The inaugural meeting of a parliamentary group on the promotion of a vegetarian- and vegan-related system was held at the Diet on Nov. 6, 2019. (Mainichi)

Nonprofit organizations and leaders of corporations were also present at the meeting. They offered views such as "Veganism has yet to be included in universal design in Japan," and "Certification symbols for foods that have been certified as vegetarian or vegan should be created."

Following the meeting, Kawamura said, "We would like to do our utmost to extend our spirit of hospitality to our vegetarian and vegan visitors."

(Japanese original by Daisuke Nohara, Political News Department)

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