MPs arranging a meat free bonanza at Tokyo Olympics

A group of Japanese lawmakers has been formed to improve offerings at next year’s Games

Japanese lawmakers left, House of Representatives building in Tokyo

Ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics in Japan next year, a group of people interested in healthy eating, smashing records and inspiring the world have been meeting to discuss tactics. No, not athletes, but meat free legislators.

The Tokyo Games will see 40 million tourists flock to the country in 2020, a large and growing proportion of them will be meat free eaters or meat reducers. Of the 31 million people who visited Japan last year, 1.5 million were either vegetarian or vegan.

Because the national cuisine does not always cater for them, however – and thanks to the encouragement of MFM’s sister organisation Meat Free Monday All Japan – it was decided to form a group of lawmakers dedicated to making greener grub more widely available to hungry sports fans.

The snappily titled All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vegetarians met for the first time this month. Headed by MP Takeo Kawamura, the former chief cabinet secretary, it will help government agencies and other organisations co-operate in the delivery of more plant-based fare, as well as providing better information and signage to help non-Japanese speakers understand what they’re ordering. The introduction of a “V-mark” has been mooted, so tourists know which restaurants cater for them.

As well as presentations by several vegan groups, all those attending the group’s inaugural meeting were given a delicious vegan lunch box to tuck into. Perhaps more importantly, the event was heavily covered by the Japanese press, meaning the message of healthier, more planet-friendly food was spread far and wide. The group will put their heads together regularly in the lead-up to the Games, which run from July 24 to August 9, followed by Paralympics, from August 25 to September 6.

It has been a promising couple years for meat free eating in Japan, whose cuisine, heavily dependent on fish, has become increasingly meat-focused. In 2017, inspired by a visit to Tokyo by Meat Free Monday founder Paul McCartney, two government agencies joined MFM. And last year, Tokyo’s vast Metropolitan Government Building began offering a Meat Free Monday menu at its Building 1 canteen. The move was a response to Paul’s call for the city to redouble its efforts to serve more planet-saving food.

It’s clear that, with less than nine months to go until the start of the Games, the Olympian efforts to turn Japan into a meat free gold medallist will continue.