If you’ve ever even dabbled in vegetarianism or veganism–maybe in college, or maybe just to lose weight–then you know all too well the chorus of suspicion and judgement over what ultimately amounts to a personal–if temporary–choice, especially around Thanksgiving. Having to defend one’s eating habits is never fun. And feeling threatened by a seemingly righteous non-meat-eater when all you want to do is enjoy your turkey drumstick is no fun either.

By Sarah Custen

So why not dispense with all of that and enjoy some delicious, interesting, well-prepared food and one-of-a-kind products in a social setting? This years Tokyo Vegefood Festa aims for nothing more than a good time, regardless of your personal philosophy. “For us, this event is only for fun,” said Festa organizer Natsuko Takahashi. “Of course we have something for people who want to learn more about vegetarian and vegan culture, but we want people to enjoy the festival first.”

Of course, at a dietary-themed festival, the main attraction and distraction is the food. For those of you skeptical of just how tasty and filling veggie foods can be, Takahashi recommends festival newcomer Mana Burgers, representing the trendy restaurant opened just last summer. Or, you can go a more traditional route with Komaki Shokudo, serving modernized zen-style food. “The owner’s dad was a zen priest who published many zen food cookbooks,” explained Takahashi. “So Komaki Shokudo may provide visitors opportunities to realize that traditional Japanese food was more like vegetarian food.”

As we reported last year, Japan has moved far from it’s traditional zen roots, in terms of diet, yet many people take for granted that Western influences and modernization have resulted in dramatic shifts to in daily life, diet, and even health in Japan. Take, for instance, the ubiquitous bowl of white rice, omnipresent in almost all Japanese meals. Yet that was not always the way, and it’s not always the best option. Festival vendor Tubu Tubu is shaking that up, offering a variety of different grains, all with health benefits rooted in ancient Japanese beliefs and practices. If you’re sick of white rice, try their millet, buckwheat, or quinoa, as well as meat-substitutes (think eggs, pork, even cod roe) made from whole grains.

Though much has changed over the years, Takahashi is delightedly optimistic about the role of vegetarian and vegan lifestyle options in the years to come. “I think [it’s] going to expand exponentially,” she said. “I’ve started seeing many TV personalities talking about eating healthy with vegetarian/vegan food on TV, and some of them even open their own restaurants and cafes serving vegetarian food.”

This years festival features a full line up of such veggie-friendly celebs, including a famous star who will share her experience of natural birth, as well as nutrition specialists, athletes, models and musicians. “And they are all volunteers!” added Takahashi.

See what all the fuss is about, or just enjoy music food and the last of the nice weather, this weekend in Yoyogi Park.

Tokyo Vegefood Festa 2014

Yoyogi Park, in front of NHK Hall (Keyaki Street)
Saturday & Sunday, November 29-30
10:00–16:30, rain or shine