From today, visitors to and workers in Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Building who want to celebrate Meat Free Monday will be able to do so in high-rise style, thanks to a new menu introduced by authorities in the Japanese capital – and with a little help from MFM founder Paul McCartney.
Found in Shinjuku, one of Japan’s busiest and most famous districts, and modelled on the medieval Catholic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, the building takes up three city blocks and houses as many as 10,000 staff. But it is also open to members of the public and tourists, meaning even more people getting a taste for meat free eating in the world’s most populous city. While omnivores will still be able to buy their usual fare, this is the first time vegans, vegetarians and meat reducers have been directly catered for.
Paul threw his weight behind calls for Tokyo to get serious about meat reducing after reading about recent efforts to improve the diet of government staff. Since April last year, employees in the Cabinet Office and Cabinet Secretariat have been enjoying a full veggie menu on a Friday. April was chosen because of its auspicious associations with new beginnings, as well as for the fact that Paul was performing in Tokyo that month.
Delighted with the news, and helped by Meat Free Monday All Japan, Paul wrote to the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, to ask whether the city as a whole would consider making a commitment to eating with people and planet in mind. Several other major metropolitan centres have already made the leap, including Sacramento, Oslo, San Francisco and Turin, but with Tokyo’s population set to top 14 million by 2020, and a major global sporting event on the horizon, the decision could significantly raise the profile of meat free eating.
Keen to burnish her city’s environmental credentials in the run-up to hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Koike was only too happy to help. “Climate change has enormous impacts on agricultural production and could trigger insufficient global food supply,” she said. “Currently, although one out of nine people in the world are starving, 11kg of crops are needed as feed to produce 1kg of beef. We need to be fully aware of such facts and take appropriate action.”
Responding to Paul, Tokyo’s first female governor wrote: “[We] wish to enhance Tokyo’s appeal as a city where everyone and anyone can enjoy food in an environment where diversity is respected. Encouraged by your proposal, we will be offering a menu for vegetarians at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government [Building] staff cafeteria. This initiative is just one of many we will take to make Tokyo an even more pleasant and safe city to visit and reside in, and your precious advice will surely accelerate our efforts. Thank you again.”
The building has two reasonably priced canteens. The first, on the 32nd floor of Building 1, will serve meat free lunches every Monday, beginning today, as well as a daily a la carte vegetarian menu, including vegan dishes. The second, on the 4th floor of Building 2, will offer individual veggie dishes. Meals on offer will include Vegetable Fritters with Chickpea Flour Batter, Vegetable and Soy Meat Gapao Rice, and Deep-Fried Soy Meat.
Whether Governor Koike’s letter had a hand in it, we don’t know, but in August, Paul announced new Japanese dates to his Freshen Up tour, meaning he could be in a position to take up her invitation of a meat free meal in the canteen. Other cities, if you want a visit from Paul, you know what to do…