Akiko Iwasa, Japan
I can say with conviction and without any hesitation that I will always be a vegan. I still remember very clearly when I became free from the brainwashing we are all subjected to about the necessity of eating other animals. I was truly shocked, angry, and in despair. How could we all be living such a lie?
Until that moment, I didn’t think I had any choice. In Japan, we are taught in primary school that animal products are absolutely indispensable to human health. We are told we cannot be healthy, build our muscles, or have healthy blood and bones without eating animals. Until then, I was like most people and just followed and obeyed what I was told.
There was no internet when I was growing up. In Japan, we rarely get exposed to different ideas or any information other than what is the cultural norm. In school, at work, and even among friends there is tremendous pressure to conform and be the same as everyone else. Without questioning much, I trusted my teachers and textbooks, which offered very limited information about nutrition.
Fifteen years ago, I finally woke up and discovered the facts about how the animals we use are tortured and abused, and all of the negative effects for us and the environment as well.
After I became a vegan, my own health improved a great deal. A uterine fibroid tumor I had for years quickly vanished. My skin problems disappeared. My skin became smooth and healthy. My terrible menstruation pains were gone and I received many other benefits from my vegan diet.
But the most important thing for me is that I was no longer a part of the violence and exploitation of innocent animals.
Since 2003, I have been running one of the largest annual plant-based festivals in Kyoto, Japan. When we started, most people had never heard the word “vegan” in Japan. I’m very happy to say that the situation is changing and veganism is gaining recognition day by day. I have made a lot of wonderful friends with whom I share a common vision of a vegan world.
I will continue to introduce people to the virtues of a vegan life here Japan and around the world.
Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for including this as one of 100+ entries in her short essay contest and the resulting published collection: Why I Will Always be Vegan.