Martin Hope

Martin Hope

Maki Nibayashi

Natural food shop/mail order company owner

Time in Japan:

Nine years

Where are you from?
From a city in southwest England, Bristol.

What brought you to Japan?

Can you tell us a bit about your business?
We are a small company selling a wide range of organic and natural products, specifically traditionally made local organic products and organic products from overseas. All products we sell are free from sugar and all additives and preservatives, and don' contain any animal products or by-products. We promote whole food veganism by giving cooking classes, and we also arrange for various events/talks on organic farming, fair trade, animal rights, veganism, the environment, and more.

How do you find these organic farms?
Being involved with organic and natural products you get to know organic farmers. It's still a very small world with not that many farmers as yet converted, so you soon get to know those who are growing organically in your area.

Do you feel Japan is vegan friendly?
It can be, but for the most part it's not something the majority of restaurants are aware of, and that is what causes the difficulty. It's hard to get people from dousing your dish in katsuo (bonito) or simply getting them to understand that fish is not a vegetable. However, there are a growing number of vegetarian restaurants popping up all over Japan and many places that will happily prepare a vegan meal. Times are changing, slowly but surely.

What's the weirdest thing you've seen or experienced here?
I was on a train when a young man asked me if I was English. After saying yes, he was so overcome with delight that he started jumping up and down on the spot. The train was fairly full and I could see how they were all happy that it was happening to me and not them. After his workout, he started to ask me more questions, getting closer all the while. Then wanted to know what was in my mouth and after a few attempts of trying to put his fingers in my mouth, I was far from overjoyed. I could see he was not going to give up and to pull who-knows-what from my mouth? Happily my stop came and I bounded off.

What's the one Japanese item you can't live without?
Shoyu (soy sauce).

Your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Get involved in some type of class that puts you into contact with people outside your social circle and who you'd generally never meet. Try to learn at least daily Japanese - it really does help. Find a creative or non-abusive form of release for stress, instead of simply turning to alcohol. Don't take yourself, things or life too seriously, but certainly be sincere when you need to be. Remember most of us are here out of choice and even if we are not, we always have the choice to see things positively, negatively or however.

Contact Martin Hope at  

Martin Hope spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

Do you know somepne who has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at

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