Story of how TOKYO VEG LIFE faux-mage was born…
Why vegan cheese?
TOKYO VEG LIFE started out as a YouTube channel with a main focus on vegan cooking then I started to offer cooking/yoga events offline and online last year. In the latter half of the year, I focused most of my energy on creating my first-ever recipe book, which got published just last month.
When my book, which started with just ideas and a concept, came into a real form and started taking on its own journey, I felt like my journey came to somewhat of a turning point.
Of course, I will continue to create cooking recipes and share them on YouTube and elsewhere, but instead of just sharing recipes and leaving the creation process to people, I also wanted to provide things I created with the essence of TOKYO VEG LIFE.
In the beginning, I thought about opening a cafe and actually started looking for a location here in Nagano. But as I paused and asked myself what I really wanted to do, I realized that I wanted my creation to reach more people than just those who can make it to the physical location.
Then I heard my calling:
When I heard that voice, making vegan cheese seemed like such a no brainer – almost as if I was meant to take on that path at that junction of time.
TOKYO VEG LIFE faux-mage
In recent years, veganism has been spreading like wildfire globally and Japan, in particular Tokyo, hasn’t been an exception. New cafes, restaurants and shops are opening up, some of which are specialized in making certain things like cakes, pastries, bread, etc. Big food companies are also showing interest in the market and coming out with “plant-based” food products.
In this quickly-expanding vegan market, what has been largely untouched in Japan still is “vegan cheese.”
Some companies have released non-dairy cheese-like products, but almost all of them contain various chemicals and are not healthy for our body. Taste is also still something that can be best-described as “acceptable” for people who need to make that compromise (because they’re vegan or they’re allergic to dairy).
Is it possible to create delicious vegan cheese that is truly healthy for the body, using only high-quality ingredients?
I started to experiment on making vegan cheeses and after filling up my kitchen and pantry with test cheeses, I realized that yes it is possible to create delicious and healthy vegan cheese if you let the nature take part in the process in by ways of fermentation and aging.
Enjoying my vegan cheese paired with wine, in sandwich and in cooking, this “life with cheese,” which I had long forgotten, came back to my life and I realized how fulfilling and enriching it is.
To deliver a piece of richness of life to not only vegans but also to people with allergy to dairy and to anyone who wants to make healthy choices in their life – that became my new mission.
Create something that can only be created here
While vegan cheese may still be foreign to us in Japan, it has been studied and explored widely in the U.S. and Europe, and there are a wide variety of vegan cheese products out there.
I first started making vegan cheeses using recipes from abroad, but soon realized that if the vegan cheese market takes off in Japan, it will be flooded with imported vegan cheese products from abroad. So what is the point of creating something that can be easily replaced?
Since I moved to the mountains in Nagano last summer, my love for the place has been growing exponentially, and that also motivated me to create something that can only be created here.
To create vegan cheese that can be created with traditional local ingredients of Shinshu combined with pure water and air in the mountains – that became my vision.
Share the growth journey
When I started my YouTube channel back in June 2018, first bunch of cooking videos were rough and far from professional. Over time, I took advice and feedback from viewers to improve and hone my craft.
For that reason, I consider TOKYO VEG LIFE as a platform that we, my viewers, followers, supporters and I, built together.
As a vegan cheese brand produced by TOKYO VEG LIFE, rather than keeping everything in veil until the full launch, it only makes sense to share the entire journey with everyone from the project stage to becoming a real business so it will be a brand that a lot of people can feel close at heart.
It is possible that (though certainly not the ending I hope for!), faced with various hardships and challenges, I end up not being able to establish the brand as a business. But sharing the account of the struggles may help and be a guide for those who are also trying to start up a business.
With this in mind, I’ll share my journey as much as I can with as little sugar coating as I can here. I hope that you enjoy this journey with me.
With much love,
TOKYO VEG LIFE