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Postcards from Japan: Starting a vegan bakery and plant-based life, with Rosi Galvan

Rosi moved to Japan on the JET Programme where she got a slice of countryside life in Shimoichi, a rural town in Nara prefecture. Later on she moved to Osaka where friends encouraged her to start selling her delicious cakes. Trick-or-Treat | Vegan Sweets started in her kitchen but due to popular demand, she is now in the process of opening her first vegan cake shop! We talked about her baking journey, best places for a plant-based feast in Japan, and her favourite must-see locations in Nara and Osaka.

Hi, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi, thank you so much! I’m Rosa Galvan, but everyone calls me Rosi. I’m a first generation Mexican-American. Born and raised in San Diego, California. I studied traditional Japanese theater at the University of California, Irvine before leaving for Japan on the JET Programme in 2014. I was lucky enough to be placed in a rural town at the base of Yoshino Mountain in Nara prefecture. Now I'm living in Osaka city and about to open my vegan cake shop here! 

How did you find Japan when you first moved there? 

I had never visited Japan before deciding to move here. I was expecting it to be like what we see in the movies, that Tokyo high tech life. I was shocked when I saw my small rural town. No convenience store, almost no street lights, wild animals, giant Pokémon sized bugs. It was a hard adjustment, but I’m glad I stuck it out. I don’t think I would have survived if it wasn’t for that community bond I made with people from my town. It also taught me how to appreciate living in the city. 
Also, as a vegan it was extremely hard to find any kind of pre-made food there. It really forced me to get creative with my cooking so that I wasn’t eating the same thing all the time. Apart from that though Shimoichi was absolutely beautiful. In the spring we could see cherry blossom trees blooming from our windows, the Yoshino river was only a short walk away too. Sometimes I find myself missing the cute old lady that would wait for me every morning just to say hello. I’m really happy I didn’t have to live in the city right away. 

How did you start your bakery in Osaka?

I started baking as a hobby. I’m vegan and I found it really frustrating when I would visit friends and they would have no vegan food options. I basically started bringing my own cake to their birthday parties and surprisingly people liked it. It was actually my friends that pushed me to start selling cakes, the thought of it had never crossed my mind. From there it just started to slowly grow into what it is now. I went from making one cake a month to participating in my first ever vegan festival, Osaka Ethical Vegan Fest. It was a learning experience, but from that moment on I knew that baking was what I wanted to do. Trick-or-Treat | Vegan Sweets started in my kitchen with one small convection oven. I honestly don’t know how I did everything in that. Now I'm in the process of opening up my bakery under the name Canelita. I think it’s time Kansai caught up to the rest of the world and had a bakery that doesn’t sacrifice flavor and texture just because it’s vegan. 

What kind of Japanese food or restaurants would you recommend to vegan visitors?

Ooh that’s a good question. Vegan options weren’t a thing back when I first arrived in Japan, but a lot of big chain restaurants are adding more plant based options! One of my favorite go-to restaurants is CoCo Ichibanya curry house. They have a veggie curry that uses no animal products and even have a soy meat cutlet! Another chain restaurant you can find is Yakiniku LIKE. I know what you’re thinking, grilled meat for vegans?! But, they have a line of vegan soy meat! I’ve eaten there when I can’t find any places that are open. Unfortunately, Japanese food is notorious for not being very vegan friendly. They sneak in the slightest amount of katsuo dashi in everything, even white rice sometimes, or a little lard in your bread and fail to label it. Some safe options are Yuba, edamame, sometimes tempura. Honestly most vegans here tend to go to vegan or vegetarian specific restaurants just because it’s safer. In Osaka I always go to Base Island Kitchen, Optimus Cafe, Papurika Vegan Shokudo. If you’re looking for authentic Japanese food there are a lot of options too like Tosuiro, Sakaguchiro, and Seizan Sodo. Believe it or not vegan and vegetarian restaurants are on the rise! 

Do you have any recommendations for people who are planning to visit Osaka and Nara for the first time?

Definitely download the Happycow app. It’s a life saver when you’re hungry and don’t know where you can eat. Also, be kind to yourself because mistakes will be made and it’s no fun beating yourself up over it. A suggestion but not super important, try to memorize some of the food kanji like egg 卵, milk 牛乳, milk products 乳成分, katsuo かつお, meat 肉, fish 魚, honey 蜂蜜, etc. It makes looking at the food ingredients a lot easier. 

As for visiting, if you’re in Nara it’s always good to visit Nara city since they have Todaiji, my favorite temple actually. Just remember to not feed the deer. Unless you’re brave, which I’m not. I also recommend venturing off a little. They have such beautiful nature spots throughout Nara. Yoshino Mountain has the famous cherry blossom trees that bloom in the spring. Amazing onsen in Tenkawa. You really can’t go wrong when visiting Nara, unless you come in the summertime, then maybe it’d be good to invest in a sweat towel, gatsby wipes, and a handheld fan because it gets disgustingly hot and humid! 

For Osaka you have so much more freedom because everyone is marching to the beat of their own drum here. Namba has the famous Dotonbori bridge, there’s also American Village, and the posh area of Horie and Orange Street. I recommend staying out at night and really taking in the city because it truly comes alive once the sun sets. Shinsaibashi is fun to go around for that duty free shopping too. If you want something more low key then Nakazakicho and Tanimachi-6 have all the hip cafes!  My favorite place to go to recently is Nakanoshima-koen. Grab a coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company and just hang out by the river. Seriously, there are so many great places to visit!

Thank you!

Don't forget to check our Rosi's bakery on her Instagram!



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