“Veganism is still not that widespread in Japan”
Interview with Miki ‘Mila’ Furue
Miki ‘Mila’ Furue was born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan. She has been living in Düsseldorf for almost four years, where she works as a vegan food influencer and recipe developer. Followed by over 30,000 people on Instagram, she presents innovative vegan versions of existing dishes and often comes up with her own creations too. In this interview, she tells us how she left behind a successful corporate career in Japan in order to discover the world and how she ultimately ended up in Düsseldorf.
How did you become an influencer and vegan recipe developer?
There wasn’t really a moment when everything clicked into place. Instead, my vegan recipe creations have emerged over the past three years. They were devised from recipes that I found online and then modified. When I started out, I found it really hard to find vegan recipes on Japanese websites, so I mostly stuck to German and English blogs. But there were also recipes that I discovered while attending an online cookery school. After learning the basics, I started experimenting more and more on my own – not only focusing on Japanese dishes and ingredients but also trying to integrate other cuisines. Of course, all of my creations have a Japanese twist!
What was your life like previously?
My CV actually looks rather traditional, with the typical progression. It was always important to my family that I attended a good school, did well in exams, got a good degree and then found a respectable, ‘normal’ job. And that is pretty much what I did until the age of 30. Eventually, it became too much for me, too monotonous. I quit my job, packed my rucksack and set off on my travels for two years, without having any real plan for what I would do with my life afterwards. In the end, I moved to Düsseldorf as I wanted to experience a completely new environment.
Had veganism been a particularly significant topic for you in Japan?
Veganism is still not very widespread in Japan compared with Germany and other European countries. Many of my videos are in Japanese and a lot of my followers speak Japanese, so I hope that I can play a small part in making vegan dishes more popular in Japan.
What Japanese dishes are you currently working on making vegan?
There’s actually one at the moment that I’m proud of. Although the Japanese restaurants in Düsseldorf are really authentic, I’ve never been completely satisfied with the range of vegan ramen soups. The city has plenty of good ramen restaurants, yet personally, I don’t find that the vegetarian and vegan ramen dishes have an intense enough taste. They lack that meaty ‘umami punch’ of the original bone broth soups. The consistency of the minced meat is also missing, for example in my favourite ramen, tantanmen. Through a contact in the Japanese community, I got the chance to do something about it myself. Thanks to the restaurant chain Takumi, I had the opportunity to create a vegan version of the ramen dish tantanmen at the beginning of 2023. It’s been available to order and enjoy at Takumi Chicken & Veggie (Klosterstrasse 72) since 1 March 2023.
How have you found Düsseldorf’s Japanese community?
When I arrived in Düsseldorf almost four years ago, I was constantly surprised and impressed by how many Japanese people were living in Düsseldorf. There are a lot of online groups that supported me when I first came to the city. Düsseldorf actually reminds me of my home city of Fukuoka, in terms of both its size and how helpful people are towards each other. Funnily enough, over 70 alumni of my university in Fukuoka live in Düsseldorf! When I arrived here, I didn’t have any Japanese or German friends. But the openness and warmth of those living here meant that I got to know people pretty quickly, not only in the Japanese community but also Germans and people from other countries. Now, I can well imagine planning my future and spending the rest of my life here!
Title image: Düsseldorf Tourism
The title image and this article are supported by REACT-EU.