How To Survive Japan As A Vegan
Updated: Jan 22
I have been asked many times about travelling around Japan as a vegan and how hard it was to eat. With the language barrier and Japan being notorious for it's fish sauce I thought I was going to struggle, but Japan was full of lovely little surprises...
Tokyo Tokyo was relatively easy and has quite a lot of vegan restaurants popping up all over the place. The Shibuya area which is where the famous busy crossing is has a couple of restaurants within walking distance. Tokyo has cafes, bakeries, food courts and high end restaurants to choose from.
Traditional Japanese: Ain Soph.Journey - traditional and tasty. All the noodles you can eat.
Something Cutesy: U Omotesando - Totally Instagramable. Think multicoloured whipped cream with a doughnut on top?!?! (discount for keep cup users).
Budget: Peace Cafe Hawaii - take out style, choose your protein and 3 side salads, so yummy (take own containers). Other larger cities also cater well for vegans. Away from tourist areas it gets a little more difficult. The language barrier starts to come through. A really useful tip is to get bi-lingual and learn a little Japanese or save the card below and show in restaurants (courtesy of justhungry.com)
Many restaurants will have 'English' on the menu but you may not be able to recognise the words. Ingredients to watch out for:
Dashi - a stock made from fish flakes.
Katsuobushi (or known as bonito flakes) Fermented Fish shavings.
Both of these ingredients are hidden in a lot of foods, but if the restaurant serves fresh food, they can remove these ingredients. The good thing is there is A LOT of tofu, so you can always replace the meat with tofu in the dish. There is also soya milk pretty much everywhere so won't struggle for a coffee. Something to keep in mind is dipping sauces. If you order vegetable tempura for example be aware the sauce that comes with it usually contains fish.
A great tip is to visit convenience stores for snacks, ume onigiri (rice balls), plum crisps, and macrobiotic brownie bars are all vegan and you can pretty much find these all over Japan. If you are travelling around by train, stock up on these goodies.
Favourite restaurants in other areas:
Kyoto- Veg Out - serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Set right on the river, they have mock meats, curry, buddha bowls, desserts and Kombucha. Osaka- Aina Cafe - serves traditional Japanese cuisine and western food. Menu is clearly labelled. Offer gorgeous set meals. Hiroshima- SaiSjokukenBi - vegetarian but offers vegan alternatives. Based in a residential neighbourhood, but worth the trip as their are no vegan restaurants in this area. It has plenty to choose from on the menu and the waiters and waitresses are very helpful. Guided Touring Personally I love guided touring, especially if you are short of time. Touring gives you a great insight to how locals live, the country's history and are usually multi-centre which means you see more of the country in a short space of time. The majority of tour guides are locals, which means as long as you let your travel agent know your dietary requirements when booking your tour your meals will be taken care of, plus it's a great way to find hidden places to eat. You can even do a self guided walking tour with all meals pre-booked, that are usually made by the locals in small villages, and from all their experience they cater greatly for all guests. Asahi Beer that you will find everywhere is vegan :)