I spent 4 fantastic weeks in Japan, and my journey took me from Tokyo to Hakone, Yokohama, Osaka, tiny islands filled with rabbits and art (Okunoshima and Naoshima), and on a historical and cultural journey through Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan is a beautiful country filled with amazing things to see and do, and it actually surprised me, it had some amazing vegan food too! I was a little apprehensive when I set out to visit the seafood-loving capital of the world, and I thought I might struggle to find some delicious vegan eats, which I did at times, but I had a few handy tools which helped me immensely along the way. So if you’re vegan or vegetarian and planning on visiting Japan then do these four things before you go.
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Happy Cow App
Download the Happy Cow App. This app is just a lifesaver, it’s essentially a review app of restaurants cafes and eateries which are either vegan, vegetarian or have veg-options. You can simply search ‘nearby’ to see what’s around you or enter in a destination to see what’s going on in that location. It was so useful to have this app and find something close by, I even used it to help me plan my accommodation and activities when I arrived at a place. More often than not, I found it took me a little off the beaten track towards these veggie restaurants but on the way, I discovered a whole lot more than I would have if I just stuck to the usual tourist trail.
Vegan Passport App
Another really helpful app I downloaded before I left was the Vegan Passport. This great little app enables you to present a short paragraph on your phone to another person explaining what it means to be vegan and what you can and cannot eat. It can be translated to almost any language, and so far includes 78 languages. I used this several times during my visit to Japan in restaurants and to servers to ensure that I was getting a vegan meal and they understood what vegan meant.
Google Translate App
Sometimes, the Vegan Passport App needed a little help once the conversation started flowing so I also downloaded the Google Translate app, to communicate further about ordering food and drinks. It’s also super handy just to have when you are visiting any country in which you don’t speak the native language.
Is It Vegan Japan Website
This website was so helpful when I was first in Japan and struggling a little bit to find vegan snacks in particular. Convenience stores are everywhere in Japan, but as a regular vegan consumer who is used to checking labels for ingredients, this did not help me as it was all in Japanese which I could not read! This website I found just through searching online was really helpful in locating items in everyday convenience stores which were vegan, so I could grab a little something for breakfast or in the afternoon between meals. Visit isitveganjapan.com and check out all their up to date information.
For more helpful advice and information on what apps to download for travel, check out my other blog post ‘Must have travel apps‘.
Talking of snacks, here’s a glimpse at some of the vegan snacks I got to try in Japan! There are lots of different places you could find these items, there are convenience stores everywhere in Japan, but you can also find some of these items at markets too! The main convenience stores I visited were Seven-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.
Oreo Sandwich bits – ok small warning with these I am still not 100% sure that these are vegan, being unable to read the ingredients list I scoured the internet and found conflicting information as to whether they are vegan or not. So to err on the side of caution I would avoid. Asahi Ippon Manzoku Bar Cereal Black, can be found in lots of convenience stores in the breakfast section, and they are pretty good, and even a bit addictive! Lotus Biscuits, I love these! They’re so good, and I was over the moon when I found them in Japan!
Mini stop Tohato Poteco, Lightly Salted, Rice Crackers, lightly salted potato chips and Ritz Crackers! I didn’t even realise Ritz Crackers were vegan until I found them in Japan.
Chip Star – just like Pringles, and the real deal Chips! I got the chips from a hot oven at the counter of a Seven-Eleven store. I only ever found these once though, usually, the hot ovens are filled with meaty items. They were so good!
Fruit on a stick from the great market which hugs the large Ueno Station in Tokyo it was so refreshing on a hot day and a bag of raisins from a convenience store to snack on in-between meals
Soya bean Ice-Cream and Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped cake, filled with sweet red bean paste, served warm. I found these in Tokyo close to my accommodation in the Asakusa area along one of the shopping lanes.
I spent around 1 week in Tokyo and loved every minute, although I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to find vegan food very easily, but I was pleasantly surprised! For more ideas on what to see and do in this amazing city, check out my blog post ‘How to spend 7 days in Tokyo‘
Mobile food truck with changing locations – check out their website Tabell
I was lucky enough to stumble upon a vegan festival whilst I was visiting some of the museums and galleries in Ueno Park, Tokyo. I tried this tasty Doughnut from Tabell, quite dense, and an unusual flavour but filling and sweet, just what I wanted!
港区六本木5丁目1-10 near Roppongi station
I went for the Falafel sandwich (full-size – obviously), and then you could add just a few toppings and a sauce, I went for carrot, sweetcorn, potatoes and then a creamy tahini dressing. The bread was so soft and the warm falafels were so tasty! (Apologies for the atrocious photography, I find wraps so difficult to look pretty! Plus I just wanted to devour this tasty treat immediately!)
Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 1 Chome−16-6, 原宿77ビルB1F
I chose the Udon Noodle Salad, at Hanamaru, thinking it would be vegan-friendly, there was no mention of meat on the menu and there was just an option of additional dressings or vegetables. I checked with the server too that there was no meat, but you guessed it there was actually chunks of boiled chicken in there! I remember eating the salad not sure what these white chunks were so thankfully avoided them. If you do stop by here, just make sure you ask for it without chicken, to be sure.
Good Town Donuts
Coffee and doughnuts, a winning combination eh? Good Town Doughnuts know how to look after their vegan customers too, I enjoyed both of these immensely, the almond latte was cool and refreshing, and the mango smile doughnut was fruity and doughy, underneath the mango glaze there’s also a sweet mango jam-like compote. If you’re in Shibuya you HAVE TO STOP BY GOOD TOWN DOUGHNUTS. The seating area is very relaxed and chilled too, a great place to spend a lazy morning in between sightseeing.
Chome 38-7, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan, 111-0032
I loved it here, it’s a tiny little cafe, and the owner is just lovely. She gave me some great tips and advice for my travels around Japan and was so helpful. The food was just delicious too!
PQ’s – appetiser
Seitan with aubergine stir-fried – was my absolute favourite, the soft tofu and seaweed I didn’t enjoy as much, and then the radish salad was refreshing to finish off the appetisers.
Slightly spicy and warming, with gentle flavours, the salad with creamy dressing on top added another dimension to the savoury rice and heat from the curry.
1 Chome-34-6 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Grilled Tofu and Vegetables, the tofu had a crispy coating but still very soft in the middle and the vegetables were cooked and seasoned beautifully. It also came with two sauces which were so tasty!
4 Chome-13-11 Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan, 104-0061
A great little restaurant I found through the Happy Cow app was Hachinoya. They have several items on their menu listed as vegan, and as well as curry they also offer falafel. I chose this Japanese vegetable curry with sticky white rice, and this refreshing ice-cold Kirin Beer (also vegan – of course).
Zest Cantina in Odaiba
1 Chome-7-1 Daiba, Minato City, Tokyo 135-0091, Japan
Instagram @zest cantina_gd
Zest Cantina is a Mexican restaurant I stumbled upon in the Minato City Shopping mall – one of a handful of malls in Odaiba. The interiors are dark and seem to be moulded into some sort of cave, either way, it had a cosy atmosphere. I explained to the waitress what vegan meant and she kindly double checked with the kitchen – turns out their burger buns aren’t vegan so I got a burger with salad and a tonne of fries to make up for the lack of bun (hence why you can’t quite see the delicious bean burger underneath!)
3 Chome-9-2 Higashinihonbashi, Chuo City, Tokyo 103-0004, Japan
This restaurant was quite off the beaten track and I almost completely missed it and walked past, you’ll need to look out for their banner in the street, and then turn towards the buildings and up the spiral staircase. There you’ll find this quaint, homely restaurant. I enjoyed three dishes of vegetable dumpling soup, mock meat, and broccoli with carrots and mushrooms – I had done a hell of a lot of sightseeing and was famished! I was positively stuffed after, but this was a good hearty meal.
My accommodation was situated within the China Town area of Yokohama and I was desperate to try some local Chinese food, but at all of the restaurants and street vendors, I spoke to they were unable to offer me anything vegan so I pressed on with sightseeing, grumbly stomach in tow. At the Red Brick warehouse, I could only find either fries at a burger place, or spaghetti pomodoro at this restaurant, so instead of the plain humble spud I opted for an Italian fair.
Cafe Rotisserie La Cocorico
Turns out my choice was pretty good, I enjoyed this tasty salad to start, followed by simple spaghetti pomodoro washed down with an ice-cold Sapporo beer (also vegan).
2 Chome-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 222-0033, Japan
Later on in the evening during my visit to the Ramen Museum, I had the most filling and tastiest bowl of Ramen I’ve ever had. I chose ‘The king ramen for vegetarian. Soy Bean based soup and Chashu made from soybeans’, at Komurasaki. ⠀The Museum reception was very helpful in providing an information sheet which included details around vegetarian and vegan ramen options. There were around 5 options which I was pretty pleased with and finally settled on this bowl of creamy filling goodness!⠀
During my day trip to Kamakura, I found a lovely restaurant right on the seafront using my happy cow app. The staff were all very friendly and I got a seat right next to the window so I could look across at the beach. it’s only a small restaurant but the food was excellent. I had yet another delicious curry in Japan followed by an orange cake, and an organic glass of white wine to finish it off!
My accommodation was a short walk from Gora Station, Hakone, and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice for lunch or dinner in the immediate area. It was only through the advice of my hostel about surrounding areas that I found the Emblem Flow Hostel. It has beautiful interiors and invites non-residents to their restaurant for breakfast lunch and dinner too.
1320-179 Gora, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0408, Japan
I had breakfast there during my stay in Hakone, which was buffet style. the staff were very helpful though and let me know what was vegan, and provided me with soy milk for the cereal. The chef even asked me if I wanted her to prepare some grilled vegetables as she felt bad for the lack of choice.
The evening meal provided at Emblem Flow was great too. There wasn’t anything directly vegan on the menu, but again the chef came up with a great platter of rice, grilled vegetables, ratatouille and salad. it was delicious!
Just next to Gora station there is a lovely little shop too, and the owner was so helpful. In need of some sugary snacks, I asked him if he had anything vegan, and to my delight, they were able to provide a warm sweet red bean paste filled bun. Just what I was looking for, the bun reminded me of gingerbread!
During the circuit around Hakone, using the various modes of transport I stopped at a small cafe overlooking Lake Ashi and enjoyed these Japanese sweets. I particularly enjoyed the round sweets, but the cubed sweets had quite a strong pungent taste, although I still obviously ate them all!
Surprisingly I found Osaka the most difficult to find vegan food. It may have been where I was staying or what I was doing there that just didn’t take me very close to any great vegan places, although I did find a couple of options still it was not without a lot of walking!
1 Chome-1-3 Shibata, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0012, Japan
A little bit more expensive than some other restaurants I visited in Japan, but the salad bar was great, there was so much to choose from, I ended up returning for a second visit. I started with a warming cup of soup (I had onion) followed by a selection of pasta, salad, vegetables, the softest of bread and tasty dressing with quinoa puffs sprinkled on top!
I loved this place, if you’re visiting or planning to visit Osaka, then put this restaurant high up on your list. I enjoyed a tasty Lunch set, made up of whole grain rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, juicy tofu, pasta tubes, and some little veggie patties with salad. I wasn’t quite sure what I was eating the whole time (although I was assured all was vegan) but each of the small little dishes complimented each other beautifully. The restaurant even provides take out bento boxes so I decided to pick one up to take with me to the Baseball game later that evening. Dessert was a vibrant lilac-blue with pineapple inside and green matcha crumbly base, a little like a cheesecake, but with more of a jelly consistency. ⠀
Japan, 〒541-0046 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Hiranomachi, 1 Chome−5−11 胡屋ビル 1F
I was walking the streets of Osaka for quite some time until I found this place, I visited several veggie restaurants before I arrived here but they were all closed. So word of warning – Happy Cow doesn’t always have up to date information, if you can, call a restaurant you plan to visit before heading there to avoid disappointment and sore feet. Nevertheless, this salad, although not very filling was a good health kick I needed after indulging in lots of desserts and sweet treats! It had chickpeas and walnuts inside, with a zesty lemon dressing.
Japan, 〒600-8133 Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, 七条通加茂川筋西入ル稲荷町448 鴨川ビル1F
I really enjoyed my day trip to Kyoto, and as the day was drawing to a close I visited this great restaurant for dinner. It was probably a little more expensive than what I had become used to paying but the food was delicious! I had Fried Tempeh to start with a sweet creamy tomato dip on the side. Followed by this delicious vegetable curry with salad, rice and pickled vegetables, and to finish blueberry and cacao cheesecake.⠀
Vegan Cafe Ramuna
1028-5, Takahata-cho (at No.169), Nara, Japan, 630-8301
Nara is such a relaxing place to visit, full of nature and beautiful surroundings. This cafe continued the theme and was just so cute and sweet. Totally off the beaten track, you will need to go exploring a little, but that’s half the fun anyway! I found this place through the Happy Cow app and it did not disappoint. So much so I probably spent a couple of hours here just relaxing and enjoying the vegan food. I chose the ‘hot dog’ which was made up of 3 little vegan patties served in a homemade whole wheat roll with lettuce and tomato ketchup, so tasty! Followed by the vegan burger, with ‘cheesy potatoes’ and vegan nuggets, with a small salad on the side. To top it off, of course, dessert, This strawberry cream cake with granola on the top was a great flavour combination. The sponge was so soft and delicate and the crunchy granola on top was a great contrast. ⠀
Kanauta – Kobe Bakery
Motomachidori 1-1-1, Chuo, Hyogo, Kobe, Japan, 650-0022
I bought one of these chocolate waffles and had to go back in to buy a second because it was so tasty! This bakery is only small and unfortunately, they don’t have a seating area, but if you’re in Kobe you have to stop by and try their vegan baked goods!
Japan, 〒670-0927 Hyogo, Himeji, Ekimaecho,
Coco Ichibanya is a popular chain restaurant in Japan, and you will find them in most major cities and towns. I visited several of their outlets as I knew I could get a good meal and for a reasonable price. After visiting Himeji Castle and the nearby Gardens I walked back towards the station and found Coco Ichibanya close by. Here’s the vegetable Curry, with fried aubergines on top of sticky rice, and then carrots, potatoes, onions, and green beans in the curry sauce. Also in Coco Ichibanya, you can choose the size of your portion and the level of spiciness!
Uno Port Inn
1 Chome-4-4 Chikko, Tamano, Okayama 706-0002, Japan
I arrived in Uno, after a train ride in from Osaka and had some time in between arriving at the station and catching my ferry over to Naoshima, the Art Island of Japan. So I stopped by Uno Port Inn and enjoyed this tasty Salad Poppy Seed Bagel for breakfast.
Seven Islands Iwaos Cafe
884 (Sonota) Naoshima-chō Kagawa-gun Kagawa-ken 761-3110 Japan, Naoshima, Kagawa District, Kagawa 761-3110, Japan
Here’s the tasty lunch set from Seven Islands Iwaos Cafe on Naoshima Island. I chose the vegan donburi, which came with soup, and sat in the sunshine of their back garden in-between visits to art installations. ⠀
Japan, 〒730-0805 Hiroshima, Naka Ward, 2, Naka-ku Tokaichimachi 2-2-26
I enjoyed this simple plate of vegetable fried rice in the restaurant attached to my hostel. It was late when I arrived in Hiroshima, after a long train journey I didn’t want to venture out in search of food, luckily the chef in the kitchen was able to whip this up for me. They didn’t have anything vegan on their menu but he understood what I meant and this just hit the spot when I was feeling tired and hungry. A great example of an accommodating kitchen!
2-1-12 Otemachi, Nakaku, Hiroshima, Japan
A great restaurant with a big sprawling bar and counter top seats, I took a pew and ordered this delicious bowl of vegetable pasta. Packed full of veggies including aubergine, edamame, tomatoes, and broccoli, all in a tasty tomato sauce
Sadly I forgot to take a photograph of my vegan eats on the Island of Okunoshima, also known as ‘Rabbit Island’. Unfortunately, because this island is so very small there is only really one place to eat, which is the main hotel. On offer to me were a bowl of potato wedges and a bowl of edamame, which I must admit filled a gap until I was back on the mainland. If you’re visiting I would suggest to try and pack a picnic so you can enjoy a more varied lunch on this day trip.
My second treat of falafel whilst I was in Japan was at Lights in Fukuoka, they provided this delicious Falafel plate with yellow rice, hummus, pickled red onion and salad with creamy tahini dressing. Of course, I spied a vegan dessert on the menu and had to give it a try. This citrus orange ‘cheese’ cake beautifully decorated with orange and edible flowers. It was so tasty!
Another great restaurant I found in Fukuoka, thanks to my trusty Happy Cow App was Rota Cafe. Nestled in between a busy shopping district this eatery focuses on producing vegan and vegetarian macrobiotic food. They offer a range of dishes including this tasty veggie burger I enjoyed with potato wedges and salad, as well as curries, and salads. Obviously, I also had to try their dreamy ice-cream sundae! As well as delicious ice cream and brownies, it also had little biscuits, frozen berries and puffed rice in the bottom!
Macrobiotic Deli Evah Dining
1-1 Chuogai, Chuoku, Hakatashi, Fukuoka, Japan, 812-0012
I absolutely adored this place – once I could find it! It’s nestled inside Hakata Train Station, and I had to ask the information desk for help trying to find it as its not that obvious at all, but oh my, once I did I was over the moon! Everything on the menu is vegan! I went back several times, enjoying these tasty muffins.
I also grabbed this breakfast bento box for my train journey to Nagasaki. It was delicious! The base is filled with seasoned sticky rice, one side topped with scrambled tofu, and the other a sweet barbecue soy flavoured mock meat. Separated by a slither of spinach and pickled veg!
These bento boxes were also great for on the go, providing a mix of different tasty morsels. Including things like Onigiri (rice balls), mock meat nugget, vegetables, seaweed, wraps and even a little square of brownie!
They also had bean salads, and mock meat wraps on offer. Both were just divine, with the right amount of dressing and flavour, and the delicate wrap was so tasty.
1-15 Kabashimamachi, Nagasaki, Japan, 850-0034
My first Indian-style curry in Japan. I’d already enjoyed lots of Japanese curries in various restaurants but this was my first taste of an Indian curry. Which I must admit had a slight Japanese infusion using Japanese white sticky rice, instead of maybe basmati, the kitchen also strangely provided tomato ketchup to dip. A little quirky, but I really enjoyed this meal, as my day trip to Nagasaki was ending, and the weather had turned cold and rainy, this Indian curry set warmed me up before I headed back to the train station and towards Fukuoka.
I did try to visit Japan on a budget, aiming to spend just £30 per day with a large portion of that going towards accommodation in Japan as it’s one of the most expensive countries in Asia. I found I could easily enjoy lots of tasty food on a budget though (it probably helped being vegan) as I’m sure if sushi lovers were chowing down on sushi and sashimi every day it would add up to quite the hefty bill!
My favourite meals I enjoyed in Japan has got to be PQ’s Curry and Good Town Doughnuts in Tokyo, as well as the multiple bento boxes I enjoyed in Fukuoka from Macrobiotic Deli Evah Dining. Also another surprising highlight for me, as someone who didn’t really drink beer before I enjoyed several Japanese varieties, which were all vegan. So if you fancy a tipple try either Kirin, Sapporo or Asahi.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about my vegan eats in Japan, and that I’ve given you some pointers, and alleviated some worries about surviving as a vegan in Japan! It takes a little more investigation and planning but can be easily done! If you have any questions or queries please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
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