In Contrast to what people might tell you about Japan being terrible to Vegetarians and Vegans, I would say that Japan has no dearth of vegetarian and vegan places to try if you do your homework and search a bit. I was a happy vegetarian in Japan!
Disclaimer – This list is based on personal experience and is not a promotion. Please let me know if you see anything that doesn’t sound vegan/vegetarian here.
Now the reason you must do your homework is because almost everything is written in Japanese and most people speak little English. Therefore, it gets a bit difficult to hunt a vegan/vegetarian restaurant when you are out on the streets! We partly planned our eating-out business even before we reached Japan. With food being so important to me, I would never be able to come unplanned for a vegan/vegetarian version of the local cuisine.
I am a lacto-vegetarian – i.e., I eat milk and milk products, but I don’t eat eggs. My husband on the other hand is a vegetarian who eats eggs. If you are a vegetarian without clauses, then Japan is easy! For me, on the other hand it was less ‘laid-back’ because often the Japanese meals contain eggs. This is the reason, I go vegan on occasions!
We tried several places during our 15 days in Japan and loved most of them. None of the restaurants/eateries were bad but I did like a few over others and here is my list.
The list below is not necessarily the best but depending on what you order you may have a distinct experience.
Genki Sushi, Shibuya – Tokyo
Note – Our late lunch on second day in Tokyo was at Genki Sushi! We walked all the way from the Meiji Shrine to Genki in Shibuya. It was not really a very long walk but in fact a perfect one to make room for a big ‘Sushi Appetite’!
Now as you may know that this is not a Vegetarian or Vegan ONLY place, but it has several options to cater the vegetarian and vegan dietary needs. There is complimentary matcha available which can be made from the hot water dispenser between two seats. All orders are placed via the small individual monitor on the table. Of course, there is English Menu! If you are in doubt about the ingredients do call the staff as they seemed friendly. The décor is quite organized too! Food, as you might have read before, arrives on a conveyor belt.
We tried the following (see the pictures).
I mainly loved the Corn and Mayo Sushi and the Kappa Maki (Cucumber sushi). Keep in mind that the some types of Japanese Mayo is vegan! Natto Sushi on the other hand needs an acquired taste to keep you going; although, it is a very healthy selection. The cheese fries were amazing, and the quantity was huge. To end our sushi meal, we ordered the chocolate mousse which was rich and fantastic to share between the two of us!
Don’t look at Genki like another conveyor belt restaurant. Just try it out; it is high quality Japanese food!
Veganic To Go, Roppongi – Tokyo
We stayed really close to Veganic To Go! It was quite walkable from out hotel in Tokyo and we went there for dinner one evening. We went there after reading a lot of good recommendations online and it didn’t disappoint us at all. They grow most of the ingredients on their own and are organic with most constituents.
Pictures of what we ordered are below –
We tried their Vegan Tofu Burgers – One was a deep fried tofu slab burger with Hemp Bun and the other was a one with a regular bun; I really can’t remember the names! The burgers tasted fantastic although the ratio between the bun and the patty was a bit off track. The only thing I felt wrong was that it was a bit too expensive for the portion size.
It is a very tiny neat restaurant and has cute little seating/tables for few. The décor is excellent, and the staff is more than welcoming. We went there on a Tuesday at about 8PM and it was almost a full house. They are open 11:30AM to 10PM on all days except Sundays and Wednesdays (they close by 5PM on these two days). The last order is taken one hour before closing!
T’s Tan Tan, Tokyo Station
Hands down this was the best vegan restaurant for Ramen, in my opinion, during our two weeks in Japan! We loved it so much the first time we went there that it made us come back for one last time (last day) before we left Japan!
The restaurant is in Keiyo Street area of Tokyo Station. We asked the Station Staff to locate Keiyo Street for us; else it wouldn’t have been easy to find it on our own. If you have a JR Pass, then you can come to this area without a platform ticket otherwise you need to buy one at about 170 YEN. Trust me, even if you must do so, I can guarantee you will love the food here. The portion sizes are perfect to big! The staff is extremely hospitable, and the seating is comfortable.
Hokuo is a chain of bakery in Japan. We saw several outlets of Hokuo in Tokyo and around Japan. These outlets were often seen in big train stations.
Hokuo was always inviting and aromatic every time we passed the outlet. We finally tried the one in Shinjuku Station. We packed a lot of bakery that lasted the two of us for two days!
Their chocolate chunk muffins are awesome and not to be missed!
On our way back from Hakone and during a change of trains in the subway at Shinjuku station, we accidentally found this restaurant. The Ramen here was very good; light, mildly spiced and fulfilling. Price-wise too, HakoSoba was an absolute value for money!
This was next to Hokuo on the same line of shops. The staff helped us place an order for vegetarian Ramen at the vending machine. It wasn’t easy for us to do so because everything was in Japanese. We also learnt that it is a famous chain in Japan and is frequented by several locals and foreigners changing trains in Shinjuku Station.
Note – Please check if the Ramen broth contains fish before you place your order!
LBK Craft, Nara
Before we went to Nara, I did a lot of research on good vegetarian/vegan places for lunch. That was when we shortlisted LBK. When we reached Nara, we saw that there were no dearth of restaurants and most of them said they served Vegan food. However, it so happened that we got very late for lunch and we were around LBK Craft. That is why we decided to try what we had initially planned! When we entered the restaurant, it was just the two of us, but we were welcomed well. We were very hungry and ordered a few appetizers (it is popular for Japanese tapas) and 2 mains. The food delighted us, and I am so glad that LBK was our choice that afternoon!
The service was outstanding, the décor was gorgeous, and the seating was more than comfortable.
Saga Tofu Ine, Kyoto
Whenever I hunted for vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto, I saw that this was the most popular vegetarian (not vegan) restaurant amongst bloggers and reviewers! I wanted to try it after seeing all the pretty pictures, especially their attractive set menus with hot pots. All of what they serve are set tofu meals. I ordered the Arashiyama Set and my husband ordered the one with the hot-pot.
The Arashiyama Set Meal
The food was good looking but tasted just okay (not the best). One more thing that put me off was that one of the small dishes in the set menu had shrimp in it – so I am not sure if this place should be really recommended to vegetarians!
Taishoken Ramen Kyoto
Again, this was one of the most spoken restaurants amongst vegan and vegetarian tourists. It was also very easy for us to find this place in the Ramen Street of Kyoto Station. You need to however queue up (on busy hours) at the entrance to place your order via a vending machine. There is some seating inside, but the place can get really crowded.
The portion size was just okay and so was the taste. The vegan one what I ate was slightly bland to my liking. The fact that they served vegan and vegetarian selections made me happy that day. The staff was very helpful, and the service time was acceptable.
Naga-tya, Hiroshima (Nagata-ya)
We had a very long day in Miyajima but we still made it a point to reach Hiroshima in time for dinner. Naga-tya was something I simply didn’t want to miss even though we had plans to take the Shinkansen back to Osaka before 9:30PM. We reached Naga-tya at about 7PM and saw that there was a big queue! My husband wasn’t sure if it was all worth the hype and we also wanted to reach the JR station on time! Thankfully we got seated by 7:30PM and were done by 8:30PM. It was a very fulfilling meal! I had the vegan Okonomiyaki and my husband had the vegetarian which had cheese and eggs. Both were excellent!
Naga-tya has an extensive menu and you will for sure find something you may like. Every table has a hot plate to mash up your Okonomiyaki. All sauces, mayo and other toppings kept at the table (along with a set of instructions sheet). The staff is wonderful, and the service is timed well.
These are just a few tips if you are a vegan or a vegetarian in Japan. When you are in the respective cities, don’t forget to give them a shot and check it for yourself.
Being brought up as a vegetarian, I need to be careful choosing my food. I can’t rely on only the supermarket snacks! If I am nutrition deficient, I find myself extremely tired and my trips don’t go well. This is the reason, I ensure to get a balanced hot meal to entertain my health and palate.
Read about Whisky Tasting in Japan –
Read about Sake Tasting in Kyoto –