Vegetables are not exactly the most popular food option among kids and adults alike. They are not usually sweet and good-tasting, hence, people in general typically avoid eating vegetables of a certain kind. However, just like what parents always say, vegetables are important and should be eaten regularly as these are packed with vitamins and minerals that the body needs as a source of energy and nutrients. On the other hand, children still often disregard this notion and opt to eat meat as these taste better and more delicious for them. But as they grow older, people realize where meat comes from and how it is produced. The idea of killing animals and eating their meat is seen as disgusting and cruel by some people, hence, they become vegetarians.
Because not many people opt to become vegetarians as they see this as a challenge that is quite hard to overcome, it is no wonder that vegetarian restaurants are also not that many in certain places. In Japan, not many are vegetarians; hence, vegan restaurants can be a bit limited. However, there are still a number of vegetarian restaurants in the Land of the Sun that offer great dishes perfect for vegans.
Basic Things to Know When Dining Vegan in Japan
When visiting Japan, finding vegetarian restaurants or just restaurants that offer vegetarian dishes may be a concern for vegans. Therefore, it is important to bring a few Japanese words and phrases that would be useful when going into a restaurant. Most fish stocks in Japan incorporate meat or fish in them, hence, for strict vegetarians, it would be safe to ask the servers if there is meat or fish in a certain dish. In Japanese, one can ask, “Niku ka sakana wa haitte imasuka?” which directly translates to, “Is there meat or fish in this?” Another Japanese question that one may ask would be, “Bejitarian ryori wa arimasi ka?” This translates to, “Do you have any vegetarian dishes?” in Japanese.
For strict vegetarians who do not eat meat or fish, they can say, “Watashi wa niku mo sakana mo taberaremasen.” This translates to, “I do not eat meat or fish.” On the other hand, for vegans who do not eat meat but are okay to eat fish, they can say, “Niku wa dame dakedo, sakana wa daijyobu desu.” This translates to, “I do not eat meat, but fish is okay.” If one would like to have their meat replaced by vegetables or tofu, one can ask, “Niku no kawari ni yasai/tofu ni dekimasuka?” This translates to, “May I have vegetables/tofu instead of meat?”
While there are vegetarian restaurants in Japan, the safest place to eat for vegans would be in shojin ryori and macrobiotic restaurants. Buddhist monks are the primary consumers of shojin ryori as this does not allow meat and fish, as well as leeks, garlic, and onion, to be included in the dishes. These dishes are usually composed of fruits and vegetables cooked with nuts and soy beans, which are rich in proteins. Shojin ryori can be found in places with a huge number of Buddhist temples.
For foods that are friendly to vegetarians, there are many options in the Japanese cuisine. An example would be tempura donburi, which is basically battered vegetables that are deep-fried. Often comes with rice, this meal is great for people who love tempura. For people who just like pickled vegetable, then tsukemono is a must-try. Typically a part of a Japanese set meal, tsukemono are Japanese pickled vegetables that are come in sweet, salty, and sour flavors. As for a heart-warming Japanese dish, vegetarians can try miso and tofu soup. Just make sure to get it from vegetarian restaurants to ensure that dashi was not added to the soup.
Affordable Vegetarian Restaurants in Tokyo
If one is looking for a vegetarian gyoza, then look no further than Olu’Olu Café. With their address at 1-11-1 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, this café has a Hawaiian theme with surfboards hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant welcomes customers with or without shoes and shirts on, similar to the attire in beaches. One of their bestsellers would be the creamy “detox curry.” Soya-based dishes are served in this restaurant, along of brown rice, vegetables, coconut milk, and even “wheat” coffee, which is made using grains like barley and rye. This restaurant is also great for foreigners as their menu is translated in English. It can be accessed through either Sangenjaya Station or Ikejiri-Ohashi Station.
A hole in the wall that would surely delight vegetarians is the Tamana Shokudo. While finding it can be a bit of a challenge for people who are not familiar with the area, the hunt would worth it once they have tried the dishes of Tamana Shokudo. Usually packed during lunch hour, their no. 1 bestseller would be their signature lunch set called Tamana Teishoku. Priced at 1,890 yen, this set includes a fusion of around 40 various ingredients combined to optimize nutritional balance. One of the ingredients that play a huge role in this set is soy sauce rice malt, which translates to shoyu koji in Japanese. Organic products are also sold in this restaurant, such as beans and olive oil. Located at 3-8-27 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, the restaurant can be accessed by getting off at Omotesando Station.
For people who would like their dishes to be a bit sweet, try visiting Ain Soph. Journey. With two branches, one being in Shinjuku and another being in Ginza, Ain Soph. Journey offers a set meal that includes fluffy pancakes with vegan toppings like jam, ice creams, cheese, fruits, and nuts. Other sides that come with this set are tomato soup, fresh salad, and tea. For a spicier option, one can get the Green Curry Set. In Tokyo, the restaurant can be accessed by getting off at Shinjuku-Sanchome Station.
If one is in Akihabara and is looking for a vegetarian restaurant after that long day of shopping, head on over to Kamakura Fushikian. Because Akihabara is not exactly the place to be for vegetarians, Kamakura Fushikian is quite popular as among the few vegan restaurants in the area. Located at 8-2 Kanda-Neribeicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, this restaurant offers shojin ryori as well as vegetarian sweets. Open from 11 in the morning to 8 in the evening, Kamakura Fushikian can be easily accessed by getting off at Akihabara Station, Electric Town exit.
As for the best vegan restaurant in Shibuya, the restaurant is none other than Nagi Shokudo. While it is also a challenge to find this restaurant, Nagi Shokudo is packed with customer when it is time for lunch. With only 1,000 yen, a person can already have a generous lunch set that includes rice, miso, a drink, and three side dishes. All of the side dishes are vegetarian; hence, vegans need not worry over this. With its location at 15-10 Uguisudanicho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, this restaurant can easily be accessed by getting off at Shibuya Station.
Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Kyoto
Because most Buddhist sects of Japan are located in Kyoto, it is no wonder that there are also tons of vegetarian restaurants in the city. Also known for its tofu and locally grown vegetables called Kyo-yasai in Japanese, Kyoto is a great place for vegetarians looking for a good vegan restaurant. Among the popular vegetarian restaurants in the city is Biotei. While the space may not be that big, customers still prefer going to this restaurant for a quick vegan fix. The restaurant offers affordable set meals that are filling to the stomach. For those who do not like smoke, the place offers a non-smoking area. Located at 2F M&I Building, 28 Umetada-cho, Higashinotouin-nishi-iru, Sanjo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, the restaurant can be reached through their telephone number 255-0086. The restaurant is also accessible as it is only a 2-minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station.
As Kyoto is known for its tofu, it comes as no surprise that there are restaurants in the city that are vegan and also specialize in tofu dishes. Among the best ones would be Tousuiro. Vegans in Kyoto love this place, as it is basically the haven of tofu dishes. Even non-vegans would love the food being offered by this restaurant. The place is especially packed during summer season as customer love sitting on the outside deck of the restaurant wherein they can overlook the Kamo-gawa River. While the price range may be a bit up there, many people swear that the food is definitely worth it. Located at 517-3 Kamiosaka-cho, Sanjo-agaru, Kiyamachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, the restaurant can be reached through their telephone number 251-1600. The restaurant is also accessible as it is only a 3-minute walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station Exit 1.
While ramen in Japan generally comes with pork stock, a ramen restaurant in Kyoto offers something else altogether: vegetarian ramen. Known as Shokudo Terasu, the restaurant offers ramen that can either come with meat or is vegetarian. For people who love their ramen with meat, the restaurant has three types of ramen to offer that come with meat stock. On the other hand, for vegetarians, they can go for the tonyu-soup ramen, also known as soymilk ramen. Containing absolutely no meat, the ramen costs about 950 yen. The noodles in the soymilk ramen may be green but this is only natural as the color comes from a plant known as moroheiya in Japanese. With its great taste, there would surely be none left for takeout. It would be especially great to get this ramen during the winter season, sometime in December to February. Located at 1F Gionshijo Jissai Bld., 7 Yamato-cho, Yamatooji-dori-Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, the restaurant can easily be accessed, as it is only a 2-minute walk from Gion-shijo Station.
Other Must-Try Vegan Restaurants in Tokyo, Japan
There are still other vegetarian restaurants to try in Japan, especially in Tokyo. An example would be Loving Hut, which is located at Okada Bldg 2F, 1-54, Kandajinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. It is among the most popular vegan restaurants in the area as it even offer buffet during Saturday afternoons for only about 1,500 yen. The restaurant also offers vegetarian catering and cooking classes. Another popular vegan restaurant would be T’s Tantan. Located inside the ticket gate of Tokyo Station, this restaurant offers vegetarian ramen as well. As for a macrobiotic restaurant in Tokyo, try Kushi Garden. Known as one of the pioneers of vegetarian dining in Tokyo, Kushi Garden now only had three items in their menu. Still, they are among the most popular restaurants for vegetarians.
For a more cultural dining experience with vegetarian dishes, one can opt to dine at Bon. Located at Ryusen Taito-ku, Tokyo, this restaurant offers shojin ryori inspired by Zen Buddhist monks. It is important to note that dining in this restaurant is by reservation only. Although the price range may be a bit high, the cultural experience in this restaurant is unlike any other, with their rooms floored with tatami mats in traditional Japanese style. For a purely vegetarian Japanese cuisine, one can also opt to go to Phono Kafe. Located at Nishikamata, Ota-ku, Tokyo, this restaurant has a small space but incredibly delicious vegetarian dishes. They also serve beverages like tea, juice, coffee, and even alcohol. The restaurant is easily accessible, as it is only a 15-minute walk from Keikyu Kamata Station.
There are still a number of vegetarians restaurants in Japan that vegans can opt to try aside from the ones mentioned above. While vegan dishes are not exactly considered the norm by many people, opting for a more nutritious meal is always a good choice for the mind and the body of a person. Slowly, the Japanese are learning that there are more and more people who are becoming vegetarians today to live that healthy lifestyle. Hence, the industry of vegetarian restaurants is also slowly growing to cater the increasing demand. Searching for a good vegetarian restaurant may seem like a long hunt, but this would not be that big an obstacle when one is in Japan.