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Can You Be Vegan In Tokyo?





Japan is the first country I've visited where I wished I wasn't vegan!

I mean this isn't really saying much, since I've become vegan I've only travelled to countries I've been to as a meat-eater and thus don't have the fomo (Italy, Germany, USA, Thailand and the Philippines). OR I've been to new countries which are super great for vegans and/or aren't really renowned for their exciting cuisine anyway (Canada, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia and Dubai - I'll let you work out which ones fall into which category. lol). 

But back to Japan: Japan is the first country I've visited where I considered not being vegan. Why?

Why it's hard to been vegan in Tokyo
1. I've wanted to got to Japan since I was about seven and most of those reasons revolved around food - like jellyfish ice cream!! 
2. I don't speak Japanese, and they have some super unusual foods and food-combos there - the temptation to go into a supermarket or restaurant and order something blind was overwhelming. 
3. And even when I wasn't in the mood for eating something that I didn't know what it was, like when I just wanted to have a normal lunch, that was almost impossible too! Things you think are safe (like bread) weren't always a go-go. Sometimes the bread had fish in it!

So what happened? Did I stop being vegan? 

Naa thoughts of jellyfish ice cream and sushi were quickly extinguished with thoughts about dolphin and whale slaughter, and frogs being eaten alive.. :(

I am happy to report in the fight of Vegan vs Tokyo, vegan won. I pulled my socks up and wrote this (hopefully) helpful guide for vegans in Tokyo. 

Things vegans should know before visiting Tokyo
You're NOT allowed to bring in fresh fruit or vegetables into Japan (you're not allowed to bring in meat either, but I'm assuming you wouldn't do that)

We did bring in pasta, noodles, porridge and Oreos. These were all fine. Of course you can find pasta in Tokyo, and if you can't find noodles in Japan then you are rubbish, but chances are where you're coming from (i.e. almost any other country in the world) they will have cheaper pasta and noodles, so stock up and bring them in. 

Porridge and Oreos were hard to find, so it was definitely good to have these on hand. 

How to be vegan in Tokyo
1. Stay Somewhere With a Kitchen


Aka an Airbnb, couchsurfing or a hotel with a kitchen. 

This is where your noodles, pasta and porridge come in. Cook for yourself! (Obviously don't bother bringing in noodles, pasta and porridge if you're not coming to have a place to cook them)!

You must eat out at least once when you go to Tokyo, but that doesn't mean you have to always eat out. There's no shame in having porridge for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and eating out for dinner #noshame


[Looking for more tips for Tokyo? Check out James's post Tips for planning your trip to Japan] :D 

Even if you don't have a kitchen, you can still prepare sandwiches wherever you're staying which brings me to:

2. Tackle the 7-11s
You're never more than a ten minute walk away from a 7-11 or a Family Mart in Tokyo, or so I'm told. These are a life saver - as long as you know what you're buying. A vegan in Tokyo can buy:

Bananas, nuts, noodles, ketchup, inari sushi, rice balls and more. Actually before I went I read this post about 7-11 foods vegans can buy in Tokyo which was super helpful. 

3. Go To A Vegan Restaurant


I mean duh right, but judging by the amount of people that ask 'where can I go to eat out in Tokyo' in the Vegan Travel Facebook group, apparently not so much duh. 


For those vegans who don't already know, the Happy Cow website and app is your new best friend - here you can find loadsss and loaddssss of vegan restaurants in Tokyo, I mean check it out:



As you can see you are spoilt for choice. We didn't try them all (obviously), but our favourite was Little Saebejae near Asakusa - finally my dream of blind tasting came true!! Everything on the menu was vegan and I safely picked something at random (which turned out to be the most amazing mushroom and tofu meal). 

4. Make The Most Of The Vegan Restaurants 


On that note, make the most of your time in vegan restaurants and cafes, don't just go for a meal, take some vegan cakes and cookies for tomorrow's breakfast (or more likely for a midnight snack haha). 


5. Tackle Non-Vegan Sushi Bars


Some vegans won't go to a restaurant unless it's exclusively vegan, or at the very least vegetarian. I'm not quite there yet (though I won't go somewhere where it stinks of meat or fish). Anyway, if you're like me and have been dying to visit a sushi place in Tokyo since like forever, don't worry, I've got you:


Order inari sushi (tofu) and/or kappa sushi (cucumber). 


We went to Genki Sushi and loved it! You order your sushi on a little iPad and it is sent along to you on a little train - no waiters needed.  

6. Know Which Snacks Are Accidentally Vegan


Like dango - chewy Japanese balls made of rice flower, accidentally vegan (though double check what they're covered in, they come in lots of different flavours including sometimes honey). 


7. Be Vegan In Kamakura! 


Don't be afraid to venture outside of Tokyo. A one hour train's ride away is Kamakura: a seaside town with loads of awesome stuff to see (like a giant Buddha and a Bamboo forest) anddd they have a tonne of vegan cafes and restaurants. 

Conclusion
So there you have it, you can indeed be vegan in Tokyo: try out the many vegan restaurants and cafes, bring your own food, and conquer the 7-11s. Have fun!!

Have you been to Tokyo? What's your number one vegan tip? And if you haven't been, does the food put you off?


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