Friday 8 September 2023

Can You Be Vegan in Tokyo? The Best Vegan Restaurants in Tokyo and More!

tokyo vegan

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 fear of missing out (Italy, Germany, USA, Thailand 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 Is It Hard to Be Vegan in Tokyo?

1. If, like me, you don't read or speak Japanese there's no way you're going to be able to guess what's in the food - this isn't like Italy where you can make an educated guess.

2. In Japan, there are some super unusual foods and food-combos - the temptation to go into a supermarket or restaurant and order something blind is overwhelming.

3. But even when you aren't in the mood for eating something that you 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!

4. On a personal note, I've wanted to go to Japan since I was about seven and most of those reasons revolved around non-vegan foods - like jellyfish ice cream!

So what happened? Did I stop being vegan? No. 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 on the fight of Vegan vs Tokyo, vegan won. I pulled my socks up and wrote this (hopefully) helpful guide to eating vegan in Tokyo.

Eating Vegan in Tokyo

1. Bring Vegan Food with You to 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 if you've got room. Porridge and Oreos were hard to find, so it was definitely good to have these on hand.

2. Stay Somewhere in Tokyo With a Kitchen

eating vegan in tokyo

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

3. Tackle the 7-11s in Tokyo

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 lifesaver - as long as you know what you're buying. If you're eating vegan in Tokyo, you can buy:
  • Bananas
  • Nuts
  • Noodles
  • Ketchup
  • Inari sushi
  • Rice balls
... and more. I found out all the 7-11 info from this post which was super helpful.

4. Go to a Vegan Restaurant in Tokyo

vegan restaurant tokyo

I mean duh right, but judging by the number of people that ask 'where is a vegan restaurant Tokyo' in the Vegan Travel Facebook group, apparently not so much duh. For those vegans who don't already know, Happy Cow, Vanilla Bean and Abillionveg (when registering for this latter amazing app, plz use our referral code 'travellingweasels' to support us and animal sanctuaries) are your new best friends. On Happy Cow, for example you can find loads and loads of vegan restaurants in Tokyo, I mean check it out:

vegan restaurant tokyo

As you can see you are spoilt for choice. We didn't try them all (unfortunately), 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).

5. Make the Most of Tokyo Vegan Restaurants

vegan in tokyo

On that note, make the most of your time in vegan restaurants and cafes in Tokyo, 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).

6. Tackle Non-Vegan Sushi Bars in Tokyo

vegan in tokyo

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: just 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.

7. Know Which Snacks are Accidentally Vegan in Tokyo

eating vegan in tokyo

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).

8. Be Vegan in Kamakura!

vegan in tokyo

Don't be afraid to venture outside of Tokyo. 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.

Wrap Up: Eating Vegan in Tokyo

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! And you - have you been to Tokyo? What's your number one vegan tip? And if you haven't been, does the food put you off? [Read more: 17 Reasons to Visit Tokyo Japan]

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us, veganvstravel as well, use this link plz to download Abillionveg. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

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