So I went to Tokyo recently and had the best food experience! I thought why not make a vegan Tokyo guide? It's trickier to be vegan in Japan and I did more research than for other countries so I wanted to simplify your Tokyo time for you so that you can focus your energy on other parts of your travels.
The first thing I heard about Japan was that it’s near to impossible to be vegan there. People kept saying how there’s fish sauce (bonito dashi) in everything and whether I’d be okay eating non-vegan things there. But would I? I was pretty sure from checking Happy Cow that there are many vegan places and places offering vegan food in Tokyo so I didn't even think about it further. I had an extensive list ready with all information I needed to be vegan and to explain to people that I'm vegan.
I watched many youtube videos about vegan products in Tokyo’s convenient stores as well as vegan food in restaurants and cafes. From what I saw online, I was pretty sure I’d have a rad time in Tokyo munching on vegan onigiri and mochi all day long.
But…reality looked different. I ate meat and fish and dairy because I couldn't possibly avoid it…
It was easy. Easy enough. Hard at times but not really. The supermarkets and convenient stores were the trickiest but even they had delicious treats.
I had a wonderful time in Tokyo indulging in their legendary V E G A N fluffy pancakes, daifuku, onigiri, baked sweet potato, umeboshi, natto rolls, and what not.
However, I wasn’t always 100% sure whether everything was totally vegan in the supermarkets. To explain this (since this sounds like I was lazy and didn't have a clue what I was doing), the Japanese ingredient list laws are a bit different from the ones I'm used to. From the research I did (I'll include a list at the end of this post), companies don't need to mention in the ingredient list that their products contain meat/fish/dairy if it's a tiny amount or used in the process only. Even more confusing though, at times it clearly says on the product that it contains dairy/eggs even though it is vegan but just handled with dairy/egg products! Very irritating, I know! But there are plently of groups online as well as blog posts about vegan supermarket food in Japan.
The way that you can find out whether a product is really vegan or not is to join the Tokyo Vegan/Vegetarian Friends Club and check out the website Is It Vegan Japan. So there is a lot of help out there and that's how I ended up trying many different foods that I've never had before like umeboshi (pickled plum) flavoured onigiri, baked Japanese sweet potatoes, natto (fermented soy beans, which are not always vegan since the fermentation is sometimes cultivated with the help of meat or dairy).
In this blog post, I want to make your vegan travels in Tokyo as easy as possible! And honestly, I can't recommend Tokyo enough for food and just to experience it as a city. It's totally awesome and I already want to go back and live there!
I went to Tokyo with my partner for a week which we probably wouldn't have done if we weren't to travel to Australia. We thought it doesn't make sense to go straight to Australia since it's on the other side of the world without discovering another country on our way there. We try to reduce our flight consumption as much as possible (check out our Arran holiday post where we cycled the entire isle and to reach the isle we took public transport).
I would say if you go to Tokyo, then make it more than a week and travel around Japan because you will most likely regret it otherwise (we are beyond sad to have left Japan so quickly but we are grateful that we could experience this totally unique and wonderful place).
Now grab a tea or coffee and check out my favourite vegan places in Tokyo below!
Right, first things first: you need to try ramen in Japan! And eat lots of it! Ramen is life, ramen is everything. You can't leave the country without experiencing this foodgasmic traditional dish! I swear, it's my favourite dish now (besides sushi rolls) and I can recommend two total ramen bangers that you really can't miss out on! I have to say, I've only eaten ramen once in my life before and would never have dreamt to choose a noodle in soup type of dish before because it never appealed to me. And now I'm like HOW DID I LIVE THE PAST TWENTY AND SO YEARS?
1. T’s Tan Tan (vegan), Chiyoda
This is the first of the two ramen places that you NEED to go to. It's so good that I nearly cried the first time we went there. I essentially got ramen with peanut butter and felt that all my wishes came true.
You might have most likely heard of this place since it's featured on every vegan blog post about Tokyo and I do get why: they have so many different flavours and everything's vegan. I can highly recommend the black sesame ramen (the peanut butter ramen that's probably the best thing that you'll probably eat in your life) and the shoyu ramen! The golden sesame ramen is exceptional too.
There's two T's Tan Tan's in Tokyo, I've only been at the one in the Tokyo Station. You need to be in the station so if you take the metro to Tokyo Station then you're in already. So don't go out of the gates. If you're not in the station, you need to buy a ticket to access Tan Tan. I recommend you don't just run around without knowing where Tan Tan is cos you'll most likely not find it, the station is huuuge! Tan Tan is situated in "Keiyo Street" within the station. Follow the signs to the Keiyo line and you'll find it next to other food places. Google maps is a great help I can guarantee!
Now the cool thing is that in one of the many convenient stores (Natural Lawson, not all of them though so depends how much luck you have) you will find Tan Tan pot noodles. They come in two flavours and are super delicious for pot noodles but nothing like the ramen they make in the restaurant! So it's not a replacement but rather an add on if you're broke as f*ck and need dinner (they are wrapped in plastic but you'll see that most foods are).
2. Shaka (vegan option), Shinjuku
OMG this place! So this is my second and last ramen place that I recommend to you. I found it through a vegan food blogger and am super grateful about it because otherwise, I'd have never discovered it.
This is a more traditional Japanese ramen place where you order outside at a vending machine and then enter the place with your receipt. This place is not vegan nor vegetarian but they have vegan miso ramen and the lady who makes the ramen knows what vegan means! :)) The 870 yen veggie ramen is vegan! The chef prepares the ramen in front of you which is such a special thing. And the ramen is so umami, I couldn't believe it's vegan. The meaty soy she puts in is SO smokey and SO meaty but not too smokey or too meaty either. Just try it!
Top tip for when you're travelling on a budget: go out for lunch and not for dinner. Many places uppen their prices for dinner (good thing is that Tan Tan and Shaka don't so you can have ramen for dinner ;))
3. Loving Hut (vegan), Chiyoda
My favourite place that's non-ramen related!!!! You MUST go there, it's incredible. Loving Hut exists in many different places in the world and I've never been to any other ones but this place is just mindblowing. They bring out so many different dishes and it's nearly a bit overwhelming (in the most positive way).
Definitely try their dumplings, and make sure to try the green and the white dumplings because they have different fillings. Sadly, I could only eat one plate and was too full to continue my food journey but hey that's life and we shouldn't be greedy.
They recently changed their times and are only open on Saturdays so keep that in mind. For lunch you have a buffet (I highly recommend this cos you get to try so many different dishes which are all soooo good and you get an endless supply of tea and food for a decent price). If you want to eat dinner you need to book a table.
4. Mominoki House (vegan options), Shibuja
This photo doesn't do the food justice! This place is more of a traditional Japanese place and we got warm water when we came in which I loved. We had the cosiest time and ate the soy meat dish with veggies, brown rice and miso soup, and the veggie dish which also came with miso soup and brown rice. I'd recommend the soy meat dish because it's more special. The price was 999 yen as far as I remember, and the veggie plate was around 1200.
We initially went to Mominoki House to eat sushi because our first thought when we booked our travels to Japan was to eat sushi all day long. This didn't happen however because we found that vegan sushi was far too expensive and ramen is a much more common dish (at least for vegans). When we went to Mominoki House, we realised that they only make sushi for dinner but the man who served us kindly suggested to make it for lunch if we wanted. However, the price was over 3 000 yen (around 25-30 euro ) for 8 or 10 sushi pieces which wouldn't really be a meal and far too pricey we thought. But I heard their sushi is delicious and not every place does vegan sushi.
5. Ain Soph Journey (vegan), Shinjuku
This place is super cute and all vegan. We both had a mushroom tomato sauce dish with brown rice and it tasted so perfect! Really reminded me of goulash but with many different tasty mushrooms instead of meat. Their meals are above 1000 yen which is totally okay considering how much food you get, and I honestly recommend to most definitely try their fluffy pancakes ! They take about 15 mins to prepare and cost around 1500 yen and are so so so worth it! You don't understand it until you try them. These are the best fluffy pancakes I've ever eaten. And they come with LOTS of cream (which you can see on the left), and it is SO incredibly delicious!
6. Chipoon (vegan options), Harajuku
This place is really cheap if you're looking for a smaller lunch place. It's in a shopping centre called Laforet Harajuku. The ramen was good but not as special and delicious as the ramen places I mentioned already. The steamed bun burger was yummy and I think it was filled with a sweet soy sauce and veg!
7. Farmer's Cafe Project/ Nomin Cafe (vegetarian with vegan options), Shimokitazawa
If you go to a food place, go to this one! I cannot recommend it enough. Everything they use in their dishes is local and organic and they have vegan options. The food is soooo good! We had the curry and a veggie assortment dish which I can't remember the name of. Both were just heavenly. Before our main meal, we got a miso veg soup and could choose between a lotus tea and a coffee.
We got a dessert that tastes and looks like slighty firm/silken tofu with a sugar syrup and maca powder on top. It tasted really special and I am keen to make my own tofu dessert now! If you know a good recipe, hit me up.
Also, we had to take our shoes off at the entrance and got slippers under our table which was super cosy. I wish every restaurant was like that. The atmosphere was so peaceful and quiet. It really made me feel deeply relaxed and satisfied with everything. A one of a kind experience!
8. Good Town Doughnuts (vegan options), Shibuja
Best doughnuts I've ever eaten and I've eaten a tons of doughnuts in my life. These just had the right consistency. The fluffiness isn't something you can get perfect so easily. I don't know how people in Tokyo make the best food but they honestly do. Every dish and baked good is just perfect!
9. Japanese confectionary shop (vegan options), Chiyoda (Can't find the name so here's the Japanese name and address: 亀屋大和, 1 Chome-14-10 Higashikanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0031, Japan)
This is such a cute little authentic Japanese sweet shop with the friendliest owners! It looks like it's from a different type and some sort of film prop because it's so perfect! But then, everything in Tokyo looks a bit too perfect with the streets being so clean that you can probably lick them. That's one of the reasons why I felt so safe and cosy walking along the streets in Tokyo!
We kindly asked for vegan options and got told their Mitarashi Dango (3 baked mochis on a stick with a sweet soy sauce) are vegan. Mochis and daifuku are usually vegan but we just wanted to make sure anyway. Apparently, they have the most delicious strawberry daifuku for strawberry season (January-Feburary).
10. Mount Mitake Mitarashi Dango, Mitake
The Mitarashi Dango on Mount Mitake were so good! They were still hot and the seller asked whether I wanted sweet soy sauce or chestnut sauce! I wasn't sure at the time whether the chestnut sauce was vegan so I went for the sweet soy sauce, but now I know chestnut sauces are vegan too.
Make sure to go to Mitake for a day trip because it isn't that far away from Tokyo and techniqually still a part of the Tokyo area.
There are lots of temples on Mitake and the highlight is a pet temple where people take their pets to bless them and pray for them. I've never heard of anything like that but am quite happy to hear that they care so much about their pets. We encountered many friendly dogs on our way there.
Convenience Store Products and "Accidental Vegan Products"
Onigiri can be vegan. There's two different vegan options in Tokyo (ingredients differ in different places), one with seaweed (my absolute favourite), and one with umeboshi which I also really like. Umeboshi is pickled plum and at first I thought it's gonna be sweet but it's a very interesting flavour combination, sweet and salty and sour.
The plain rice balls that you can get are vegan too.
You can find these in Lawson (the best convenient store for vegan options), 7-Eleven, Family Mart and probably other stores too.
I ate onegiri every day all day. This is me eating onegiri with seaweed on Mount Mitake. I can't describe how much I miss onigiri already!
2. Baked Japanese Sweet Potato
This is the best thing ever. Why can you not buy baked sweet potato anywhere else in the world? This should be a thing in every single country. Instead of getting hot chicken in Tesco, they should have these all inclusive, eco friendly sweet potatoes instead! These hot boys can be found in bigger supermarkets (don't ask me where, I know that big supermarkets do them cos of other bloggers but haven't been to any that have them). I found them in every Maruetsu (supermarket), even the small ones! Also, there's sweet potato vans that sell them like the one you see on the first photo of this post.
3. Macrobiotic, Natural Lawson
In Natural Lawson, you can get the Macrobiotic range. Not everything in the range is vegan but they have lots of vegan products, like these macrobiotic cookies. Not every flavour might be vegan but the pumpkin one is. For more info, check out the Is It Vegan Japan website.
4. Dried Mango
Dried fruit is usually vegan and these dried mango are so chewy and soft! I sometimes find with dried mango that the stripes are too hard and you can't really chew them, but these ones were just right.
5. Dried Sweet Potato Sticks
You need to try dried sweet potato sticks! They are a total banger. We ate so many of these, and they are just too special to miss out! The perfect snack.
6. Sheet Shaped Pickled Plum
These umeboshi sweets look the same as other candy but they have something very unique about them. The flavour is a bit salty but in a nice way.
7. Soy Joy (vegan options)
Soy Joy are soy based bars that are sweet and super tasty! I really like the plain flavoured one. I found the banana soy joy too banana flavoured but like the fake candy banana flavour.
8. Meiji (vegan options)
Meji has some vegan chocolate! Both listed below are vegan and I love the flavour. The first one has tiny chocolate bits all separately packaged in plastic though, if I knew that I wouldn't have got that one.
9. Mixed Nuts
Now you might think why the hell is she mentioning that nuts are vegan? Duuuh of course they are! No no no. In Japan they are not always vegan. They are sometimes cooked in butter so make sure to look out for the nuts that look plain. I got this one from Lawson.
10. White Figs
These figs are small and white! I've never had this kind of fig before but it's even tastier than normal figs. I hope you get to try these!
11. Edamame beans
Edamame beans are just the best and you can get them in convenient stores too in the fridge section (see pic below). I always got mine from Lawson!
12. Salad Dressing with Tofu, White Sesame and White Miso (Lawson)
This is one of my favourite things to get from Lawson besides onigiri. It's a silken tofu, sea weed, sesame white miso salad that's suuuuper delicious (see photo below).
13. Giant Cheeto (Lawson)
The weird cartoon character packaging contains a giant cheeto that's vegan. I was really into it but it's nothing really special to be honest. The flavour is pretty good and I think it cost like 10 yen.
14. Natto Roll (Lawson)
Next to the cheeto is a natto roll. Natto is very special, I personally didn't like it that much but mabye that's due to the fact that I didn't know the flavour. It's just something very new to my tastebuds. It tastes a bit like cheese and looks stringy. So actually quite a nice flavour and texture! I dare you to try it and tell me how you find natto.
15. Morinaga Macrobiotic Biscuits
The cookies next to the salad are called Morinaga Macrobiotic Biscuits. I really liked them, and they seemed pretty natural and all. I would describe them as healthy sweet snacks.
Now that, my friend, is the end of my Tokyo journey. I hope you found some useful tips, and I'll link useful websites down below!
If you enjoyed my Tokyo guide, please let me know in the comments and if you have any further questions about how to be vegan in Tokyo, you can always instagram me or comment below!
I might do a Tokyo guide for general things on my blog, like where to go vintage shopping, what day trip to do from Tokyo, and so on. Let me know if you want to see that! I would include how to get around, what to think about before going to Tokyo, where to stay and so on.
Much love, Viki xx
Useful Kanji to look out for:
Meat (niku): 肉 or ニク
Fish (sakana): 魚 or さかな
Seafood (gyokairui): 魚介類 or 魚貝類 or シーフード
Beef (gyuniku): 牛肉 or ビーフ
Pork (butaniku): 豚肉 or ポーク
Chicken (toriniku): 鶏肉 or とり肉 or チキン
Bonito (katsuo): 鰹 or かつお
Bonito flakes (katsuobushi): 鰹節 or かつおぶし or カツオブシ
Dried anchovy (niboshi): 煮干し or ニボシ
Shrimp (ebi): 海老 or えび or エビ
Cod Roe (mentaiko): 明太子 or めんたいこ
Cod Roe (tarako): 鱈子 or たらこ or タラコ
Gelatin (zerachin): ゼラチン
Egg (tamago): 卵 or たまご
Cow’s milk (gyunyu): 牛乳 or ぎゅうにゅう or ミルク
Milk/dairy (yuu/chichi: 乳 or にゅう or ちち
Cheese (chi-zu): ちーず or チーズ
Can't remember where I got this from unfortunately! But it also said that the kanji for umeboshi, for instance, is an exception, since it contains the kanji for meat but no actual meat is in umeboshi. So there are exceptions out there. Oh and also, make sure you download google translator because you can easily scan the ingredient list in a supermarket even without internet (even though the application using internet is better in my opinion).
Every Vegan Snack that you can buy at Convenience stores in Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbrN6MdCVGk&list=PLFgOcR46fUrkzyYb5YnSdKm9GTOFdn8Ly&index=3&t=0s
Is it hard to be vegan in Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpmv3rL33XE&list=PLFgOcR46fUrkzyYb5YnSdKm9GTOFdn8Ly&index=1
How to Vegan grocery shop in Japan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynzuQn6W-Hg&list=PLFgOcR46fUrkzyYb5YnSdKm9GTOFdn8Ly&index=14&t=718s