Being a vegetarian in Japan can also be tricky, however with some effort and pre-planning it can be very rewarding. Even supposing we despaired from time to time of discovering a veggie-friendly meal, we additionally had one of the most maximum abnormal and scrumptious foods we’ve got ever eaten. We cherished the foodie tradition in Japan and located the meals to be prime quality, fantastically offered, and wholesome.
In 2017 we returned to Japan and located that the location for vegetarians has stepped forward since 2011. There are actually extra vegetarian eating places in addition to conventional Eastern eating places providing vegetarian choices (with at hand English menus). I’ve up to date this information (at first revealed in January 2012) according to our stories.
Listed here are our guidelines for surviving Japan as a vegetarian:
- Pointers for Vegetarians in Japan
- Vegetarian-Pleasant Eastern Meals
- Vegetarian Tofu Dishes
- Our Favorite Vegetarian Eating places in Japan
Pointers for Vegetarians in Japan
Be informed Some Eastern
Simon looking to translate a Eastern menu in 2011. Now we’ve got Google Translate—such a lot more uncomplicated.
Now not many Eastern other folks discuss English (even if that is bettering) and finding out a couple of words is very important to creating your wishes as a vegetarian understood. Don’t be too frightened even though – even if finding out to learn Kanji takes a large number of time, the spoken language is more uncomplicated to select up that I anticipated. I used the Pimsleur Eastern audio direction.
You must take a look at telling other folks that you’re vegetarian (“Watashi wa bejitarian des”) however they most probably received’t perceive precisely what this implies. It’s higher to be clearer and as an alternative say “watashi wa niku toh sakana wo taberarimasen” this means that I don’t devour meat or fish. We discovered this word very helpful and effectively used it in eating places to get a vegetarian meal.“Taberarimasen” approach “I don’t devour” so you’ll be able to upload any phrase in entrance of that.
A couple of different helpful phrases and words:
yasai – greens
tamago – egg
katsuobushi nashi de onegai shimas – with out bonito (fish) flakes please
…arimas ka? – do you might have…?
nan des ka? – what’s it?
oishikatta des – that used to be scrumptious. This at all times made other folks smile.
arigato gozaimas – thanks
sumimasen – excuse me
Print a Vegetarian or Vegan Card
On our 2nd talk over with to Japan we discovered it used to be a lot more uncomplicated to provide an explanation for what we couldn’t devour by way of appearing eating place personnel a card we’d published from Simply Hungry—they have got choices for quite a few nutritional necessities. We used the vegetarian card that mentioned we couldn’t devour meat, fish or dashi (fish inventory) and it stored us from dashi a variety of instances (this used to be at all times the toughest factor to provide an explanation for verbally).
Our vegetarian ceremonial dinner at Lodge Musashiya in Hakone. Ryokans are regularly nice puts for veggie foods in case you give an explanation for your necessities.
Purchase a Eastern Knowledge SIM Card
I extremely suggest taking an unlocked telephone to Japan and purchasing an information SIM card whilst you arrive. We purchased one from the Umobile merchandising gadget at Tokyo Narita airport. Being hooked up will provide help to to find vegetarian eating places the usage of Google Maps and Glad Cow and it additionally means that you can use Google Translate.
Use Google Translate
Packaging in comfort retail outlets is nearly solely written in Eastern so it’s tricky to grasp the components of a snack or rice ball. We used Google Translate’s symbol characteristic to translate factor lists on packaging simply by pointing our telephone’s digital camera lens at it and urgent the digital camera icon within the app.
The moment translate view doesn’t at all times paintings, so for a extra correct translation take a photograph of the packet and spotlight along with your finger the textual content you wish to have to be translated. This works for eaterie menus too, even if we discovered maximum puts we visited had English menus.
It’s regularly conceivable to seek out foods with out meat or fish in them, or no less than the eating places are keen to conform foods for you, however the largest drawback is that fish inventory or dashi is utilized in many dishes. Soups and noodles in broth in non-vegetarian eating places will indisputably include it, and also you’ll wish to come to a decision whether or not this bothers you or no longer.
We attempted to keep away from dashi up to conceivable however there have been instances after we didn’t have a lot selection so made up our minds to be versatile about it. I’ve heard that it’s conceivable to invite for noodles or soup to be made with simply miso as an alternative, however we discovered speaking this to be tricky.
If you wish to utterly keep away from fish inventory, it’s absolute best to devour in most effective vegetarian eating places however this may occasionally prohibit the locations you’ll be able to talk over with in Japan. In Kyoto or Tokyo this isn’t an issue, however in smaller cities it is going to be a lot more tricky.
Vegetarian model of native speciality hoba miso at Sukuya in Takayama
Even supposing it is advisable use the really useful word or vegetarian card above and switch up in any Eastern eating place and hope you get a meal, we discovered it a lot more stress-free to devour rigidity (and dashi) unfastened at vegetarian eating places or Eastern puts with vegetarian menus. So perform a little research on-line on websites like Glad Cow and plan forward the place to devour.
If you happen to get caught, like we did in Nara when the vegetarian eating place I had researched used to be closed, take a look at in search of Indian or Italian eating places.
See the ground of this put up for our favorite vegetarian eating places in Japan.
Seek advice from Kyoto
Set dinner at Mikoan, Kyoto (unfortunately now closed)
Fortuitously there are many vegetarian eating places in Kyoto, as Japan’s historic capital has a protracted custom of shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist temple delicacies, which is solely vegan. You may truly be lacking out in case you didn’t spend time right here, particularly as there may be such a lot to do with 2000 temples and shrines to discover plus many attention-grabbing different sights.
Set foods at vegetarian eating places are a good way to discover Eastern meals as you don’t have to fret about with the ability to learn a Eastern menu and you’ll be able to make sure that the entirety is meat-free. We had some fantastic foods in Kyoto – our favourites have been at Shigetsu and Yoshuji. We additionally learnt so much about Eastern delicacies and ate an out of this world meal by way of taking a vegetarian cooking magnificence.
You’ll to find puts to stick in Kyoto on our favorite lodge web page Reserving.com or hire an condo or room on Airbnb.
Shuttle Tip: Don’t put out of your mind to shop for a Japan Rail Cross prematurely prior to arriving in Japan. It is going to prevent cash and make travelling across the nation a lot more uncomplicated.
Consume Shojin Ryori in Temples
Shojin Ryori lunch at Shigetsu, Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto
Shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist temple delicacies is the beacon of hope for a vegetarian in Japan. The clergymen make it conceivable to revel in scrumptious, wholesome, inventive Eastern foods and make sure that it’s all vegan. The meals used to be not like the rest we had eaten prior to and we cherished having the chance to check out one thing new.
The most efficient puts to devour shojin ryori are in temples in Kyoto and within the mountain the town Koya-san the place you’ll be able to even spend the night time in a temple.
It’s no longer simply restricted to temples even though, as we noticed shojin ryori presented in conventional eating places in lots of puts round Japan together with Nikko, Takayama, and Kanazawa. We had an improbable fucha ryori meal, which is a model of shojin ryori with a focal point on tea, at Bon in Tokyo.
Even supposing it may be pricey—our lunch at Bon used to be 5000 yen ($44) each and every—it’s price splurging on shojin ryori at least one time because it’s an enjoy up to a meal. Lunch is most often a lot inexpensive than dinner.
Keep in a Ryokan
Simon dressed in a yukata and taking part in our vegetarian ceremonial dinner in our ryokan room in Hakone
A good chance to check out selfmade kaiseki, a gourmand, multi-course conventional Eastern meal is in a ryokan or conventional inn. In Tsumago we stayed in a minshuku, a inexpensive family-run model and had an improbable ceremonial dinner for dinner and breakfast. We booked via Eastern Guesthouses which has a variety of choices in all places Japan.
Reserving.com additionally lists ryokans in Japan—simply tick the Ryokan button in Belongings Kind within the clear out listing. We used them to e book our keep at Lodge Musashiya, a gorgeous ryokan overlooking Lake Ashi in Hakone, the place you’ll be able to see Mount Fuji. The primary ryokan we booked in Hakone wouldn’t cater for vegetarians (thankfully we had unfastened cancellation), however Lodge Musashiya have been satisfied to and served us an out of this world meal in our tatami room.
You’ll request a vegetarian meal at ryokans however they received’t at all times ensure that dashi isn’t used. It’s a dear however uniquely Eastern enjoy that we extremely suggest.
Learn our comparability of various lodging choices in Japan.
We had a space sit down in Kyoto and an condo in Tokyo for a part of our commute so have been in a position to self-cater. This helped to economize and take a spoil from being worried about the place to devour. Grocery store costs aren’t affordable (Japan is a pricey nation) however we discovered the array of clean noodles and tofu to be scrumptious and rather priced. Upload some greens and you’ll be able to make a very simple stir-fry.
You’ll to find quite a few personal rooms and residences with kitchens on Airbnb.
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Vegetarian-Pleasant Eastern Meals
Those are some vegetarian Eastern foods and snacks to appear out for. Remember that the rest that incorporates broth may be fish dashi except you might be consuming in a vegetarian eating place.
Somen noodle and vegetable tempura at Bon in Tokyo
Tempura, deep fried greens in batter, is the very best vegetarian Eastern meals to seek out. Maximum tempura eating places have a vegetable possibility or you’ll be able to ask for greens most effective.
We had tempura donburi, tempura on best of rice at Tenya an affordable tempura chain the place it value 550 yen ($five). Our meal integrated tea and miso soup (which we skipped).
For a extra upmarket however nonetheless rather priced tempura meal, we loved Tsunahachi in Shinjuku, Tokyo the place we had a vegetable most effective model in their 1700 yen ($15) lunch set. In addition they have branches in Kyoto and Hokkaido.
Tsukemono or Eastern pickled greens are an crucial a part of a Eastern meal and are at all times integrated in set foods. I really like the crunchy texture and salty, candy and bitter flavour that gives a distinction to the extra delicately flavoured dishes. In a worst-case state of affairs, it is advisable at all times order tsukemono and rice for a easy meal.
Chilly soba (buckwheat) noodles are fashionable in the summertime served on a bamboo tray with nori seaweed, spring onion, wasabi, and a soy sauce dipping sauce that we skipped because it has dashi in it. If this doesn’t concern then you cross forward and dip the noodles in.
In Tokyo we loved soba with a sesame dipping sauce and tempura at Itasoba Kaoriya in Ebisu.
Soba or Udon Noodles
Noodles in broth are discovered in every single place. Choose between soba (buckwheat) or udon (wheat) and a variety of fillings. If you happen to give an explanation for you don’t devour meat or fish you must have the ability to get a vegetable most effective model, even if the inventory might be fish. To keep away from this order zaru soba (above), chilly noodles that don’t are available in broth. Udon eating places may additionally have a chilly broth-free model.
Midori vegan ramen at T’s Tantan
On our 2nd talk over with to Japan we have been excited to find that a couple of puts now be offering vegan ramen, so shall we revel in this vintage noodle soup for ourselves. T’s Tantan is a wholly vegan ramen store in Tokyo Station with lots of choices in addition to fast ramen to remove. Our upcoming information to vegetarian eating places in Tokyo may have extra of our favorite ramen reveals.
Miso soup (regularly with tofu and inexperienced onions) is a part of each set meal together with breakfast. Chopsticks are used to devour the components and the broth is sipped without delay from the bowl. We most effective ate ours in vegetarian eating places the place we knew they hadn’t used dashi.
Okonomiyaki is regularly described as a Eastern pancake or omelette. Even supposing it most often isn’t vegetarian, it may be tailored to be and in lots of okonomiyaki eating places you’ll be able to make your individual on a hotplate at your desk and make a choice your individual components.
We attempted Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki which contains noodles within the batter together with eggs, a number of shredded cabbage and bean sprouts, and is crowned with a kind of Worcestershire sauce and herbs. We discovered a tiny okonomiyaki eating place in Hiroshima referred to as Rie the place we sat on stalls in entrance of the massive hotplate and watched the pleasant proprietor cook dinner our meals to reserve.
Okonomiyaki being made at Rie, Hiroshima
Strangely she spoke English so perceived to perceive our request for a vegetarian model. We watched as she piled up the components and realised too overdue that the gray stuff she added used to be dried fish. [Replace: a reader has tell us that that is in fact most probably tororokonbu or grated kelp, a seaweed which might give an explanation for the fishy style. Just right to understand it wasn’t fish in the end!]
Tororokonbu (dried kelp) or what we concept used to be dried fish on okonomiyaki
In Tokyo we cherished the tomato and cheese okonomiyaki at Zen in Shinjuku. They have got a vegetarian segment in their English menu that explains the components of the various kinds of okonomiyaki and we were given ours with out dashi by way of appearing our vegetarian card.
Okonomiyaki is made with egg so isn’t any just right for vegans.
Vegetable and eggplant vegetarian curry at CoCo Ichibanya
Curry is truly fashionable in Japan and is reasonably other from the Indian model however nonetheless tasty. Many Eastern curry puts will be offering a vegetable curry however it’s most likely the roux used to be made with meat.
For a wholly vegan curry head to Coco Ichibanya, Japan’s greatest curry chain, and search for the separate inexperienced vegetarian menu with a variety of various curries. It’s no longer to be had in all their branches (right here’s a listing in Eastern) however we had it in Tokyo on the Shinjuku Station West Go out department on Reminiscence Lane and at one close to Shibuya Station. It’s an affordable and engaging meal.
Pickled vegetable (carrot) sushi at Komekichi Kozushi in Nikko
Vegetarian sushi isn’t simple to seek out in Japan however it’s conceivable. Glance out for kappa-maki (seaweed rolls with cucumber) and takuan-maki (pickled daikon radish roll). You’ll additionally to find sushi rolls made with umeboshi (pickled plum), natto (fermented soybean), and egg. Inarizushi is rice filled in a tofu pocket—simply take a look at it wasn’t made with dashi.
We had very good sushi at Komekichi Kozushi in Nikko which has a number of vegetarian choices.
Eggplant is grilled till comfortable and melty with a candy caramelised miso topping. Nasu dengaku is scrumptious convenience meals that we ate at Shigetsu temple eating place in Kyoto.
Gohei mochi is a speciality of the Kiso Valley house that we have been fortunate sufficient to pattern within the small, conventional village Tsumago. They’re scrumptious grilled rice dumplings served on a stick in a sesame and walnut sauce. Don’t pass over them in case you are within the house.
Simon together with his mitarashi (soy sauce) dango in Takayama
Any other variation of the rice ball on a stick boulevard meals is dango, which we attempted in Nikko and Takayama. The dumplings are smaller and are brushed with miso or soy sauce.
Grilled rice balls in a soy sauce glaze are served with tofu, chilly vegetables and pickles at the facet. They’re reasonably simple however nonetheless a just right vegetarian possibility. We ate yaki onigiri at an izakaya (Eastern pub).
Onigiri (rice balls) are discovered at each comfort retailer and grocery store and make just right affordable packed lunches. The issue is the labels are in Eastern so it’s tricky to look which of them are vegetarian.
Undeniable and umeboshi (pickled plum) are the commonest vegetarian onigiri. I requested a close-by stranger in pigeon Eastern “Dore umeboshi des ka?” (which one is pickled plum?) and she or he identified the precise one. Umeboshi packaging is most often purple and simple ones are transparent. You must additionally use Google Translate (see above).
Umeboshi Onigiri packaging
The apparent onigiri in 7-11 are simply seasoned with vinegar and salt.
Crimson rice and azuki bean balls are any other tasty packed lunch you’ll be able to select up from a comfort retailer. The packaging is apparent so it’s simple to spot with out studying Eastern.
Sekihan Onigiri packaging
Different Comfort Retailer Snacks
Comfort retail outlets in Japan are superb and absolute best for stocking up on snacks for a educate commute (unfortunately bento packing containers in educate stations aren’t going to be vegetarian). In addition to onigiri, you’ll be able to to find inarizushi (sushi rice in a tofu pocket), edamame beans, boiled eggs, french fries (that have been no longer as dangerous as you’d suppose), fruit together with bananas and minimize pineapple, salads, simple cooked noodles, and a number of rice crackers and crisps.
7-11, Lawsons, and Circle of relatives Mart are the commonest comfort retail outlets and also you’ll to find one on each block in towns. Circle of relatives Mart has English writing on their salty snacks so it’s more uncomplicated to seek out simple crisps and keep away from the various shrimpy issues.
Oyaki is a speciality of the Nagano prefecture and we attempted it in Matsumoto. Wheat buns are full of other greens – we attempted pumpkin (kabocha).
Kabocha Korroke (Pumpkin Croquettes)
Pumpkin croquettes can also be discovered within the deli segment of supermarkets and a few eating places and make a scrumptious, affordable vegetarian meal. We heated ours up at house and served with a salad.
Watch out of croquettes even though—Simon purchased a potato croquette from a stand and it became out to have chunks of meat in it.
Nagaimo yam with nori and wasabi
This uncooked salad dish became up in a couple of of our foods. Naigamo yam is fairly abnormal and wasn’t just like the dense, heavy yam that we’re aware of however as an alternative gentle, crunchy, sticky and watery. The primary flavour got here from the salty nori seaweed and sizzling wasabi that it’s served with.
Konnyaku at Yoshuji in Kurama
Konnyaku is understood in English as Satan’s Tongue. It’s a jelly-like substance comprised of the basis of the tuberous plant konjac. It doesn’t have a lot flavour however is valued for its texture, which we discovered fairly peculiar. It regularly options in shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) foods. Within the photograph above konnyaku used to be served like sashimi with a depressing miso sauce.
Vegetarian rice burger at Mos Burger
Mos Burger is a quick meals chain, however the Eastern are fairly happy with it and a neighborhood identified that the meals is made to reserve and taken for your desk not like in McDonald’s. In addition they promote themselves on being wholesome and feature a variety of vegetarian burgers at the menu—level to the image menu to reserve.
The kinpira rice burger is made with sauteed greens and seaweed within two rice buns. It used to be unusually just right and inexpensive at 340 yen ($three), however it isn’t that filling so we have been satisfied we had fries and onion rings with it. It’s a good, fast meal when you’ll be able to’t to find the rest.
Mos Burger now additionally provides soy patty burgers. I don’t suppose any of the burgers are vegan.
Chilli rice crackers at Nishiki marketplace in Kyoto
Rice crackers (senbei) are to be had in every single place from marketplace stalls to comfort retail outlets. Simply be sure you don’t purchase a packet containing dried fish or shrimp. We picked up this crunchy, chilli-covered rice cracker on the Nishiki marketplace in Kyoto.
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Vegetarian Tofu Dishes
There may be quite a few tofu in Japan and it’s a lot upper high quality than any place else on the earth. There are even eating places that most effective serve tofu in numerous paperwork for multi-course foods.
Watch out in tofu eating places, even though, as they aren’t most often vegetarian, and even supposing they may be able to make a vegetarian meal for you, they are going to most probably use dashi. Sorano is a superb tofu eating place in Tokyo with vegetarian choices marked at the menu. We attempted many of those tofu dishes in Kyoto’s shojin ryori eating places.
Goma dofu (sesame tofu)
This chilled sesame tofu is without doubt one of the maximum commonplace dishes in shojin ryori. It’s in fact no longer tofu in any respect because it isn’t comprised of soymilk however from sesame paste, water and kuzu, a thickening powder. It surely has a distinct texture from the tofu we’re used to because it’s comfortable, creamy, and melts on your mouth. It’s a refreshing dish on a sizzling summer season’s day. It’s most often served with a dab of sizzling wasabi.
Yuba (soymilk pores and skin tofu)
Yuba is comprised of the skinny pores and skin that paperwork at the floor of boiled soymilk—it sounds bizarre however is scrumptious, creamy and light-weight. It’s a neighborhood speciality in Nikko.
Koyadofu (best) and yuba
This freeze-dried tofu originates from the temple-filled Mount Koya. It’s reconstituted in water and turns into springy and sponge-like, soaking up the flavours it’s cooked in.
A tofu and vegetable hotpot this is simmered at your desk.
Company tofu served on sticks dengaku genre. It’s covered with a candy miso sauce and grilled till it caramelises and turns into golden and moderately charred.
Vinegared sushi rice filled in a fried tofu pouch. We attempted this at Tosuiro tofu eating place in Kyoto and Komekichi Kozushi sushi eating place in Nikko. It’s additionally bought in comfort retail outlets.
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Our Favorite Vegetarian Eating places in Japan
One of the vital 12 lessons of our vegan ceremonial dinner at Bon in Tokyo
Tokyo has many choices for vegetarians. Our favorite vegetarian eating place is Bon, which serves beautiful multi-course fucha ryori in gorgeous tatami rooms. We cherished the vegan ramen at T’s Tantan and Ramen Ouka. Milk Land in Shinjuku does a very good worth vegetarian lunch set. Zen is a vegetarian-friendly okonomiyaki position. Our information to vegetarian eating places in Tokyo is coming quickly!
In Kyoto we advise Shigetsu for a splurge at Tenryuji temple, Yoshuji in Kurama for an ideal day trip, and Tosuiro tofu eating place for a phenomenal and abnormal meal (e book prematurely and request no dashi).
In Koya-san you’ll be able to get shojin ryori foods for dinner and breakfast by way of spending the night time at any of the temples – we stayed within the most cost-effective temple Haryoin. We additionally ate the set lunch at Bon On Shya World Cafe at the primary boulevard which is vegetarian however serves global meals fairly than Eastern.
In Hiroshima we loved a couple of scrumptious wholesome foods on the Shanti Yoga Vegan Cafe. We have been the one vacationers there and the meals used to be a mixture of global and Eastern.
Yasai Cafe Meguri in Nikko serves vegan lunch units and Komekichi Kozushi has tasty vegetarian sushi choices and is without doubt one of the few puts open within the evenings.
Heinraku is a superb small eating place in Takayama run by way of the friendliest woman and has pages of vegetarian choices at the menu—I cherished the Hida miso ramen. Sukuya is a superb position to check out a vegetarian model of the native speciality hoba miso—greens and tofu cooked with miso paste on a magnolia leaf.
In Kanazawa we struggled to seek out Eastern vegetarian foods so ended up consuming Western meals. Style and Odor is most commonly vegetarian and has a just right worth set lunch with rice and quite a lot of salads. Sluggish Success is a tiny position fascinated with the usage of greens in inventive tactics and has a vegetarian menu. The meals used to be Italian-inspired and totally scrumptious together with a pesto, potato and mascarpone pizza and grilled greens with an out of this world pesto dip.
For extra Japan guidelines see our put up on making plans a commute to Japan for the entirety you wish to have to grasp.
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If you’re a travelling vegetarian don’t pass over our different vegetarian survival guides.
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- Studying to Cook dinner Eastern Buddhist Delicacies in Kyoto
- The Bizarre and Superb International of Vegetarian Delicacies in Kyoto: Section 1
- The Bizarre and Superb International of Vegetarian Delicacies in Kyoto: Section 2