A Sustainable Vegan Guide To Japan—Tokyo, Kyoto, And Osaka

July 13, 2022

Japan is a place unlike any other, with a deep-rooted history rich in culture, breath-taking nature spots and bustling cities. If this unique country is next on your bucket list, here’s a guide on which cities to visit, as well as how to travel and eat sustainably in Japan.

Tokyo

As the capital of Japan, Tokyo is known for its sweeping skyscrapers, unique array of shops and popular landmarks. Tokyo is a great city to acclimate yourself as it’s close to the airport and you can find everything you need on your doorstep.

What to do

While you’re here you should check out the Shibuya crossing, walk in Japan’s famous arcades, and visit Senso-ji Temple—a beautiful temple and market in Tokyo. You also shouldn’t miss going up in the Tokyo City View Observation Deck to for sky-high views across the city.

Where to eat

If you’re looking to eat a plant-based diet in Tokyo, there are a select few plant-friendly restaurants in the city. Ain Soph is an all-vegan restaurant in Tokyo which has delicious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Vegan & Wine Bar KiboKo is also a great option for dinner when you want something quick and easy.

vegan burger at Ain Soph

Local convenience stores also offer some options, including fruit, salted rice balls, and fruit biscuits. Chain coffee shops such as Starbucks are great for a coffee break and usually stock plant-based milks. You can find these options across all cities in Japan.

How to get around

Most places within Tokyo are easily available to reach on foot, but there is also a city-wide underground service which is very easy to travel on, and might be useful for visiting attractions that are slightly further away.

For multiple city-trips around Japan, it’s best to buy an advance rail pass for the Japanese bullet train. This is an easy and sustainable way of visiting many places in Japan and the train can be boarded from the centre of Tokyo.

Osaka

Osaka is within easy reach of Tokyo via the bullet train and is unique for its nature spots and shopping facilities. The Dotonbori strip is a famous entertainment centre in Osaka, which is lit up at night in brilliant lights and has many bars and restaurants dotted along the river.

dotonbori strip osaka

Dotonbori

What to do

Whilst you’re in Osaka you should visit Nara park, a nature spot which is famous for its tame deer. You can buy biscuits from locals and feed the animals scattered across the park. You can easily spend an afternoon taking in the nature here.

For more of a city day, you should visit the centre of Osaka, where you can shop at major retailers and Japanese clothing stores. Walking along the Dotonbori strip at night, which is located in the heart of Osaka, is also a great way to experience the atmosphere of the city.

Where to eat

There are a few vegan friendly restaurants in the city. Cat & Vegan Neu, located on Chuo Ward, is a wonderful cat café that offers a vegan meal. Vegan earth, is also a great option for an easy vegan meal.

How to get around

You can explore most of the city on foot, as the main shopping areas are all in the same place, but to visit attractions such as Nara park, it is best to take the underground out of the city.

Kyoto

Kyoto is a stone’s throw from Osaka, accessible via the bullet train, and boasts history-rich architecture and an old-world vibe, paired with beautiful nature spots. Kyoto is famous across the world for the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, which are also known as the ‘red gates’ of Kyoto.

The Red Gates of Kyoto

What to do

The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine shouldn’t be missed and can easily be accessed within 30 minutes via the underground. The shrine consists of red gates that span a climb of 2 hours, eventually reaching a summit overlooking the beautiful city. You can also easily spend a day walking around the city of Kyoto, which has historic architecture paired with local shops and restaurants. Another must visit place is the bamboo forest, which is also accessible by the underground and is true to its namesake – a forest of bamboo reaching into the sky.

Where to eat

If you’re looking to eat a plant-based diet in Kyoto, there some options. There is a Buddhist temple in the bamboo forest which offers a vegan meal. There are also some options at restaurants such as a vegan restaurant called Choice, the vegan chain restaurant Ain Soph, and a vegetarian restaurant which offers a (vegan) traditional Japanese meal, called Mamehachi.

How to get around

Most places around Kyoto are available to reach on foot, but there is also an underground service which is very budget friendly to travel on and reaches the main landmarks around the city.

There are many cities worth visiting in Japan, but these three places shouldn’t be missed for their mix of history-rich temples, beautiful nature areas and their variety of things to do.

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Photo: DLKR via Unsplash; Redd via Unsplash; Johanna Persson via Unsplash

Annabel Easton
Annabel is a writer, marketer and illustrator. She runs an environmental account on Instagram called @econotes.mag and spends her spare time rock climbing, reading and exploring.

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