Japan has always fascinated me as far as I can remember. Before traveling there to study, and later to visit, I had no idea how amazing and at the same time destabilizing it truly would feel to be in a country so different from mine, Italy.
As I have written before on Peaceful Dumpling: Japan used to be an almost-vegan country for a long time, until it started opening more and more to the Western world and started consuming red meat and dairy (the latter is still not super popular today, though, compared to places like Europe and the US). To be honest, I think being vegan in Japan has only recently become easier, thanks, once again, to influences from the West: years ago, when I was studying in Tokyo, even being simply vegetarian felt daunting. When I visited Tokyo again, in 2018, I thankfully realized that plenty more options and restaurants seemed to have popped up.
One of my absolute favorite fully-vegan restaurants in Tokyo is definitely Brown Rice Café, located in the fancy Omotesando area, tucked away in a quiet corner. It’s a cozy, bright, airy space, which offers several set meals from which you can choose. For example, the popular Bamboo Basket Steamed Vegetable Set includes 10 different colorful vegetables steamed in a bamboo basket (hence the name…) accompanied by brown rice, organic miso soup and Japanese pickles. They also offer plant-based desserts such as tofu lemon cheesecake and soy ice cream. Their meals might look simple but don’t let that fool you, they’re nutritious, healthy and delicious! Their website is also in English if you would like to check it out.
If you are a ramen fan, like me, you definitely need to head over to one of the Kyushu Jangara Ramen shops. They are not a vegan chain but they offer one of the best vegan ramen I have tasted in my life! The broth is soy-sauce based and so flavorful. Just be careful when you order it because they might ask you if you want to add an egg to it, making it vegetarian and not vegan.
Saido is a newly opened vegan restaurant that offers Japanese dishes. Lunch is cheaper than dinner but I recommend checking it out anyway if you are in the area as it’s become really popular really fast for a reason!
Or, if you can go on a splurge, I suggest having lunch or dinner at Sougo, in Roppongi: they specialize in Shojin-ryori (Buddhist cuisine) and you won’t believe how beautiful and delicious your meal will be. Make sure to request a fully-vegan course before you go, as some dishes are vegetarian but can be vegan with no problem at all.
For those who have a sweet tooth—can’t blame you!—Wired BonBon inside Lumine shopping mall in Shinjuku is a must try. Nobody would believe these desserts are plant-based! From crêpes to French toast and parfaits, all made without eggs and milk, and you can order tea to go with your sweet of choice.
The Japanese are food masters, we all know this. They’ll take a dish from another country and make it even better! If you want to switch it up a bit and skip traditional food for one meal, I strongly recommend pizza from 800 Degrees. The best thing about this place, other than its great dough, is that you can customize your pizza, which is often a must for vegans! I had mine with simple tomato sauce, mushrooms and herbs.
If you are at Haneda airport and desperate for some vegan food because everywhere you turn you seem to find dishes contaminated by dashi (fish stock) or meat, don’t you worry—Healthy Tokyo Cafè is your friend! As stated on their website, High-quality ingredients, refined, innovative flavors, and eye-pleasing gourmet delicacies, they want to provide the healthiness needed in everybody’s life. They offer salads, sandwiches, soups, curries, lasagna and desserts. Tip: as Healthy Tokyo Cafè is located before the check-in area, anybody can go there and enjoy!
T’s Restaurant, an all-vegan restaurant, is located in the cool neighborhood of Jiyugaoka. The menu offers both Japanese and Western dishes. For starters I would recommend their gyozas, then for a main either their noodles, curry rice or pasta. There are also plenty of desserts to choose from and since this place is affordable you don’t need to worry about choosing between dishes, just try them all—they won’t disappoint!
Also by Anna: How To Eat Vegan In Milan Like A Local
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Photo: Anna Vaccari; Saido; HappyCow