Finding Vegetarian or Vegan food in Japan

The author of this blog is Priyanshu Sharma, Director, DIFL- Dante Institute of Foreign Languages ( who has spent a goodish amount of time in Japan. Currently he teaches Japanese, French and English language at DIFL, Jaipur India.

Relocating from a country as conservative as India to one of the most modern and advanced countries of the world such as Japan, may pose many challenges for one including finding food of your choice or preference. The problem multiplies by many folds for people with strict vegetarian or vegan preferences. 

In a country like India being vegetarian could be not by choice but not being one may be considered a sin in many of the hardcore religions such as Brahmins and Jains. In such religions even looking at a piece of meat or touching an egg could be called as sacrilege, spare trying to eat one. 

Some non-vegetarian food of Japan

As a “Strict” Vegetarian, moving to Japan and adapting to the absolutely outlandish endless non-vegetarian culinary choices such as Sushi, Teriyaki, Yakitori, Sashimi (and the list goes on) topped with the “not-so-acceptable” to  many Ikizukuri, which includes choice of live seafood being served, may put you in a fix what to eat to survive!!

Sushi- picture courtesy
Teriyaki. Picture courtesy
Yakitori. Courtesy
Sashimi. Courtesy

Ironically, being a vegetarian in Japan may not be as difficult as satiating the inquisition of the Japanese people demanding (pun Intended) the reason behind your being one. Though the same can be the case if you’re a tee-totaler!!

Being vegetarian in Japan is not impossible but it is very difficult to be a full vegetarian or vegan. As per facts nearly 5% of the Japanese population are vegetarian or vegan and surprisingly Japanese don’t understand the meaning of pure vegetarian but there are some some vegetarian dishes that could be offered on your platter after a lot of hunting like cooked rice (rice is used in so many Japanese dishes), tofu, soba, edamame(salty young soyabeans), natto (fermented soyabeans) etc. though a word of caution for the Strict vegetarians is that Beware!! The so-called vegetarian dishes you’re going to gut may still be containing traces of powder of some non-vegetarian stuff in the spices added to them.

Some restaurants in Japan offering Vegetarian or Vegan food.

For those too reluctant to move to a non-vegetarian diet choice of few Japanese dishes can come handy while dining at a a Japanese restaurant. To name few of them, they could try their hands upon few of the following :

Yasai Tempura– which is made of vegetables like lotus root, shisho leaves, sweet potato etc. dipped in a thin batter and deep fried.

Vegetable tempura. picture courtesy

Sticky Fried Rice with vegetables.  

Sticky rice with vegetables. Courtesy

Veg Katsu Curry Rice served with soft rice and Japanese curry.

Yasai Moriawase– A platter of grilled vegetables of your choice.

Yasai Moriawase. Picture courtesy

Tofu Teriyaki– Slices of tofu served with delicious teriyaki sauce.

Tofu Teriyaki. Picture courtesy-

Nama Tofu– which is fresh tofu served with ginger and Shoyu sauce

Fresh Tofu. Picture courtesy

Kirimochi– A soft chewy delight which contains Mochi, Japanese rice cakes made by a short-grain rice called mochigome with other ingredients like sugar and cornstarch.

Mochi rice cake. Courtesy

Zaru Soba– A type of cold noodles made with buckwheat and Negi which is type of leek or Spring onions also known as Welsh onion, served with relish, sesame seeds and shredded Nori. Nori is a type of seaweed paper which makes a very integral part of Japanese cuisine. Preferred to be prepared as a summertime delicacy.

Zaru soba. Courtesy

Let us clarify one thing here that when we talk of Vegan food it may not be necessarily vegetarian 

Few Vegetarian or Vegan Japanese restaurants in Japan

With the increasing  globalisation and increasing population of people migrating or travelling to Japan for business purpose, a steady, if not vast, change has been seen in the menus offered by various restaurants like who offer vegetarian or vegan food on their menu:

1.Nagi Shokudo (Shibuya)- 15-10 Uguisudani-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo 1500032, Japan, offers some real lip-smacking vegan delights such as falafel with tofu-mayonnaise sauce, fried tofu and soaked in tomato coconuts soup, cabbage poriyal with common beans. And as well as the Nagi A Plate, with brown rice, miso soup, and Tsukemono which are pickled vegetables as well. They also serve curry plate, some sweets, coffee, beer, and many more.

Nagi Shokudo restaurant, Shibuya, Japan. picture courtesy

2.T’s Tantan (Tokyo Station) –  1-9-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 1000005, Japan, which is located in the Tokyo station at Keiyo Street boasts of a very faithful clientele for a repeatedly taste-buds tickling vegan food. It’s ambience is not to be missed with truly vibrant decor which makes it stand apart from the other Ramen shops of the area. The regular visitors of T’s Tantan vouch for its spicy Tantan-men, a typical classic ramen with an extra punch of flavour, along with its savoury veggie gyoza, bimbimap and more!

T’s Tantan restaurant, Tokyo Station

Falafel Brothers located at Roppongi Station, though small in dimensions but big in taste, it offers only few seats because of its size constrains. It’s famous for its take-aways! Its vegan delicacies such as Baba Ganoush, Texmex potato, Sweet potato baby, falafel bowl and falafel sandwich are definitely gonna make you yearn for more each time. 

Falafel Brothers. Picture Courtesy-

AIN SOPH. Ripple (Shinjuku)-  located at 2-46-8 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 1600021, Japan, is famous for its American style vegan food like Ripple Cheese burger, Vegan Mac & Cheese and few more.

AIN SOPH. Ripple (Shinjuku) Picture courtesy

So we rest our case concluding that Japan has a lot to offer to you in terms of gratifying your hungry taste buds and soothing your voracity, no matter you’re a strict vegetarian or otherwise, what you need is a little bit of perseverance and a friend like us to guide you lest you should fall prey to converting yourself to a non-vegetarian forcibly! Gambatte ne!

Wanna learn more about Japan and its rich culture? Wanna learn Japanese Language? Join Dante Institute of Foreign Languages today for our online or offline courses. Call Mr Priyanshu Sharma on 9929-51 51 51.