For all of its amazing cusine; from sushi, to yakitori and beyond, Japan has a reputation for being notoriously difficult for vegetarians and vegans to navigate. Language barrier aside, most western visitors are also dealing with a myriad of dishes and ingredients that are entirely new to them. Ingredients like dashi broth are near ubiquitous in Japanese cuisine, but most foreigners have never heard of it, letalone know if it’s vegan-friendly or not. Because of this, many visitors tend to stick to the “safe bets” and as a result, miss out on some of Japan’s most delicious foods.
Vegan Restaurants in Japan
Thankfully, as Japan continues to move forward into the future, so too do its efforts to appeal to a wider audience. While vegan dishes and restaurants are finding a foothold throughout Tokyo, finding these among a sea of dining options can be difficult at best. Thankfully, Foodie Adventure Japan, a Tokyo-based food tour company, has put together a tour not only visiting vegan-friendly restaurants around the city, but also teaching visitors how to discern products in Japanese stores that meet their dietary restrictions. They recently invited me along for a Tokyo photo walk to capture highlights of the tour from a visitor’s perspective.
Tokyo’s Vegan Food Options
First and foremost, I am not a vegan. A giant, heaping bowl of pork ramen is the food equivalent of my happy place. That being said, I love good food in general. We started the day in a small cafe known for its vegan karaage. Karaage is a method of frying in Japanese cuisine, and the name is most often applied to juicy, cripsy pieces of chicken found everywhere from latenight bars to street festivals.
When it comes to Japanese food, texture is on equal footing with taste. Foods are judged not only by flavor, but by how they feel to eat as well. In my experience, I’ve found a lot of vegan faux-meat products to have an odd, spongey texture, but the karaage was surprisingly spot on. There is so much pride that goes into Japanese cooking, and you can tell they took their time to get this right.
Throughout the day, as we hopped from ramen shop, to department store, to bakery, I found myself consistently surprised by the vegan food Tokyo is putting out. For a city that’s relatively late to adopt this growing culinary trend, they are going above and beyond what I ever would have expected. As we get closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, I imagine this is movement will continue to grow in order to accommodate the swell of foreign visitors the city is expecting.
Enjoy Your Tokyo Vacation Without Compromise
If you are a vegan, vegetarian, or just like trying new things, be sure to check out Foodie Adventure Japan on your next vacation in Tokyo. They offer tours for other dietary restrictions such a gluten allergies as well, so give them a look. Tokyo can be overwhelming for any first time visitor, but its far from impossible. With a little guidance, you can enjoy all of the best that Japanese cuisine has to offer.