Shojin Ryori: The Food of the Enlightened

Shojin ryori is a term used for the cuisine that has been eaten by Buddhist monks since their arrival in Japan. Adhering to the tenants of Zen Buddhism, shojin ryori is 100% vegan, made without killing any living beings, and without animal products. This uniquely Japanese style of cooking has since evolved, and the term can now be used to refer to any type of Japanese-style vegan cuisine, though you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy it. Here is a list of the best restaurants offering shojin ryori in Tokyo.

Itosho's Shojin Ryori
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Itosho is a hole in the wall shojin ryori experience that you won’t want to miss. Located near Azabu, this small and unassuming restaurant holds a Michelin star for its shojin cuisine. With a friendly atmosphere and a welcoming staff, you will be sure to enjoy your experience here. Itosho serves set menus, and regardless of what is served, you are sure to be in for a treat.

Entrance to Yakou-in
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Just an hour away from Shinjuku, Mt. Takao is the perfect place to go if you want to take a day trip to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. While you’re here, make sure to pass by Yakuo-in, a Buddhist temple located at Mt. Takao, where you will be able to get a taste of true shojin cuisine. After you have made your way up to Yakuo-in, and taken in the natural splendor surrounding the temple, you can drop in for lunch right at the temple and eat a variety of vegan dishes that follow the principles of shojin ryori.

Entrance to Saiko-In Temple
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If you aren’t looking to go too far for a temple experience, then head on over to Koganei where you’ll be able to get a delicious shojin meal at Sanko-in. Sanko-in does not accept walk-ins, so make sure to call ahead to reserve a spot. Incorporating local vegetables along with the nuts and berries that grow on the temple grounds, you will get a one of a kind meal at Sanko-in. Here, the abbess will welcome you and explain each dish that is served, while at the same time teaching you about the history of shojin ryori. Sanko-in is a great place to finish a day trip in Koganei, so remember to make a reservation ahead of time for a delicious vegan meal at this historic establishment.

Front of Bon
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Bon, located near Asakusa Station, practices Fucha cuisine, a Chinese variant of shojin cuisine. Fucha means “Drinking tea together with all people.” Like shojin ryori, Fucha cuisine arose from Buddhist principles, originating in China before coming to Kyoto, Japan. Fucha cuisine follows the same vegan principles as shojin ryori, but it also places emphasis on a community feeling. Food is served in a large bowl and is shared amongst the group, so there is a very communal atmosphere. At Bon, you will be treated to a seasonal menu that will emphasize the bounty of the current season. No matter what time of the year you visit, you will be in for a treat!

Meal at Komaki Syokudo
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Komaki Syokudo is a hidden gem in Akihabara that showcases shojin ryori. Located in Chabara, among the many stores of the “electric town,” you will find Komaki Syokudo. Here, you will be treated to shojin ryori that isn’t too hard on your wallet, and will still give you a true shojin experience. If you’re looking for fantastic vegan food, a friendly atmosphere, and Japanese-style home-cooking while shopping in Akihabara, then come by Komaki Syokudo!

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