The first thing that pops into one’s mind when they think of the culinary world in Japan is seafood. That or a familiar serving of a hearty bowl of authentic ramen. You can’t also miss the frequented izakayas at night where working-class people gather together to loosen up and relax over cold or warm servings of sake (rice wine) and juicy grilled skewers or maybe the beautiful and carefully constructed sushi dishes which comes in many sizes, forms, and colors, all of which are equally mouth-watering. However, what most people don’t know is that Japanese people are also fond of vegetables and has been practicing the peaceful art of shojin ryori, a traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan. It’s a simple cuisine served without any traces of fish, red meat, or other animal products. Aside from that, they also have the traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, which uses seaweed, legumes, and lots of vegetables as its base. That being said, it is still quite difficult to be a vegan or vegetarian in Japan because most dishes include dashi (fish stock) despite being dairy- or meat-free.
Slowly but surely, the culinary world of Japan has been expanding and giving more options to its people. Of course, one of them is the improving selection of vegan restaurants in the country, particularly in Tokyo. We all know that Tokyo is a never-ending rollercoaster ride of various places to visit, people to meet, food to eat, and memories to make. The city doesn’t only offer a feast for the eyes because of the beautiful neon lights at night or the one of a kind attractions it has but also filling each and everyone’s tummies with delectable and hearty meals. With some effort and a lot of pre-planning, finding and having a vegan/vegetarian meal can be an absolute reward. As you’re about to find out, there’s really nothing to worry about because although it can be a bit hard at first, once you’re familiar with the offerings of the city, you’ll find that you can find a vegan restaurant as easy as walking in the park.
Let’s begin with the greatest invention Japan has ever made: the beautiful big bowl of ramen. No one can deny how utterly delicious a serving of ramen is. With its thick and chewy noodles accompanied by its hot broth and choice of protein (beef or pork usually), ramen is going to be your new best friend when you’re in Japan. But this can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians who want to enjoy a bowl of ramen. Worry not though because T’s Tan Tan (1F JR Tokyo Station, Keiyo Street, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Chiyoda, Tokyo) is to the rescue. Original and divine, they exclusively offer and serve vegan ramen. A lot of people line up and it can be quite a long time before you get to be seated but it’s definitely worth it. They have an extensive English menu which you can browse, and a particular favorite here is the Golden Sesame Ramen. Consisting of toasted sesame seeds incorporated with peanut butter and miso-based broth, sautéed vegetables, chewy noodles, and soy crumbles, it is definitely a patron favorite for a reason. The restaurant offers big servings of ramen which you can split up if you have a companion and everything is reasonably priced. Definitely a must-try.
A comfort food and one of the easiest dishes to make, curry is a delicious, filling meal to eat especially after a long day at work or school. While Japanese curry is different from Indian curry, it’s just as delicious but the thing about Japanese curry is that its roux contains meat. Luckily, some branches of Coco Ichibanya (1-2-12 Nishishinjuku, 160-0023, Tokyo) now offer vegan curry. This restaurant chain not only serves some of the best tasting vegan curries in the city but doesn’t burn your pockets either since everything is affordable. To order, look for the special green vegetarian menu, which is available in English, where you can browse and select your chosen curry dish, most of which include cooked eggplants, spinach, mushroom, and asparagus. You can choose to add toppings, the amount of rice you want, and the level of spiciness. It’s cheap and quick, but definitely satisfying.
If you’re craving some Japanese-style eats, Nagi Shokudo (15-10 Uguisudani-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo) is a great place to start. Everything on the menu is strictly vegan so you don’t have to worry. They serve meals like the Nagi A Plate, which includes brown rice, two small side dishes, pickled vegetables, soup, and soy sauce, while the Nagi Lunch Plate has three side dishes (you can choose from the 13 sides they offer), brown rice, vegan miso soup, and pickled vegetables. Aside from the set meals, they also serve vegan curry (if you’re into something spicy), vegan desserts, organic coffee, and even beer. The choices are endless and all are exquisitely delicious. Besides the food, you can also enjoy the warm and welcoming atmosphere inside the restaurant, making you feel as if you’re just at the comforts of your own home. A great place for big groups or maybe for some alone time.
Extremely popular and probably one of the most go-to restaurants in the city is AIN SOPH.Ripple (2-46-8 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo). AIN SOPH.Ripple is a satisfying place to swing by if you’re craving for some good and healthy burgers. A lot of people are still skeptical when it comes to vegan diet and thinks that most of the time the serving portions are small but in here, you may be tempted to convert to veganism by how delicious and large the portions they offer are. They serve huge burgers with even hefty servings of sides. Their bestseller is they Crispy Chicken Burger which is made by using soy meat and seitan (gluten meat) and it gives off that authentic chicken texture. They also serve salad bowls, burritos, and desserts which are all great for sharing. It also doesn’t hurt that the place gives off that chill vibe, making it a great place for those who want to unwind and share thoughtful conversations with family and friends.
Owned by the same people behind the T’s Tan Tan, another favorite is T’s (2 Chome-9-6 Jiyugaoka, Meguro, Tokyo). They have a wide variety in their menu and all dishes are carefully prepared and made special for vegans. You can sample their simple yet delicious salad which is surprisingly good with a serving of vegan gyoza. Other popular dishes on their menu are their hot and tasty hamburger hotpot accompanied with brown rice and a serving of their heavenly crispy General Tso’s chicken stir-fry dish. End your meal with their sinful crème brulee which is probably one of the highlights in T’s. Light and not at all greasy, every dish is bursting with different flavors and texture. Drop by and sample some of the best vegan dishes in the city at T’s.
If you’re into something light, but filling, then you have to definitely try Falafel Brothers (5-1-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo). Its main business is for takeout but if you want to hang around and savor every bite of your food, you can take one of the few seats they have inside the shop. With reasonable prices and generous portions, it’s no surprise that a lot of people go here for a quick and satisfying meal. They have different toppings every day so you can sample each one of them every time. You can experiment with your toppings but can always ask suggestions from the people behind the counter. Everything is made fresh and available for guests to order.
A new face which serves tasty dishes made from organic hemp ingredients and products is Hemp Café (3-17-14-8F Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo). Established last 2017, Hemp Café has been making big waves in the sea of vegan restaurants. They use hemp seeds, hemp protein, and hemp oil in their food and desserts. You can find tasty tacos and nachos which you can pair with their rather unusual and intriguing cannabis beer. There’s also nori rolls, light and delicious salads, roasted vegetables, burritos and raw cake. If you’re craving something sweet, they have their signature light and fluffy raw pancakes, one of their most popular items. They also have refillable lemon infused water. You name it, they probably have it. The place is also spot-on, warm and welcoming with soft brown hues and comfy seating.
Served buffet style, Kaemon Asakusa (3F Vision center Asakusa, Hanakawado 1-9-1 Taito-ku, Tokyo) is like a breath of fresh air for vegans. Everything served here, from food to drinks, are all organic. They use the freshest vegetables, grains, nuts, and beans. This affordable yet healthy buffet-style restaurant is popular among vegans and non-vegans because of their fantastic selection of food and drinks. And even though you pile up different foods on your plate, everything seems to work! The place is also great with its white walls, quiet music, and peaceful atmosphere.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.