Finding vegan options in Japan isn’t the easiest task, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the language. Nowadays with Western food infiltrating store shelves across Asia, you may find the majority of menu items all a bit “meat heavy”. That being said, you can be confident in knowing that it is entirely possible to eat vegan in Japan; and you don’t need to miss out on experiencing cultural cuisines when doing so.
8 Tips for Surviving as a Vegan in Japan
- Traditionally ramen is cooked in a meat-based broth so it is better to search vegan ramen shops in advance
- Dashi (fish stock) and Bonito (fish flakes) are frequently used in Japanese cooking and are rarely listed on menu descriptions. Consider using Google Translate throughout your stay to help with making dietary requests
- Be sure to specify “no fish” as it’s commonly considered a vegetarian ingredient. You will likely also need to do this for egg too, particularly when ordering ramen dishes
- Don’t be scared of sushi restaurants; they can be very accommodating to vegans. Inari, Kappa, Kanpyo, Natto are just a few options to get you started – Check out this post by The Flaming Vegan for more.
- Izakaya-style restaurants usually offer veg-friendly items such as edamame, soba noodles (if you can get it without fish-soup), tofu, some rice dishes, fries or salads without sauce.
- Soy milk is more common than dairy so you can pick up cartons in most 7/11s and other convenience stores
- Check out the Happy Cow site (also available as an app) to plan a hit list of restaurants ahead of time. Also if you want to know which alcohol is vegan friendly, Barnivore offer a similar service specifically for booze.
- On-the-go foods are trickier to find and fruit is a little less abundant so make like a scout and always be prepared! Head to the grocery store to load up on fruit, bread, peanut butter, chips or other snack foods to to keep in your bag when you’re out for the day.
I’m Vegetarian (no Japanese word for vegan) | “Watashi wa bejitarian desu.”
I don’t eat eggs or cheese | “Tamago to cheezu ga taberaremasen.”
Does this contain meat? | “Niku ga haitte imasu ka?”
I don’t eat meat or fish | “Niku to sakana wa taberaremasen.”
I don’t eat dashi or bonito | “Dashi to katsuobushi wa taberaremasen.”