Fifteen years ago, when I was visiting Tokyo as a vegan for the first time, there was hardly anything available except for avocado maki. Or soups and bread that I thought were vegan but probably weren’t.
Now, when I come to Tokyo, HappyCow lists a whole bunch of vegan and vegan-friendly options: sushi, ramen, street food, burgers, pizza, buffets, ice cream, gluten-free vegan options, there are bars and Izakayas (a type of Japanese pub), vegan food tours and even cooking classes. I can’t even decide where to go first! In this blog post, I’ll show you my favorite locations so far. There are quite a lot, because I’ve actually not been to a vegan restaurant in Tokyo that I wouldn’t immediately go back to!
By the way, you can see more pictures and video on my instagram.
Why is it hard to be vegan in Tokyo?
Traditional Japanese cuisine heavily relies on fish and seafood, and many dishes also contain meat, eggs, and dairy products, often in small amounts that are not even listed. For example, many Japanese dishes, especially soups and sauces, are prepared with dashi, a broth made from fish and seaweed.
As a vegan in Tokyo, you cannot simply walk into any random restaurant and expect to find something vegan on the menu. Many restaurants only have Japanese menus, and not all waiters speak English very well. Also, the concept of veganism is still relatively new in Japan and unfamiliar to many.
Why is Tokyo still a great destination for vegans?
The topic of veganism is gaining more and more supporters in Japan, and in recent years, vegan restaurants and cafes or those with clearly marked plant-based options have been popping up like mushrooms. And I am always impressed by the excellent quality of the food, the thoughtful concepts, the creativity, the perfect branding, the charm, and the attention to detail, whether it’s vegan Japanese food or inspired by another cuisine. As I said, I’ve never been to a vegan restaurant in Tokyo that I wouldn’t immediately go back to!
How to find vegan restaurants in Japan
It’s best to download the HappyCow app on your phone if you haven’t already. There you can search for options nearby and filter by different criteria. Then you can open the map and follow it. Nowadays, you definitely need data roaming for traveling.
Internet in Tokyo
By the way, I highly recommend getting a prepaid eSIM with roaming before traveling to another continent. It can be very frustrating to always search for WiFi just to scan a QR code. That’s why my colleagues and I love Flexiroam! It works really well and there are different plans available, for individual continents or worldwide, with varying data volumes and valid for either half or a whole year. As a flight attendant, I use the worldwide 5GB plan for 180 days and so far it has worked out very well for me.
You’ll get a welcome discount when using code IAMNEW at Checkout with Flexiroam*. There often are big discount promotions, and here’s a YouTube video with a short tutorial.
VEGAN IN TOKYO – MY FAVOURITE CHAINS
The best vegan ramen in Tokyo, not just according to me. This all vegan Japanese restaurant chain has several outlets, and this one is located at Keiyo Street inside Tokyo Station. You can get amazing ramen, also curry, gyozas and really tasty vegan chicken. Service is nice and very fast.
There also is one at Ueno Station, one at Ikebukuro station, one at Narita Airport and one in Jiyugaoka. The other outlets might have a slightly different menu, check them out on Happy cow, or if you can read Japanese, go to T’s website.
Meanwhile you can also get an instant ramen version of their famous soup, which is also available at convenience store Natural Lawson (see further below).
I got so crazy about this soup, I put a lot of effort into reconstructing it at home. And it turned out pretty well! Click here for my tantan soup recipe if you’re interested in how to make it.
This is the second vegan chain I highly recommend checking out when you’re a vegan in Tokyo. Ain Soph has restaurants in Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Ginza. The food is fantastic, the restaurants are beautiful. We had delicious vegan burgers and pancakes. Perfect place to spend a nice evening. Find out more about Ain Soph on their website.
WHERE I ATE AS A VEGAN IN TOKYO-SHIBUYA
This cute little restaurant is in Shibuya and has western and Japanese seating to chose from. They offer several different Japanese sets. I had one with fried “chicken”, rice, soup, salad and pickles veggies and I gobbled it up to the last crumb. Delicious. Have a look at Nagi Shokudo’s Facebook page.
This Indian vegetarian restaurant chain also has several outlets in Tokyo and I went to the one in Shibuya, just a three minute walk from the Hachiko monument. Seriously, this is the best vegan Indian food I have had outside of India. I had a delicious naan with two curries, a huge naan, bhajis and salad.
The next evening, I took friends there, and there seems to be a different and quite extensive evening menu where we discovered a naan burger! Of courses that was delicious as well.
There are other outlets in Harajuku and Ogikubo.
Can this place please also open a restaurant in Berlin? In my street maybe …? I know Berlin is supposed to be vegan heaven, but I think there is a shortage in really good Indian places for vegans. At least in my neighbourhood.
I was curious what Nataraj Harajuku would be like. In Asia, at least I have seen it in Japan and Hongkong, they have these tall buildings that only consist of restaurants. You get on the elevator to the 8th for and there is that fancy Indian place. I don’t think I have ever come across something like that in Europe?
Anyway, the Indian food I got at Nataraj Harajuku had a slight Japanese influence. I wouldn’t have thought that combination would work, but I got curious, ordered a naan with mustard leaves and sesame and it was delicious. And the homemade ginger ale was so good! Check out Nataraj’s website.
WHERE I ATE AS A VEGAN IN TOKYO-SHINJUKU
Plant Based Tokyo
You’ll find this vegan deli at new Food Hall Blast food court in Shinjuku. There also is a coffee place and a bar. I had the spicy eggplant curry and soy chicken and it was excellent. There was also tiramisu! Perfect place to go when you’re vegan in Tokyo. You’ll find Plant Based Tokyo’s website here.
This cute cafe located on the 6th floor inside Lumine 1 mall at Shinjuku station also has lots of options for those who are vegan in Tokyo! They have a large selection of vegan desserts, and also a few savory dishes.
The vegan options are marked with the little leaf. I went for an almond cappuccino and a yummy hojicha tiramisu, my colleague had a crepe with berries.
The next time I came back to try the curry! Delicious as well. Check out Wired Bonbon’s Website here.
You’ll also find this little ramen place at lumine 1 mall in Shinjuku, in the basement where the other food stalls are. They have only one vegan ramen soup called rainbow ramen, but that is a good quick meal when you’re vegan in Tokyo and you’re on the go. I ordered mine with extra yuzu, which was delicious. This ramen shop is not a place to hang out and chat with friends. You order and pay for your soup on a display, are given a seat at the bar, eat your soup and leave. Afuri is popular, there often is a line.
I usually try to avoid places that also serve meat, but I included this curry house chain for several reasons: there is one literally everwhere and it’s perfect for a quick inexpensive Japanese curry.
They have a few vegan options which are clearly labeled on the menu. You order your own food on an iPad, and you can even choose the amount of rice it comes with. Service is fast, my veggie curry was quite good. And they sell instant curries too. I forgot to take a picture because I was so busy with filming for my instagram story, but luckily they have a plastic version of their food outside too:
Their outlet at shinjuku station is open 24 hours, so even as a jet lagged European you can get vegan food at any time! I also liked the retro colour scheme of the place. For Coco Ichibanya’s website click here.
More than bakery
Only on Sundays, everything this bakery inside hotel the Knot sells is vegan. There are croissants, bagels, focaccia, burgers and sandwiches and also some sweet stuff of course. Perfect for breakfast or brunch!
Uzu Vegan Ramen TeamLab Tokyo
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that in front of the big light installation exhibition, there was a vegan ramen and dessert place. We got the miso ramen (spicy!) and a nice donut. Amazing surprise when you’re vegan in Tokyo.
What is Shojin Ryori?
Shojin Ryori is a traditional purely plant-based cuisine that originated in Zen Buddhist monasteries in Japan. This cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on natural flavors and textures.
Typically, Shojin Ryori includes dishes made from seasonal vegetables, grains, legumes, and tofu. The ingredients are carefully selected and prepared using techniques such as steaming, boiling, and simmering to bring out their natural flavors and maximize their nutritional value. Shojin Ryori is also known for its visual presentation. There are many tofu dishes, soups with shiitake broth, and even vegan tempura.
Shojin Ryori is served in some traditional Japanese restaurants. I have never been to one, but it is on my list for my next visit.
Supermarkets and convenience stores
As a vegan in Tokyo, shopping for snacks can be tricky, as a lot of things look vegan at first sight but are not. Meat or fish are often just considered seasonings. So something called vegetable rice can still contain pork, which using the google translate app will show, when scanning the finely printed ingredients. Check out my blogpost on useful apps that I recommend for traveling. At convenience stores, onigiri that just consist of salted rice are usually safe, and so are edamame.
These are things I got with the help of my google translate app and my Japanese colleague Miki at supermarket Maruetsu: pickled plum onigiri, edamame, roasted sweet potato, red beans rice ball, salted rice ball and mochi.
And then there are the soups by T’s Tantan at convenience store Natural Lawson, which are of course always vegan. I highly recommend joining the facebook groups “Vegan Japan” and “Is it vegan (Japan)” when spending time as a vegan in Tokyo. That group is extremely helpful, I found a lot of interesting information there.
Cosmetics and Souvenirs for a vegan in Tokyo
If you should run out of cosmetics, you will find several outlets of the Body Shop and Lush all over Japan which have clearly marked vegan options. A very special highlight is the Harajuku Lush Store. where you can find bath bombs that are Japan-themed and exclusively sold there, just like the maneki neko (lucky cat) that you can see in the title picture. A perfect souvenir for a vegan in Tokyo that will also make your hand luggage smell amazing. You can find out online whether these specials are vegan. In January 2023, there was this little piece of art to celebrate the beginning of the year of the rabbit.
Fukoshiki, the art of wrapping gifts with a knot wrap, also is at home at lush. You can buy a cloth wrap and have your purchases wrapped for you.
How to get from A to B in Tokyo
Tokyo also has a well-developed and user-friendly public transportation system that makes it easy to navigate the city and find vegan restaurants in different neighborhoods. For this, I recommend the Suica Card, a contactless card that you can get and load up at the machines, and use as a payment method on public transportation, as well as at convenience stores and vending machines.
By the way, on Happy Cow or Google, you can often find photos of the outside of the restaurants, which can be very helpful. With a little research and planning, you can have a fantastic culinary experience as a vegan in Tokyo.
Are you planning a trip? Check out my blogposts
Travel like a pro – a flight attendant’s 12 tips for your next tripFlying as a vegan: how to make sure you get food
Traveling as a vegan – do you know these apps?
Have you been a vegan in Tokyo and have further tips? Did you find amazing food I should try next time? Let me know in the comments.
For further inspiration for being vegan in Tokyo, you can have a look at my instagram highlights.
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