It was not always easy finding vegetarian food in Japan. Restaurants serving vegetarian food are generally few and far in between, especially in smaller cities. Furthermore, with the language barrier, it was not always easy to trust if the establishment fully understood our definition of vegetarian. We were served egg when we ordered a vegan meal and many times the ramen broth was made with fish sauce. It was really hard to find pure vegetarian food but we managed it and had a wonderful trip. Here are our general tips, if you have any dietary restrictions be it vegan, raw or vegetarian, to survive and help you have a better experience in a predominating meat/fish eating country.
Interesting tidbit: Curry is the most liked food by the Japanese. It is also the emperor’s favorite food. We were surprised that it wasn’t sushi.
Happy Cow is a great resource and has been very helpful through our travels. Unfortunately even that fell short a few times when we were looking for restaurants serving vegetarian food in Japan – probably, and thankfully, because of the site’s super strict submission guidelines. Here are the restaurants that we went to and what we thought about them. If it’s on Happy Cow, I have added the link.
If you are looking for restaurants serving vegetarian food in Japan, particularly in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Hiroshima, the list below should help.
Restaurants serving vegetarian food in Japan, by city:
- Pasta More Asti (Beets Score: 2/5)
- Wabiya Zanmai (Beets Score: 4/5)
- Kyotofu Fujino (Beets Score: 2/5)
- Maharaja (Beets Score: 3/5)
- Okunoniwa (Beets Score: 5/5)
- Ramen place in Kyoto station (Beets Score: 5/5)
- Cosme Kitchen Cafe (Beets Score: 4/5)
- Amici (Beets Score: 1/5)
- Marumo Japanese bowl cafe (Beets Score: 3/5)
Listen Food Cafe (Beets Score: 3/5)
This cafe was a part of our hotel in Akasaka. We were excited to see that the menu boasted a “vegan” plate that looked very healthy and nutritious with salad and black rice. Trouble was that when our plates arrived, this “vegan” meal came with eggs on the side. (It was a quick lesson: vegan in Japanese does not match our definition of vegan.) In spite of the egg blunder – at this stage we were still not eating eggs – the food was really good and satiating.
Links for the restaurant:
Outside of dinner we also had breakfast here since it was included in our stay. They serve a western style breakfast buffet. As vegetarians there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from however, with bread, butter, jam and some salad we were set for the mornings.
Palermo (Beets Score: 3/5)
Palermo, is one of many Italian restaurants in Japan. Like Listen Food Cafe, this is also located in Akasaka. The pizzas were decent, and “hit the spot” since that’s what I was craving. It also has a nice and cozy ambience. I wouldn’t make a trip across town just to visit this joint, but I would go back if I happen to find myself in Akasaka again.
Masala Hut (Beets Score: 4/5)
We found this Nepalese place, while walking around in Harajuku. The quality of the food here definitely makes up for it’s lack of space and ambience. It’s a small joint that kept us well fueled as we explored Takeshita street and the rest of the Harajuku neighborhood.
Nagi Shokudo (Beets Score: 5/5)
Thanks to Happy Cow, we found this gem! Completely vegan, and nestled in a quiet neighborhood, this is a must stop for anyone in the area. It is a short walk from Shibuya crossing, and one of the few vegetarian Japanese restaurants we ate at.
T’s Tan Tan (Beets Score: 5/5)
We passed through Tokyo station a few times during our stay in the city. This is one eatery not to be missed. The Tan Tan – similar to ramen – was delicious. It was a little hard to get to, however, the directions listed in the Happy Cow reviews eventually got us there. One important point to note, is if you would like to visit this restaurant you have to be inside the station, as a traveler. You will not be able to find this place from outside unless you buy a ticket or use your JR pass to enter the station.
Raj Mahal (Beets Score: 3/5)
One of the two Indian restaurants in Ginza. It is typically a place for a proper sit down, however, we did take-out here. The prices were comparable to most other restaurants. The service was professional and prompt. The food was tasty but unfortunately too oily for our liking.
Indian Annam (Beets Score: 3/5)
We also tried this Indian restaurant in Ginza. We found the food here better than Raj Mahal.
The City Bakery (Beets Score: 3/5)
Located in the basement of Tokyu Plaza in Ginza, this is a good joint for a late breakfast (nothing opens in the area before 11 AM). We tried their veg sandwich, and it was pretty good. They also serve green juices which was a huge plus for us.
Isamiya (Beets Score: 4/5)
They don’t have any vegan or even vegetarian options on their menu – and that’s probably why it’s not listed on Happy Cow. However, they did have a waffle toast with meat. After some back and forth with the owner, facilitated with the help of Google Translate, we were able to get waffle toast without the meat and with an extra helping of the salad. Win! Win! This was our start to eating eggs again … Sigh!
Hotel Senkei Ryokan dinner (Beets Score: 5/5)
We were excited about our Ryokan stay and dinner. We had heard so much about it, and were happy that our travel agent had managed to arrange a vegetarian meal! NOT! We reached the ryokan to find out that there had been a miscommunication and they hadn’t been told to prepare a vegetarian meal (in fact some of the staff looked pretty much clueless when we uttered the “V word”). Having said that, they were able to whip up quite the vegetarian meal. (They did include some seafood but thankfully that was served on a separate plate.) Not quite a restaurant that you can walk into, but listing it here, since it significantly contributed to an authentic Japanese and vegetarian experience.
Bakery & Table (Beets Score: 4/5)
They serve some of the best vegetarian crepes that we have had. So glad to have walked in to this place. A huge bonus is that they have large glass panels allowing beautiful views of Lake Ashi. Get a seat at the chef’s table and be delighted.
Pasta More Asti (Beets Score: 2/5)
Another one of the many Italian eateries that are ubiquitous throughout Japan. We were not up for walking too much and settled for this restaurant in Kyoto station. The food was not great and definitely not nutritious. We are hard pressed to recommend this establishment, in spite of their generous portion sizes!
Wabiya Zanmai (Beets Score: 4/5)
Located at the Kyoto station, this seemed like a restaurant catering primarily to the “after work” crowd. It was easy to communicate our vegetarian needs, and the food did not disappoint. We did have to take off our shoes here, and sitting amongst the office-going crowd, felt like a local experience.
Kyotofu Fujino (Beets Score: 2/5)
Located on the higher floors of the Kyoto station, the food here was not the best but when hungry everything and anything “edible” goes! They mostly serve tofu dishes – as the name would suggest – and it is definitely overpriced. Could be good for a drink since they have great views of the city. They don’t have too many tables by the window. It wasn’t terribly busy when we got their for a late lunch, and we still didn’t find a city-view table.
Links for the restaurant:
Maharaja (Beets Score: 3/5)
This restaurant is nothing fancy, but it was just what we needed after the art show in Gion corner. Makes for a good dinner after walking around Gion corner.
Okunoniwa (Beets Score: 5/5)
Okunoniwa serves a vegan bento box, and we are glad we got to try this in Japan. The food was fried – so not super healthy – and very delicious. It is located close to the Togetsukyō Bridge, and is a little bit of a walk to get to, from the temples in Arashiyama. Well worth the effort if you want to experience eating a vegetarian bento box. It is a beautiful walk, especially if you are coming from the Jojakko-ji Temple.
Ramen place in Kyoto station (Beets Score: 5/5)
Definitely a very local experience, so much so, that I don’t remember them having an English name. It is located on the 11th floor, “the ramen floor”, in Kyoto station. You have to order your meal using an ATM style booth outside. We needed some help figuring out how to place our order for vegetarian ramen. When we enquired, it was encouraging to know that the broth was vegetarian as well. Glad to have eaten here, and highly recommend it for the food and experience. The bowls did not disappoint, but be prepared to get cozy with your neighbors in this small joint.
Cosme Kitchen Cafe (Beets Score: 4/5)
This cafe serves pre-cooked vegetarian food, however, we didn’t get a chance to try it. We did try their superfood chocolate smoothie and loved it.
Amici (Beets Score: 1/5)
We do not recommend this Italian joint located in Kyoto station. Let alone the pizza, even their coffee was horrible. Skip, and find some of the other great options in the station.
Links for the restaurant:
Marumo Japanese bowl cafe (Beets Score: 3/5)
We found this after considerable amount of walking in Kyoto station. It was a good option for a meal and the food was okay. It came in a huge bowl with miso soup and a side salad. Again, go here if you happen to be in that section of the Kyoto station, otherwise you are not missing out.
Shanti Yoga Vegan Cafe (Beets Score: 5/5)
Amazing place! We were the only ones here when we entered around lunch time. As the name suggests it’s part of a yoga studio, and serves 100% vegan food. We ordered the pureed spinach with brown rice combo which we all relished. Besides the food, the highlight was that you get to sit on tatami mats in a minimally furnished quintessentially Japanese room. Quite the treat! They were very considerate and provided Mumma Vora with a desk and chair, since she was unable to sit on the floor.
Lemongrass Thai (Beets Score: 4/5)
We ate here both the nights we were in Hiroshima – yes, we were really craving Thai food, and it was that flavorful. The ambience is nothing fancy, and it can get a bit smoky in here, since it’s an open kitchen lacking good ventilation. Good option for us vegetarians.
Okonomiyaki Restaurant (Beets Score: 3/5)
Okonomiyaki is pretty famous and is a speciality of the region. However, is a traditionally non-vegetarian dish, so we weren’t very hopeful of tasting it. I was not convinced that this restaurant could make a vegetarian Okonomiyaki until they brought out a sauce bottle labeled “vegetarian sauce”. It didn’t help that they made ours on the same stove top where they had just been grilling some seafood, but we “looked the other way” on that one. One of the ways to survive as a vegetarian traveler in a primarily meat/seafood eating country). Definitely worth visiting, if you want to try a vegetarian Okonomiyaki in Miyajima. Personally, we didn’t love it – I’m sure the original version is really good – but I’m glad we at least got to try it.
Links for the restaurant:
So there you have it, all the restaurants we ate at through our travels in Japan. Hoping that this provides you with some more options. Comment below to let us know if you have any recommendations on other vegetarian places.
If you are concerned about finding vegetarian food in Japan, or have any other dietary considerations, check out our post on “How to Survive as a Vegetarian traveler” – especially if you are traveling off the “touristy” route.