Vegan in Tokyo

Japan is known, in part, for its incredible food. Enormous bowls of noodles, assembled sushi and impeccably presented meals comprising multiple plates. It is however, pretty difficult to avoid meat and fish in regular road side restaurants. This can be very frustrating, given Japan's abundance of vegetables, tofu and rice dishes which are staple side plates in most meals. However, vegetarian and vegan options are starting to crop up all over the country. Living in Okayama, the 'trend' is yet to catch on, but the metropolis that is Tokyo has a bubbling scene brimming with wonderful vegan and vegetarian food, as long as you know where to look.

I spent the last weekend in Tokyo exploring with my best friend before she goes home to Australia, and together we went on a vegan adventure. Here's what we found.

We started the adventure with Kyushu Jangara in Akihabara. 

                                                                  V E G A N  R A M E N

This tiny little ramen restaurant in Akihabara has bar style seating and a couple of tables for no more than 20 people. As a result we did have to queue, but it wasn't more than 30 minutes and in my opinion, the smaller hole-in-the-wall places are so much better anyways, even if you do have to wait. It means the food is being prepared in smaller amounts as they go, for a more authentic taste and experience. We're not really used to queuing for restaurants in the west, but the length of the line shows the quality of the place - so just wait patiently. While we queued the staff handed us menus and we ordered before we had even got inside. Both of us ordered the vegan ramen. It's clearly advertised on the menu and on the display at the front of the shop. As soon as we were settled in our seats, the enormous bowls of ramen followed soon after. It was my first time having purpose made vegan ramen with soy meat and it was better than I expected. There is also a little condiments bar with chilli flakes, salt, pepper and some other little shakers so you can customise to taste. A handy little trick: not slurped up all that soupy goodness yet? It's very common to order more noodles to go into the remaining broth. At Jangara, it was 150 or so yen for another noodle helping and they brought them over to us. If you want to ask in Japanese, try 'motto men onegaishimasu' which literally means 'more noodles, please!' It worked for me. Not feeling confident with that though, I'm pretty sure they'd understand you in English, so don't be afraid to ask for more.

For ambience, wait time, staff friendliness and overall deliciousness, Akihabara's Jangara gets a full 10/10. There's other branches dotted all over Tokyo and they do serve meaty dishes too - see this review by Daniel's Food Diary for more info about that, if that's what floats your boat.

Price: 1000 yen for vegan ramen, other options cheaper
Hours: 10.30 am - 11.30 pm mon-fri, 9.30 am - 11.30 pm weekends.
Location: Chiyoda Sotokanda 3-11-6, Tokyo 101-0021 This branch is close to Akihabara station, just opposite the Donki Hote. Google maps takes you right to it, there's a bright pink door way flag so it's hard to miss! 

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Egg free tempura I hear you cry? Not a problem at all! Head to Tempura Tendon Tenya, a cheap tempura chain which can be found all over Japan. The do a delicious vegetable tempura bowl on a bed of rice, which is a complete steal at 550 yen. The batter in all stores does not contain milk or egg, but just ask for no sauce as it'll more than likely contain dashi (fish stock). The set bowl comes with a miso soup side, which although I would think to have dashi in, does not according to the allergen list. When I was looking up the ingredients in Tempura Tendon Tenya dishes, I can across this amazing website, which tells you about popular fast food chains and what you can have as a vegan. The veggie tempura bowl has pumpkin, mushroom, aubergine, green beans, lotus root and radish. There's also unlimited hot or cold tea and water. If you need a quick fix, this is convenient, cheap and a lot of food. Not the healthiest... but also very, very tasty. They also serve a variety of meat and fish tempura, as well as salad and udon. Not for my vegan friends, but to satisfy anyone that might be accompanying you there's plenty to choose from if the wonders of the plant-based life haven't hit you yet. (They will soon.)

Price: from 550 yen
Hours: 11 am - 10 pm all week
Location: 15 shops in Tokyo, more all over Japan

V E G A N  O R I E N T A L

Venturing out to Yokohama? As much as it comes as a surprise, Yokohama's Chinatown has a few vegan option restaurants dotted in between shark fin soup hell holes. Koukien is a Taiwanese/Chinese restaurant with plenty of vegan options. The back of the menu has multiple pages of dishes, and as a result we went a bit OTT with the ordering. My friend (pictured) and I were over the moon to find not only vegetarian but fully vegan gyoza (Japanese fried or steamed dumplings). We have been looking since we arrived to Japan in September. We ordered the fried and steamed variety, which are green. That was quite the surprise - but they were absolutely delicious. I ordered a sweet and sour style vegetable mixed plate with beans, mushrooms and soy pieces. Eloise had the most enormous bowl of spicy noodles with soy mince, bean sprouts and other green veggies. It was all great, and we finished with goma dango (sesame fried sweet red bean dumplings) which are some of my favourite vegan desserts here in Japan, even though they are originally Chinese. Don't order them in a restaurant though - head out onto the street and pay only 100 yen per dumpling and munch as you wander; walking with food in this area seems to be okay. 

Price: around 1000 yen for mains
Hours: 11 am - 3 pm and 4.30 pm - 11 pm during the week and 11 am - 11 pm on the weekends
Location: Naka-ku, Yamashita-cho 106, Yokohama 231-0023. Google maps will take you right to it.

Mr. Farmer
V E G A N  B U R G E R 

Mr. Farmer is a funky health food kind of restaurant with a beautiful interior: wooden tables, open plan kitchen, self serve flavoured water bar, and green plants hanging in the windows. It felt like a popular L.A or London vegan hotspot. We loved it so much we visited the Roppongi Hills branch and the Shinjuku one on Mosaic Street. I ordered the cheeseburger (pictured) the first time and the tempeh burger the second time. The cheeseburger had soy cheese and a really tasty, slightly spicy, soy burger. It had vegan mayo, handmade sweet potato crisps and a good dose of salad. The tempeh burger was also really tasty, but didn't have any soy cheese. Both great, but preferred the soy cheeseburger. Eloise had the thai green curry which I did try, and it was absolutely delicious. It was on the warmer side, but I love that. It came with a plate of veggies, rice and tofu too. For dessert, we settled on the fruit cobbler and coconut ice cream. It was an expensive dessert, but really tasty. There were also vegan wraps and salads as well as vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. If you fancy some non-Japanese food, Mr. Farmer is a really great choice. I really rated the soy cheeseburger and the flavoured water bar was a cool addition too.

Price: burger was 1300 yen, curry was 1800, dessert was 750. Well worth it though.
Hours: 9 am - 11 pm
Location: Four in Tokyo: Roppongi Hills Hillside, Shinjuku Mosaic Street, Komazawa Olympic Park and Omote-sando. The one in Roppongi Hills is clearly displayed on maps and the Shinjuku branch is only a 3 minute walk from the main exit of the station on Mosaic street - a funky sequined street with a chilled out American vibe.

Commune 2nd 
M E D I T E R R A N E A N  V E G A N

Now here's a place. A collection of beautifully crafted food stalls with an upmarket festival feel gives omote-sando a really fresh feel. Buzzing with bars, western food and oriental food, Commune 2nd is a collection of independent business with an indoor and outdoor seating area, evening lights, and a really chilled out cool vibe. There's a completely vegan truck offering soy nuggets, falafel salads and hummus as well as other tasty options. There's also a German truck in the middle serving delicious hot apple cider, a craft beer bar, and another food stand with vegan options. After living in Japan for six months and having no way to fulfil my hummus obsession, this was such a treat. We shared the two plates and I preferred the soy nugget salad, and Eloise preferred the falafel. Sharing was great though, as we just took one pitta each and combined the two meals together. You can also swap out the pitta for brown rice if you prefer. For cool vibes, lots of options and really great drinks, head here for lunch, dinner or a pint or two. It would make such a good place for a casual date and I'll definitely be taking my friends here when they visit Japan next week.

Price: 1000 yen for the falafel 
Hours: 11 am - 10 pm
Location: 3-13 Minami-Aoyama, Minato. Easy to get to from Omote-sando station. Come out at the Aoyama flower market exit, turn right onto the main street and you'll find it a little way down the main street on the right.

So, that wraps up my vegan favourites in Tokyo. I'm going to make the conscious effort to seek out more vegan gems wherever I'm travelling in Japan, so you can still get the best of Japanese cuisine without compromise. Vegan in Japan is still hard, but the more we write about it online the easier it gets for all us travellers. It's clearly catching on, because restaurants are knowingly displaying and advertising vegan options. Keep reviewing on Happy Cow (an absolute life saver of an app) and keep enjoying Japan! There's so much great food here if you know where to look. That's all for now: until next time travel gang!

Molly x  


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