Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

Being a vegetarian in Japan can be difficult, but with some effort and pre-planning can also be very rewarding. Although we despaired at times of finding a veggie-friendly meal, and fish did turn up in our food on occasion, we also had some of the most unusual and delicious meals we have ever eaten. We loved the foodie culture in Japan and found the food to be high quality, beautifully presented and healthy.

Here are our tips for surviving Japan as a vegetarian.

Learn Some Japanese

Simon trying to translate a Japanese menu

Simon trying to translate a Japanese menu

Not many Japanese people speak English and learning a few phrases is essential to making your needs as a vegetarian understood. Don’t be too worried though – although learning to read Kanji takes a lot of time, the spoken language is easier to pick up that I expected.

You could try telling people that you are vegetarian (“Watashi wa bejitarian des”) but they probably won’t understand exactly what this means. It is better to be clearer and instead say “watashi wa niku toh sakana wo taberarimasen” which means I don’t eat meat or fish. We found this phrase very useful and succesfully used it in restaurants to get a vegetarian meal.“Taberarimasen” means “I don’t eat” so you can add any word in front of that.

A few other useful words and phrases:

yasai – vegetables
tamago – egg
katsuobushi nashi de onegai shimas – without bonito (fish) flakes please
…arimas ka? – do you have…?
nan des ka? – what is it?
oishikatta des – that was delicious. This always made people smile.
arigato gozaimas – thank you
sumimasen – excuse me

Be Flexible

It is often possible to find meals without meat or fish in them, or at least the restaurants are willing to adapt meals for you, but the biggest problem is that fish stock or dashi is used in many dishes. Soups and noodles in broth in non-vegetarian restaurants will definitely contain it, and you’ll need to decide whether this bothers you or not. We tried to avoid it as much as possible but there were times when we didn’t have much choice so decided to be flexible about it. I have heard that it is possible to ask for noodles or soup to be made with just miso instead, but we found communicating this to be difficult.

If you want to completely avoid fish stock then it is best to eat in only vegetarian restaurants but this will limit the destinations you can visit in Japan. In Kyoto this isn’t a problem, but in smaller towns it will be much more difficult.

Plan Ahead

Set lunch at Vegan Cafe, Hiroshima

Set lunch at Vegan Cafe, Hiroshima

Although you could use the recommended phrase above and turn up in any Japanese restaurant and hope you get a meal, we found it much more enjoyable to eat stress (and dashi) free at vegetarian restaurants. So do some research online on sites like Happy Cow and plan ahead where to eat.

If you get stuck, like we did in Nara when the vegetarian restaurant I had researched was closed, try looking out for Indian restaurants. We ended up finding a lovely little place that did great vegetarian curries at reasonable prices.

See the bottom of this post for some of our favourite vegetarian restaurants in Japan.

Visit Kyoto

Set dinner at Mikoan, Kyoto

Set dinner at Mikoan, Kyoto

Luckily there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto, as Japan’s ancient capital has a long tradition of shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist temple cuisine, which is entirely vegan. You would really be missing out if you didn’t spend time here, especially as there is so much to do with 2000 temples and shrines to explore plus many interesting other attractions.

Set meals at vegetarian restaurants are a great way to explore Japanese food as you don’t have to worry about being able to read a Japanese menu and you can be sure that everything is meat-free. We had some incredible meals in Kyoto – our favourites were at Mikoan and Shigetsu and Yoshuji. We also learnt a lot about Japanese cuisine and ate an incredible meal by taking a vegetarian cooking class.

Eat in Temples

Shojin Ryori lunch at Shigetsu, Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto

Shojin Ryori lunch at Shigetsu, Tenryuji Temple, Kyoto

Shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist temple cuisine is the beacon of hope for a vegetarian in Japan. The monks make it possible to enjoy delicious, healthy, creative, Japanese meals and be sure that it is all vegan. The food was unlike anything we had eaten before and we loved having the opportunity to try something new. The best places to eat in temples are in Kyoto and in the mountain temple town Koya-san where you can even spend the night in a temple. I did see some temple restaurants in Tokyo but the prices were far higher than elsewhere when even in Kyoto it isn’t cheap (we paid 3000 yen/$39 each).

Stay in a Ryokan

Dinner at Minshuku Shimosagaya, Tsumago

Dinner at Minshuku Shimosagaya, Tsumago

A great opportunity to try homemade kaiseki, a gourmet, multi-course traditional Japanese meal is in a ryokan or traditional inn. We stayed in a minshuku, a cheaper family-run version and had a fantastic feast for dinner and breakfast. We booked through Japanese Guesthouses which has a range of options all over Japan. You can request a vegetarian meal but they won’t guarantee that dashi is not used. It’s a pricey but uniquely Japanese experience that we do recommend.

Read our comparison of different accommodation options in Japan.


We had a house sit in Kyoto and an apartment in Tokyo for part of our trip so were able to self cater. This helped to save money and take a break from worrying about where to eat. Supermarket prices aren’t cheap (Japan is an expensive country) but we found the array of fresh noodles and tofu to be delicious and reasonably priced. Add some vegetables and you can make an easy stir fry.

Our app, Trail Wallet

Vegetarian Friendly Japanese Food

These are some vegetarian Japanese meals and snacks to look out for. Be aware that anything that includes broth is likely to be fish dashi unless you are eating in a vegetarian restaurant.

Tempura Donburi

Tempura Donburi

Vegetable Tempura Donburi

Tempura (deep fried vegetables in batter) are served on top of rice. Ask for vegetables only or point to it if there is a picture menu and it makes a great, quick meal. There are some expensive tempura restaurants but we went to Tenya a cheap tempura chain where it cost 550 yen (US$7). Our meal included tea and miso soup (which we skipped).


Tsukemono, Japanese pickles

Tsukemono, Japanese pickles

Tsukemono or Japanese pickled vegtables are an essential part of a Japanese meal and always included in set meals.  I love the crunchy texture and salty, sweet and sour flavour that provides a contrast to the more delicately flavoured dishes. In a worst case scenario you could always order tsukemono and rice for a simple meal.

Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba

Cold soba (buckweat) noodles are popular in the summer served on a bamboo tray with nori seaweed, spring onion, wasabi, and a soy sauce broth that we skipped as it probably had dashi in it. If this doesn’t worry you then go ahead and dip the noodles in.

Soba or Udon Noodles

Noodles in broth are found everywhere. Choose from soba (buckwheat) or udon (wheat) and a range of fillings. If you explain you don’t eat meat or fish you should be able to get a vegetable only version, although the stock will likely be fish. To avoid this order zaru soba (above), cold noodles that don’t come in broth.

Miso Soup

Miso and tofu soup

Miso and tofu soup

Miso soup is a part of every set meal including breakfast. Sometimes it contained tofu and vegtables. Chopsticks are used to eat the ingredients and the broth is sipped direct from the bowl. We only ate ours in vegetarian restaurants where we knew they hadn’t used dashi.


Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is often described as a Japanese pancake or omelette. Although it usually isn’t vegetarian it can be adapted to be and in fact in many okonomiyaki restaurants you can make your own on a hotplate at your table and choose your own ingredients.

We tried Hiroshima style okonomiyaki which includes noodles in the batter along with eggs, lots of shredded cabbage and beansprouts, and is topped with a type of Worcestershire sauce and herbs. We found a tiny okonomiyaki restaurant in Hiroshima called Rie where we sat on stalls in front of the large hotplate and watched the friendly owner cook our food to order.

Okonomiyaki being made at Rie, Hiroshima

Okonomiyaki being made at Rie, Hiroshima

Unusually she spoke English so seemed to understand our request for a vegetarian version. We watched as she piled up the ingredients and realised too late that the grey stuff she added was dried fish. [Update: a reader has let us know that this is actually probably tororokonbu or grated kelp, a seaweed which would explain the fishy taste. Good to know it wasn’t fish after all!]

Dried fish on okonomiyaki

Tororokonbu (dried kelp) or what we thought was dried fish on okonomiyaki

We tried to pick it out the best we could but it did somewhat ruin the otherwise delicious dish for us. So be aware of this when ordering okonomiyaki and try to stop them adding any kind of fish.

Nasu Dengaku

Nasu Dengaku

Nasu Dengaku

Eggplant is grilled until soft and melty with a sweet caramelised miso topping. Nasu dengaku is delicious comfort food that we ate at Shigetsu temple restaurant in Kyoto.

Gohei Mochi

Gohei mochi are a specialty of the Kiso Valley area that we were lucky enough to sample in the small, traditional village Tsumago. They are grilled rice dumplings served on a stick in a sesame and walnut sauce. Very tasty. Don’t miss them if you are in the area.

Yaki Onigiri

Yaki Onigiri

Yaki Onigiri

Grilled rice balls in a soy sauce glaze are served with tofu, cold greens and pickles on the side. They are quite plain but still a good vegetarian option. We ate yaki onigiri at an izakaya (Japanese pub).

Umeboshi Onigiri

Umeboshi Onigiri

Umeboshi Onigiri

Onigiri (rice balls) are found at every convenience store and supermarket and make good cheap packed lunches. The problem is the labels are in Japanese so it is difficult to see which ones are vegetarian – umeboshi (pickled plum) and gari (ginger) are the most common. I just asked a nearby stranger in pigeon Japanese “Dore umeboshi des ka?” and she pointed out the right one.

Umeboshi Onigiri packaging

Umeboshi Onigiri packaging

Sekihan Onigiri

Sekihan Onigiri

Sekihan Onigiri

Red rice and azuki bean balls are another tasty packed lunch you can pick up from a convenience store. The packaging is clear so it’s easy to identify without reading Japanese.

Sekihan Onigiri packaging

Sekihan Onigiri packaging



Pumpkin Oyaki

Oyaki are a speciality of the Nagano prefecture and we tried them in Matsumoto. Wheat buns are filled with different vegetables – we tried pumpkin (kabocha).

Kabocha Korroke

Kabocha Korroke, Pumpkin Croquettes

Kabocha Korroke, Pumpkin Croquettes

Pumpkin croquettes can be found in the deli section of supermarkets and some restaurants and make a delicious, cheap vegetarian meal. We heated ours up at home and served with a salad.

Naigamo Yam

Nagaimo yam with nori and wasabi

Nagaimo yam with nori and wasabi

This raw salad dish turned up in a few of our meals. Naigamo yam is rather unusual, and wasn’t like the dense, heavy yam that we are familiar with but instead light, crunchy, sticky and watery. The main flavour came from the salty nori seaweed and hot wasabi that it is served with.


Konnyaku at Yoshuji in Kurama

Konnyaku at Yoshuji in Kurama

Konnyaku is known in English as Devil’s Tongue. It’s a jelly-like substance made from the root of the tuberous plant konjac. It doesn’t have much flavour but is valued for its texture, which we found rather strange. It often features in shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) meals. In the photo above konnyaku was served like sashimi with a dark miso sauce.

Mos Burger

Vegetarian rice burger at Mos Burger

Vegetarian rice burger at Mos Burger

Who would have thought that Japan would be the first country in a very long time that we’ve eaten in a burger restaurant? I’d describe Mos Burger as a fast food chain, but the Japanese are rather proud of it and a local pointed out that the food is made to order and brought to your table unlike in McDonalds. They also sell themselves on being healthy and have one vegetarian burger on the menu.

I had heard that the carrot and burdock burger in a bun made of rice was called Gomoka Kinpura but that didn’t seem to work when I ordered so it’s best to point to the picture menu. It is surprisingly good and cheap at 300 yen (US$4) but it isn’t that filling so we were glad we had fries and onion rings with it. It’s a decent, quick meal when you can’t find anything else.

Rice cakes

Chilli rice cakes

Chilli rice cakes

We picked up a crunchy, chilli-covered rice cake at the Nishiki market in Kyoto.

Vegetarian Tofu Dishes

There is plenty of tofu in Japan and it is much higher quality than anywhere else in the world. There are even restaurants that only serve tofu in different forms for multi-course meals. Be careful in tofu restaurants though as they aren’t usually vegetarian and even if they can make it vegetarian for you they will probably still use dashi. We tried many of these tofu dishes in Kyoto’s shojin ryori restaurants.

Goma Dofu

Goma dofu, sesame tofu

Goma dofu, sesame tofu

This chilled sesame tofu is one of the most common dishes in shojin ryori. It’s actually not tofu at all as it isn’t made from soymilk but from sesame paste, water and kuzu, a thickening powder. It certainly has a different texture from the tofu we are used to as it’s soft, creamy and melts in your mouth. It’s a refreshing dish on a hot summer’s day. It’s usually served with a dab of hot wasabi.


Yuba, soymilk skin tofu

Yuba, soymilk skin tofu

Yuba is made from the thin skin that forms on the surface of boiled soymilk – it sounds weird but is delicious, creamy and light.


Koyadofu and yuba

Koyadofu (top) and yuba

This freeze-dried tofu originates from the temple-filled Mount Koya. It is reconstituted in water and becomes springy and sponge-like, absorbing the flavours it is cooked in.




A tofu and vegetable hotpot that is simmered at your table.

Dengaku Tofu

Dengaku tofu

Dengaku tofu

Firm tofu served on sticks dengaku style. It is coated with a sweet miso sauce and grilled until it caramelises and becomes golden and slightly charred.




Vinegared rice stuffed in fried tofu pouch. We didn’t eat at any sushi restaurants in Japan, as the vegetarian options are limited, but if you do find yourself in one then look out for inarizushi. We tried this at Tosuiro tofu restaurant in Kyoto.

Our Favourite Vegetarian Restaurants in Japan

In Kyoto we recommend Mikoan for a tasty, good value vegetarian meal, Shigetsu for a splurge at  Tenryuji temple, Yoshuji in Kurama for a great day out, and Tosuiro tofu restaurant for a beautiful and unusual meal but only if you don’t mind dashi.

In Nara Ragamala is a good value vegetarian Indian.

Chickpea curry at Ragamala, Nara

Chickpea curry at Ragamala, Nara

In Koya-san you can get shojin ryori meals for dinner and breakfast by spending the night at any of the temples – we stayed in the cheapest temple Haryoin. We also ate the set lunch at Bon On Shya International Cafe on the main street which is vegetarian but serves international food rather than Japanese.

In Hiroshima we enjoyed a few delicious healthy meals at the Vegan Cafe in Shanti Yoga studio. We were the only tourists there and the food was a mix of international and Japanese. [Update: we have heard the cafe is now closed].

To find out how much we spent on food in Japan see our post How Much Does It Cost To Travel In Japan? We use our travel budget app Trail Wallet to track our expenses—it has helped thousands of travellers stay on budget.

If you are a travelling vegetarian don’t miss our other vegetarian survival guides. 

If you need travel insurance for your trip to Japan see our post on how to buy travel insurance

What are your vegetarian tips for Japan? Leave a reply and let us know.

99 thoughts on Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

  1. Just a couple of suggestions from someone who has lived in Japan (as a carnivore) for over a decade.

    Batter for tempura and korroke often/usually contains egg. Some vegetarians need to know that.

    The Hiroshima okonomiyaki you show probably has jakko (tiny dried fish) on it. Depending on the region of Japan, you might have something else instead: bonito fish flakes (katsuobushi). While they look like light brown cellophane chips wavering in the heat, they are still fish. Perhaps a photo would help people see this, too, to avoid it.

    To tell Japanese people you are vegetarian is not as hard to understand as you have made out. What is difficult to understand is what specifically one can/will not eat. Heck, even in my home country, a person who is a vegetarian can eat a variety of things that another vegetarian can/will not.

    • Thanks very much for the info. It is true – saying vegetarian doesn’t help in most places, so it’s best to list the foods you can’t eat.

      • Hi,
        To be honest, I never really tried Japanese vegetarian food, besides a few sushi things.
        This article though, especially the pictures makes me think I could be missing out on something.
        Regarding a post before… Telling somebody you would like a vegetarian dish is really not enough.
        I have lived and visited a few countries, and you always have to be very specific on what you want as a vegetarian.
        Here in Bolivia I remember asking for something vegetarian, and they told me that they have “fish” :)

        Have a great day!

        • We hadn’t tried Japanese food outside of Japan either, but we’d definitely recommend it. And yes, in every country we have visited you need to be specific about what vegetarian actually means.

  2. Thanks guys. As a vegetarian myself I am always looking for tips on how to eat veggie as I travel. This page is getting bookmarked for me. Happy travels.

    • I hope you get to use it Kim when you set off on your travels. We thought Japan would be really difficult for vegetarians (and it was at times) but we also enjoyed our culinary explorations there, especially in Kyoto.

    • Thanks for this, very interesting. It will be more difficult than I thought as I’m a vegetarian for ethical reasons, not dietary. I have a photo of a flash card on my phone that reads ‘I’m a vegetarian. I can’t eat meat, poultry or fish including dashi. Eggs and dairy are ok. Thank you for understanding.’ Think I’ll be using this a lot!! FYI: Scarlett :)

  3. Pingback: Good Read: Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan « Big Sushi, Little Fishes

  4. I like very much veggies, going to Japan is not a hard for me to adjust when it comes to food.
    these pics are looks yummy..hope to taste these recipe someday :)

  5. You should also try Freshness Burger! They have 2 vegetarian burgers, and in autumn, a third, seasonal, mushroom vegetarian burger. You can get a burger with a side of fries/onion rings and a drink for around 1000 yen. It’s all made fresh and brought to your table as well. I prefer it to Mos Burger.

  6. What a wonderful resource! I will be part of a group of four travelling to Japan next March, and three of us are Vegan. Your information will be so valuable to us! Would you think that using the terms ‘strict vegetarian’ or ‘buddhist vegetarian’ may assist with vegan meals? I have seen those terms pop up on a few sites.

    As you mentione, we have already resigned ourselves to the fact that animal product will be consumed, we can only try our best – and definitely avoid actual meat. We don’t want it to turn our holiday in to a terrible experience or have it solely based around food, which can happen when vegan and unsure where to eat.

    • Luckily for you being vegan shouldn’t be any harder than being vegetarian as dairy products aren’t that common in Japan. You could try saying shojin ryori which is the Buddhist cuisine because it’s always vegan. It’s also a good idea to learn the Japanese words so you can list out the foods you can’t eat eg I can’t eat meat, fish, eggs etc. And definitely eat in temples when you can.

  7. I shall be going to Kyoto next week. Being a vegetarian, I found your post very helpful – I will definitely try to visit some of the above mentioned restaurants. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you dedicated to this post!

  8. Just returned from Japan. We had good luck starting with tourist information centers. We suggested that we wanted to find a restaurant to try local specialty X (or just Japanese food X), but the problem was that we don’t eat meat or fish. We then suggested that it might be possible to make X without fish broth, etc., and wondered whether there might be any restaurants that would be able to prepare it that way. The tourist info people called up a couple of restaurants to check. In one case, they also wrote up a note for us to give to the person at the restaurant to explain what we wanted. It was really helpful to have tourist information do the explaining/negotiating in advance. And the more people do this, the more likely tourist info offices throughout Japan will become more knowledgeable about restaurants that can accommodate vegetarians!

    • Hi Folks

      I am surprised that some of the people here seem to be apologetic to be a vegetarian and are seeking to be accommodated. I believe that to be a vegetarian is the right thing to do, and we should demand.

  9. Guys, I love you. I am visiting Osaka + Kobe for a month and this thorough compilation is a god-send. I spent my first week cooking “everything” at my place but I felt a little guilty at not getting a chance to sample the local cusine. One thing that did help me shop at the super market was to have some one write out “saishokyu shyugi” (I think it means vegetarian) for me in Kanji and show that to a store attendant to help me pick out the vegetarian items. I did find some delicious stir fry sauces that way.

  10. Thank you so much for this great article!! I’m so excited to see that as a vegetarian that doesn’t eat fish I will have a LOT of options in Japan. Great, thorough article!

  11. Hello!
    This is fanbtastic.. I think you guys have helped unravel the mystery for us vegetarians who have always wanted to travel to Japan, but were daunted by the limited food options :)

    I hope to travel there sometime soon.. looking forward to it.

    All the best with your globe trotting adventures!


  12. I’ve always wanted to know about Japanese vegetarian food. Your post provided great insight, and photos, from a fellow food lover.

    Good luck on your travels!

    I hope you can come to the Philippines, too!


  13. Are you guys vegetarians? I used to be, but gave it up when being in China for 10 months. People did not understand the concept of vegetarianism at all. They gave me dirty looks and made me eat some meat. Basically, the whole Chinese cuisine is based on meat and noodles, so I broke. How about in Japan? Do they understand it?

    • We are. The Japanese often don’t understand the concept but saying we don’t eat meat or fish in Japanese usually worked. Kyoto is great though because of the culture of monks being vegan so there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants.

  14. I think I am just going to print this out and take it with me when I go to Tokyo next week. So excited to try out all these new varieties of food. Thanks to you, now I can.


  15. Thank you for this helpful and informative website. I wasn’t crazy about eating meat in Japan because they like it rather fatty, compared to how we like it in Canada. When I was there I was always trying to figure out what was vegetarian. Next time I go, I will be on the lookout for some of the delicious foods you’ve been kind enough to show here. I wish I could eat the grilled eggplant right now!

  16. Some vegetarian relatives of mine in Tokyo took me to a great restaurant in Azabu Juban called “Eat More Greens”. I’d definitely recommend it to any vegetarians visiting the Tokyo area.

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  18. Just back from our second stay in Japan, our daughter lives and works there. We are all vegetarians (no meat, fish, gelatine etc). We ate twice at the Vegan Cafe in Hiroshima, great food and extremely good value. We can also recommend The Green Earth cafe in Osaka and Modern Ark in Kobe. In Tokyo we ate three times at Chaya, a macrobiotic restaurant that is located in a department store in Shinjuku, . They have a few fish dishes but everything else is mainly vegan and the quality is fantastic. Proverbs cafe 15:17 in Kyoto is also good. We have the luxury of a Japanese speaking daughter but if you can stick to the veggie and vegan establishments, good to give your business to anyway, it is certainly possible not to compromise your principles. What a fascinating country and lovely people. Everyone should go if they can!

  19. I’m not vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat apart from chicken breasts. I must admit there is a huge variety of vegetarian dishes served in Japan. They all look so delicious. I would definitely go for Yuba, soymilk skin tofu :)

  20. Although I can’t be certain from a photo, in the picture labeled “Dried fish on okonomiyaki”, the grey shredded stuff looks exactly like tororokonbu とろろ昆布 (grated kelp) and not much like the dried fish that usually tops okonomiyaki. Tororokonbu has a fishy taste because it’s seaweed.
    As one of your other commenter mentioned, the grated fish on okonomiyaki usually looks alive because the fine paper-thin flakes move from the heat of the dish. Tororokonbu is more like a matted nest that doesn’t look like seaweed until it gets wet.

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure your friendly Hiroshima okonomiyaki maker understood your needs, at least with that ingredient.

    As a side note, tororo とろろ (without the konbu 昆布) is completely different, but also vegan (or should be). Tororo is grated yam and is a white sticky, delicately flavoured mess often served on top of rice. An acquired taste as with natto, but more because of the texture than because of a strong flavour.

    • Oooh, that makes me feel a lot better! I do find seaweed to taste fishy and don’t eat it much so that could explain it. One of the problems for us in Japan was being completely unfamiliar with so many of the ingredients. Thanks for letting us know!

      • I don’t think I would have eaten tororokonbu until someone told me what it was. I have seen too many grey shredded dried animal parts in packets in supermarkets here to risk it.
        I’m glad my post made you feel a little better. It’s never nice to be made aware of dietary indiscretions after the fact, and even worse when you feel forced to eat something you don’t want to.

      • I’m a bit late here but am sorry to tell you that I have never seen an authentic okonomiyaki recipe that doesn’t have dashi in the batter! And they make the batter up in bulk in advance so getting some without it seems pretty unlikely… It’s what gives it that distinct Japanese taste so if it was missing, I think people would find it doesn’t taste quite right.
        And wow, Japan is an expensive country? Seriously? Wherever you’re from must be cheap because compared to Australia everything in the supermarket there is a bargain!

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  23. Great website and information! I am a strict vegetarian (no primary or secondary consumption of animal products). I frequently visit Japan since my family and I live in Korea, so I am always on the look-out for new ideas for meals while there. You have some great ones that I hadn’t ever thought about–thank you!!!!

    Your passage on flexibility is very wise advice for the plant-based folks living in Asia. Know excatly what you are eating; do your best; make the best choices possible under your circumstances (Ex. Yes, the udon soup has trace amounts of katsuobushi oils, but there ain’t another restaurant anywhere near and your kids are hungry and cranky–as are you–
    and the noodles there rock . . . so what do you do? Answer: Be flexible {just don’t drink the soup or wash your noodles in a cup of warm water or something}). After 13 years living and traveling in N.East Asia, this is the only way I have found to to make it on a very restictive diet.
    Flexibility also goes a long way in not annoying the heck out of your spouse and children too.

    My family and I are going to Kyoto next week, so I can’t wait to dig into some great food.

    Thanks again and keep fighting the good [culinary] fight friends!

  24. Hi, Loved the detailed explanation. I am from India and you probably know that vegetarian in India doesn’t include egg. Have you ever visited India ?. The amount of Vegetarian food you get would be mind boggling. I am sure you would like it.

    • We did visit India for 3 months 5 years ago and it’s one of our favourite countries and a definite vegetarian heaven. We really have to go back soon.

  25. Thanks so much for the awesome post! I visited Japan a few years ago and struggled through rather unsuccessfuly with “watashi wa bejitarian des”. I am going again in a couple of months and think your post will make a big difference. Thanks for the simple phrases, useful photos and suggestion on things to eat and places to try them!

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  28. This has been an amazing find! As a vegetarian, when I go on exchange I figured that I would just buy my own food an make. Will definitely stop by Kyoto. Thank you, this has been most informative! :)

  29. I am looking or more information about veggie restaurants in Tokyo, Kotyo, Nagoya . we are25 peoples plaing to Japan next year. all of us is vegetarian (no onions but we can have eggs.)

  30. Hi Erin,
    This section looks like a relief as I will traveling this week onwards to Tokyo/Kyoto and Nozawa. Thank you so much. And would request you to pls suggest about some Veg restaurants in Nagano Village too?

    Until Happy Traveling :)

    Best wishes,

  31. Hi Mr Erin And Family thanks for your homework on the Eco friendly Vegetarian People who wants to visit the lovely place on earth JAPAN having good hospitality as you felt and expressed in your tourist guide for the whole lot of food . we the first time visitor to Japan along with my good hearten friends from Bangalore , India fell proud of your fmly and a small request at the end of this Trip to japan i too will find some place in this for latest information as you did which help other too to be Vegan .

    By Happy New Year 2014

  32. Being flexible is probably the most important point in this guide. I’m glad you included that.
    I’ve been living in Japan for several years and when I first came, it was hard to be flexible. When I loosened up a bit when I went out to eat I found that I was less stressed and that I could focus more on enjoying time with my friends.
    Since not everyone is fluent in Japanese it should be expected that there will be times when you accidentally consume animal products. Just remember about it the next time.

    Also, here is a restaurant guide for Tokyo:

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  34. Hi,

    Thanks for the tips!!
    Just wondering, what type of cooking oil they used to fry i.e fry tempura? Is it vegetable oil or lard?


  35. I’m going to Japan in September for my gap year, and after reading so many negative articles, it’s reassuring that you have managed to find so many vegetarian dishes. Does anyone have any ideas about how it is to go grocery shopping Japan as a vegetarian?

    • We were house sitting so went grocery shopping often. It is a bit confusing at first as almost all the labels are in Japanese so we struggled to even know what soy sauce was. Getting a local to help you out or using a translate app might help. Good luck with it.

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  38. Thank you for the guide. I’m going to Japan in July and this was helpful in understanding what to expect to eat as a vegetarian in Japan.

  39. Wonderful info!
    I am afraid Ragamal (the Indian restaurant) in Nara has been closed since the beginning of March 2014.

  40. Pingback: Japan Travel For Vegan – Tips and Resources |

  41. Pingback: Miso-Glazed Japanese Eggplant - Healing Tomato's Blog

  42. Pingback: Vegetarianism in Japanese Culture | Brendan's Summer in Japan 2014

  43. Wow! I’m going to read all these guides when I trips to these countries, first being Japan. SO helpful :D

  44. This is so helpful and informative! Thank you for putting this together. That pancake looks incredible. I’ve been living in Taiwan a while now and there are vegan options galore. Check my blog if coming here to visit too! Happy travels.

  45. Hello from Hiroshima. I just thought you might want to know the Vegan Cafe which was mentioned in the article was unfortunately closed.

  46. When I visited Japan there were 2 vegetarian girls in my hostel and they were struggling a lot. They ended up eating buns from 7eleven for a whole week… so I’m glad there are a few spots you can eat at as a vegetarian! :)

  47. Pingback: Japanese Culture: 24 cultural differences to expect when you visit — Fluent in 3 months - Language Hacking and Travel Tips

  48. Thank you so much for posting this. It was very comprehensive and will be helpful when I journey to Japan for the first time in December 2014. Thanks!

  49. Pingback: Healthy Eating Guide In Tokyo « Recipes for Health

  50. Pingback: Veggie in… JAPAN | Motley Mercury

  51. All, If you are going to be visiting Osaka, then there is a very cute vegan restaurant called “Green Earth” beside the Kaiyukan (aquarium). It is a lunch-only buffet, very reasonably priced at 750 Yen. A nice day trip could be to visit the aquarium, eat at the restaurant and then go for a cruise at the nearby harbor.

  52. Pingback: Surviving in Japan » Vegan Wanderlust

  53. Thanks for the thorough roundup. I do eat fish every now and again, and while I know that won’t count me as a vegetarian in some circles, over half the time I usually just go vegan, so this post will definitely come in handy when I set off for Japan this fall.

  54. I spent two years in Yamagata Prefecture as a member of the JET Program and I survived as a vegetarian. It helped because at my orientation, I received “a bible” or sorts for vegetarians in the country and it was a godsend. The book contained recipes for Japanese vegetarian meals as well as vegetarian friendly restaurants in Japan. I took that book with me during my travels and I couldn’t have survived as a vegetarian without it.

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