Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

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Being a vegetarian in Japan can be difficult, but with some effort and pre-planning it can also be very rewarding. Although we despaired at times of finding a veggie-friendly meal, 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.

In 2017 we returned to Japan and found that the situation for vegetarians has improved since 2011. There are now more vegetarian restaurants as well as traditional Japanese restaurants offering vegetarian options (with handy English menus). I have updated this guide (originally published in January 2012) based on our experiences.  

Here are our tips for surviving Japan as a vegetarian:


Tips for Vegetarians in Japan

Learn Some Japanese

Simon translating a Japanese menu

Simon trying to translate a Japanese menu in 2011. Now we have Google Translate—so much easier.

Not many Japanese people speak English (although this is improving) 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. I used the Pimsleur Japanese audio course

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 successfully 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

Print a Vegetarian or Vegan Card

On our second visit to Japan we found it was much easier to explain what we couldn’t eat by showing restaurant staff a card we’d printed from Just Hungry—they have options for a variety of dietary requirements. We used the vegetarian card that said we couldn’t eat meat, fish or dashi (fish stock) and it saved us from dashi a number of times (this was always the hardest thing to explain verbally). 

Vegetarian ryokan dinner at Hotel Musashiya, Hakone

Our vegetarian feast at Hotel Musashiya in Hakone. Ryokans are often great places for veggie meals if you explain your requirements.

Buy a Japanese Data SIM Card

I highly recommend taking an unlocked phone to Japan and buying a data SIM card when you arrive. We bought one from the Umobile vending machine at Tokyo Narita airport. Being connected will make it easier to find vegetarian restaurants using Google Maps and Happy Cow and it also allows you to use Google Translate.

Use Google Translate

Packaging in convenience stores is almost entirely written in Japanese so it’s difficult to know the ingredients of a snack or rice ball. We used Google Translate’s image feature to translate ingredient lists on packaging just by pointing our phone’s camera lens at it and pressing the camera icon in the app.

The instant translate view doesn’t always work, so for a more accurate translation take a photo of the packet and highlight with your finger the text you want to be translated. This works for restaurant menus too, although we found most places we visited had English menus. 

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 dashi 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, it’s best to eat in only vegetarian restaurants but this will limit the destinations you can visit in Japan. In Kyoto or Tokyo this isn’t a problem, but in smaller towns it will be much more difficult.

Plan Ahead

Vegetarian hoba miso at Sukuya in Takayama

Vegetarian version of local speciality hoba miso at Sukuya in Takayama

Although you could use the recommended phrase or vegetarian card 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 or Japanese places with vegetarian menus. 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 for Indian or Italian restaurants. 

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

Visit Kyoto

Set dinner at vegetarian restaurant Mikoan, Kyoto

Set dinner at Mikoan, Kyoto (sadly now closed)

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 Shigetsu and Yoshuji. We also learnt a lot about Japanese cuisine and ate an incredible meal by taking a vegetarian cooking class.

You can find places to stay in Kyoto on our favourite hotel site or rent an apartment or room on Airbnb

Travel Tip: Don’t forget to buy a Japan Rail Pass in advance before arriving in Japan. It will save you money and make travelling around the country much easier. 

Eat Shojin Ryori 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 shojin ryori are in temples in Kyoto and in the mountain town Koya-san where you can even spend the night in a temple.

It’s not just limited to temples though, as we saw shojin ryori offered in traditional restaurants in many places around Japan including Nikko, Takayama, and Kanazawa. We had a fantastic fucha ryori meal, which is a version of shojin ryori with a focus on tea, at Bon in Tokyo. 

Although it can be expensive—our lunch at Bon was 5000 yen ($44) each—it’s worth splurging on shojin ryori at least once as it’s an experience as much as a meal. Lunch is usually much cheaper than dinner. 

Stay in a Ryokan

Simon wearing a yukata and enjoying our vegetarian feast in our ryokan room in Hakone

Simon wearing a yukata and enjoying our vegetarian feast in our ryokan room in Hakone

A great opportunity to try homemade kaiseki, a gourmet, multi-course traditional Japanese meal is in a ryokan or traditional inn. In Tsumago 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. also lists ryokans in Japan—just tick the Ryokan button in Property Type in the filter list. We used them to book our stay at Hotel Musashiya, a lovely ryokan overlooking Lake Ashi in Hakone, where you can see Mount Fuji. The first ryokan we booked in Hakone wouldn’t cater for vegetarians (luckily we had free cancellation), but Hotel Musashiya were happy to and served us an incredible meal in our tatami room. 

You can request a vegetarian meal at ryokans but they won’t always guarantee that dashi is not used. It’s a pricey but uniquely Japanese experience that we highly 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.

You can find plenty of private rooms and apartments with kitchens on Airbnb

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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.


Vegetable tempura at Bon vegetarian restaurant, Tokyo

Somen noodle and vegetable tempura at Bon in Tokyo

Tempura, deep fried vegetables in batter, is the easiest vegetarian Japanese food to find. Most tempura restaurants have a vegetable option or you can ask for vegetables only. 

We had tempura donburi, tempura on top of rice at Tenya a cheap tempura chain where it cost 550 yen ($5). Our meal included tea and miso soup (which we skipped).

For a more upmarket but still reasonably priced tempura meal, we enjoyed Tsunahachi in Shinjuku, Tokyo where we had a vegetable only version of their 1700 yen ($15) lunch set. They also have branches in Kyoto and Hokkaido. 


Tsukemono, Japanese picklesTsukemono or Japanese pickled vegetables are an essential part of a Japanese meal and are 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, a Japanese vegetarian foodCold soba (buckwheat) noodles are popular in the summer served on a bamboo tray with nori seaweed, spring onion, wasabi, and a soy sauce dipping sauce that we skipped as it has dashi in it. If this doesn’t worry you then go ahead and dip the noodles in.

In Tokyo we enjoyed soba with a sesame dipping sauce and tempura at Itasoba Kaoriya in Ebisu. 

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. Udon restaurants may also have a cold broth-free version. 


Midori vegetarian ramen in Tokyo at T's Tantan

Midori vegan ramen at T’s Tantan

On our second visit to Japan we were excited to discover that a few places now offer vegan ramen, so we could enjoy this classic noodle soup for ourselves. T’s Tantan is an entirely vegan ramen shop in Tokyo Station with tons of options as well as instant ramen to take away. Our upcoming guide to vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo will have more of our favourite ramen finds. 

Miso Soup

Miso and tofu soup in JapanMiso soup (often with tofu and green onions) is part of every set meal including breakfast. Chopsticks are used to eat the ingredients and the broth is sipped directly from the bowl. We only ate ours in vegetarian restaurants where we knew they hadn’t used dashi.


Vegetarian okonomiyaki in HiroshimaOkonomiyaki is often described as a Japanese pancake or omelette. Although it usually isn’t vegetarian, it can be adapted to be and 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 bean sprouts, 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

In Tokyo we loved the tomato and cheese okonomiyaki at Zen in Shinjuku. They have a vegetarian section of their English menu that explains the ingredients of the different types of okonomiyaki and we got ours without dashi by showing our vegetarian card. 

Okonomiyaki is made with egg so is no good for vegans. 

Japanese Curry

Japanese vegetarian curry at CoCo Ichibanya, a cheap place for vegetarian food in Tokyo

Vegetable and eggplant vegetarian curry at CoCo Ichibanya

Curry is really popular in Japan and is quite different from the Indian version but still tasty. Many Japanese curry places will offer a vegetable curry but it’s likely the roux was made with meat.

For an entirely vegan curry head to Coco Ichibanya, Japan’s largest curry chain, and look for the separate green vegetarian menu with a range of different curries. It’s not available in all their branches (here’s a list in Japanese) but we had it in Tokyo at the Shinjuku Station West Exit branch on Memory Lane and at one near Shibuya Station. It’s a cheap and tasty meal. 


Vegetarian sushi with pickled vegetables at Komekichi Kozushi in Nikko, Japan

Pickled vegetable (carrot) sushi at Komekichi Kozushi in Nikko

Vegetarian sushi is not easy to find in Japan but it is possible. Look out for kappa-maki (seaweed rolls with cucumber) and takuan-maki (pickled daikon radish roll). You can also find sushi rolls made with umeboshi (pickled plum), natto (fermented soybean), and egg. Inarizushi is rice stuffed in a tofu pocket—just check it wasn’t made with dashi. 

We had excellent sushi at Komekichi Kozushi in Nikko which has lots of vegetarian options. 

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


Mitarashi dango - a vegetarian Japanese food served on the street in Takayama, Japan

Simon with his mitarashi (soy sauce) dango in Takayama

Another variation of the rice ball on a stick street food is dango, which we tried in Nikko and Takayama. The dumplings are smaller and are brushed with miso or soy sauce. 

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.

Plain and umeboshi (pickled plum) are the most common vegetarian onigiri. I asked a nearby stranger in pigeon Japanese “Dore umeboshi des ka?” (which one is pickled plum?) and she pointed out the right one. Umeboshi packaging is usually pink and plain ones are clear. You could also use Google Translate (see above). 

Umeboshi Onigiri packaging

Umeboshi Onigiri packaging

Plain vegetarian onigiri in 7-11 convenience store Japan

The plain onigiri in 7-Eleven are just seasoned with vinegar and salt.

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

Other Convenience Store Snacks

Convenience stores in Japan are amazing and perfect for stocking up on snacks for a train trip (sadly bento boxes in train stations are not going to be vegetarian). As well as onigiri, you can find inarizushi (sushi rice in a tofu pocket), edamame beans, boiled eggs, french fries (which were not as bad as you’d think), fruit including bananas and cut pineapple, salads, plain cooked noodles, and lots of rice crackers and crisps. 

7-11, Lawsons, and Family Mart are the most common convenience stores and you’ll find one on every block in cities. Family Mart has English writing on their salty snacks so it’s easier to find plain crisps and avoid the many shrimpy things. 



Pumpkin Oyaki

Oyaki is a speciality of the Nagano prefecture and we tried it 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.

Be careful of croquettes though—Simon bought a potato croquette from a stand and it turned out to have chunks of meat in it. 

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

Mos Burger is 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 McDonald’s. They also sell themselves on being healthy and have a number of vegetarian burgers on the menu—point to the picture menu to order.

The kinpira rice burger is made with sauteed vegetables and seaweed inside two rice buns. It was surprisingly good and cheap at 340 yen ($3), 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.

Mos Burger now also offers soy patty burgers. I don’t think any of the burgers are vegan. 

Rice Crackers

Chilli rice cakes

Chilli rice crackers at Nishiki market in Kyoto

Rice crackers (senbei) are available everywhere from market stalls to convenience stores. Just make sure you don’t buy a packet containing dried fish or shrimp. We picked up this crunchy, chilli-covered rice cracker at the Nishiki market in Kyoto. 

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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 a vegetarian meal for you, they will probably use dashi. Sorano is a good tofu restaurant in Tokyo with vegetarian options marked on the menu. 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. It’s a local speciality in Nikko. 


Koyadofu and yuba, vegetarian Japanese fooods

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.


Yudofu in Kyoto, Japan


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

Dengaku Tofu

Dengaku tofu is great for vegetarians

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 sushi rice stuffed in a fried tofu pouch. We tried this at Tosuiro tofu restaurant in Kyoto and Komekichi Kozushi sushi restaurant in Nikko. It’s also sold in convenience stores. 

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Our Favourite Vegetarian Restaurants in Japan

Fucha ryori dish at Bon vegetarian restaurant Tokyo

One of the 12 courses of our vegan feast at Bon in Tokyo


Tokyo has many options for vegetarians. Our favourite vegetarian restaurant is Bon, which serves exquisite multi-course fucha ryori in beautiful tatami rooms. We loved the vegan ramen at T’s Tantan and Ramen Ouka. Milk Land in Shinjuku does an excellent value vegetarian lunch set. Zen is a vegetarian-friendly okonomiyaki place. Our guide to vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo is coming soon!


In Kyoto we recommend 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 (book in advance and request no dashi).


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 Shanti Yoga Vegan Cafe. We were the only tourists there and the food was a mix of international and Japanese. 


Yasai Cafe Meguri in Nikko serves vegan lunch sets and Komekichi Kozushi has tasty vegetarian sushi options and is one of the few places open in the evenings. 


Heinraku is a wonderful small restaurant in Takayama run by the friendliest lady and has pages of vegetarian options on the menu—I loved the Hida miso ramen. Sukuya is a good place to try a vegetarian version of the local speciality hoba miso—vegetables and tofu cooked with miso paste on a magnolia leaf. 


In Kanazawa we struggled to find Japanese vegetarian meals so ended up eating Western food. Taste and Scent is mostly vegetarian and has a good value set lunch with rice and various salads. Slow Luck is a tiny place focused on using vegetables in creative ways and has a vegetarian menu. The food was Italian-inspired and utterly delicious including a pesto, potato and mascarpone pizza and grilled vegetables with an incredible pesto dip.

For more Japan tips see our post on planning a trip to Japan for everything you need to know. 

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

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145 thoughts on Vegetarian Survival Guide to Japan

  1. Pingback: Falling in Love with Japan Again | One Bag Traveler

  2. What a DELICIOUS post this is Erin 🙂 It was hard for me to get to the end of it without visiting my fridge and grabbing some food. Kabocha Korroke – those must be very tasty, I will give them a try as soon I will get to Japan.

  3. Hello!
    I am going to Japan for a long time to come, and your TravelBlog is best guide to people like me.

  4. Pingback: Peverilblog’s Notes from Tokyo. Part 1: on being vegan in Japan | Peveril Blog

  5. May i know is your vegetarian contain onion, galic, spring & Alcohol? May i know is there vegetarian restaurant in other places beside tokyo?

  6. Has this piece been updated at all? Hard to tell

    I often find that with sites like yours, ones that offer such an exhaustive compendium of tips and lists, I am severely disappointed by the lack of a downloadable sidebar containing the names of places/locations, etc. mentioned. You are so detail-oriented otherwise, so I don’t get it.


    Keep up the good work though, and maybe one day you’ll figure out how to either give us a download link, or a cheat sheet at the end of the post we can copy/paste. Not all of us are armchair-travelers, some of us are on the road too! Then, your site would truly be awesome.

  7. Pingback: Vegetarian or vegan in Japan – Elizabeth Sulis

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this helpful information. Now I can worry less. Do you think I can find the same food you mention in Tokyo too?

  9. In the opening comments on the website you mention, to say you don’t eat fish or meat is better than saying “I am a vegetarian”. This is true. But I find even when you say I don’t eat fish or meat, this is still open to thinking you may eat shellfish, octopus, crab, lobster, shrimp, prawns, ham, pork, chicken, sausage, hamburger, and so on. I don’t know what is the answer, except to add some of these to the answer you suggested, that is …….niku ya sakana ya kani ya ebi ya butaniku ya toriniku wo taberarimasen…… and leaving it open by using ya.

  10. Just want to give you both a heart felt thanks for creating this site and providing such a detailed guidance for vegetarians. Too bad I did not find your site before making all the bookings. I will have to miss out on temple staying! Once again, thank you so much! And what an adventurous life you too are living 🙂

  11. Thank you for positing this warning. It’s very depressing to see such limited options in a supposedly civilized and sophisticated country like Japan. It sounds like traveling there for a vegan or true vegetarian (e.g. no fish) remains very difficult.

  12. Amazing Website , Chanced upon it today. While yes Vegetarian Japanese food is what one should do when you visit japan, on my visit to Japan on a holiday, Tokyo in specific, two vegetarian choices stood out
    1) Veg Ramen at T’s Tantan inside Tokyo Station for a taste of Japan.
    2) Indian Food at Vege Herb Saga, brilliant vegetarian food in case u dont mind it for variety

  13. Pingback: Vegetarian or vegan in Japan – elizabethsulis

  14. Pingback: Travelling in Japan as a Vegetarian | Nihon ni ikimashou.

  15. Pingback: Être végétarien au Japon: comment ne pas mourir de faim | sumo tricot

  16. This article is so helpful! I’m a college student minoring in Japanese and I love the language and culture of Japan. I am vegetarian and going to Japan soon with school and I was extremely nervous about going to Japan as a veggie. But this article made me relax a lot! I can’t wait to go to Kyoto!

  17. Pingback: Japan Travel Tips For Vegan - Little Green Habits

  18. Awesome site and so useful. Today I had several wonderful meals – tofu placed in boiling water with a candle underneath, served with a sesame and soy sauce. Simple – but yum.

    • I don’t know for sure but I can’t imagine what they’d put in them to make them not vegetarian, as long as you go with the plain ones (i.e not packet instant noodles with a sauce). We bought fresh noodles from the fridge section all the time in Japan.

  19. Pingback: Kyoto Vegetarian Restaurants: A guide to vegetarian food in Kyoto

  20. I’m applying to work as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan for a year and am apparently unlikely to be posted that near the larger or more touristy cities. After reading this and a few other articles i’m now very worried about how I’ll maintain my strict ‘no meat, no fish’ diet for that long if I’m away from places most likely to have veggie restaurants?! 😮

    I’ve been vegetarian for 16 years now and don’t want to stop (don’t think I could!) Is it best to just stick to home-cooking my own food for the whole year and only order rice or noodle dishes if they’re plain and non-sauce based?

    • The toughest thing will be avoiding fish stock which pops up everywhere. I would stick to cooking for yourself where possible and ask locals for advice about what to order when eating out.

  21. I have lived in Japan now for 24 years in the provinces. I am a vegetarian. It has not changed that much from when I came. Most people will ask me while eating a meal why I am a vegetarian. In the UK or the States and similar countries I cannot imagine someone asking me that question because the concept is so familiar. I really think that nowadays with the internet and Youtube and suchlike, there is no excuse for anybody from a rich country not to know about these things. But unfortunately, most of the information about animal rights and vegetarianism/veganism is in English which means that the Japanese are effectively shut off from knowing about it. I find cooking and eating here a chore. By the way that brown sauce on your okonomiyaki is not vegetarian!! There is one I have found without meat extract in but they won’t use that one in restaurants. And I used to buy the vegetable croquettes years ago from the supermarket until one time, the nice women working at one, actually brought me out the box they come in so I could check the ingredients and there it was, written on the side – chicken or pork or something or other extract. In supermarkets there are no vegetarian curries at all out of the dozens of types (do not go for the ones that say Vegetable Curry as they are meat ), hardly any spaghetti sauces (unless they are imported brands in glass jars), no veggie soups (unless you go to an import shop) and you have to check every dressing you buy. And the only sandwich in convenience stores you can eat is egg. Even that may have gelatine in it. And it is always only egg, as if you cannot ever have anything else with it. If I go out with my Japanese friends, and we go to a Japanese restaurant, it is hard work. Honestly it is a nightmare. I love family restaurants here, however, esp Gusto as you can generally get a salad and a pizza (I have not asked to see the box – some things are better unknown!!) So I would recommend family restaurants. Good luck!

    • When you say you looked at the box for vegetable croquettes I wonder what these were? Can you add more precise description? I often buy kabocha korokke (pumpkin croquette), at the food halls and supermarkets, where the vender, as far as I can tell, makes them fresh in store.

  22. m a lacto-vegetarian.. travelling to japan next month with my family.. will be stayn in yamaguchi… this hs bn a very wonderful post.. very informative… kindly comment reagrding availability of low-priced vegetables & fruits for self-cooking in japan…. plz let me kno which r d cheapest vegetables there, which cn b used as staples..

    • My own research seems to imply that the price of vegetables is fairly high but will be very fresh/high quality. The price also varies according to what’s in season.

  23. Pingback: Action Required | Vegetarian Japan

  24. Wow!!! A great compilation. Am a huge fan of japanese food and everything here looks so delicious. Although, I have never visited japan and currently stay in Bangalore but I have come across a great place in Bangalore for japanese food. Davanam Sarovar offers really delicious japanese food and the sushi there is just exquisite. Japanese food-lovers in Bangalore must try out this place at least once.

  25. A great list here and very helpful during my trip to Japan! With reference to Mos Burger, the Freshness Burger chain also do a veggie (bean pate) burger which is also hand made- another Japanese burger chain which prides itself on the home made/health credentials! this one’s pretty filling and a similar price.
    Google map of Freshness Burger outlets in Tokyo

    Like Mos Burger, it’s pretty easy to point out the picture on the menu, or if you just ask for ‘veggie’ people tend to know what you mean, and being Japan they tend to help you out if you’re struggling anyway!

  26. Thanks to you, I can again dream about living in Japan as a Vegetarian. Thank you for your wonderful topic.
    Wish you a “Never Ending Voyage” 😉

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. Pingback: Surviving in Japan » Vegan Wanderlust

  30. 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.

  31. Pingback: Veggie in… JAPAN | Motley Mercury

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

  33. 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!

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

  35. 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! 🙂

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

  37. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

  43. 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.

  44. Pingback: Grandma’s Guide To Visiting Japan

  45. Pingback: 24 quirky things about Japan from this Westerner’s perspective | option

  46. 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.

  47. 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?


  48. Pingback: Japan Travel For Vegan – Tips and Resources | Just One More Spoon

  49. 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:

  50. 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

  51. 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,

  52. 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.)

  53. 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! 🙂

  54. Pingback: A guide to vegetarian food in Japan | Phoren Yatra

  55. Pingback: Vegetarian Survival Guide to Slovenia

  56. 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!

  57. 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.

    • In English there are actually separate defining terms for all of them;
      Ovo-vegetarians don’t eat eggs, meat or fish,
      Lacto-vegetarians don’t eat milk products, meat or fish,
      Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish,
      Pescatarians eat fish but not other meat (this one makes no sense to me),
      and Vegans don’t eat eggs, milk products, fish or meat.
      Unfortunately, almost no non-vegetarians know the difference and some restaurants in England still list fish-based meals as vegetarian. :/

      I would love to visit India!

      • Abi – I don’t know what English speaking country you are referring to, but in England, the UK and all parts of Europe I’ve ever been or lived those first two terms mean the opposite of the meanings you give!

        Ovo vegetarians eat no insects, crustaceans, fish, meat or animal by products EXCEPT for eggs.
        Lacto vegetarians eat no insects, crustaceans, fish, meat or animal by products EXCEPT for dairy products.

        Meanwhile, Ovo lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs and are, being the most common ‘type’ of vegetarian are what a person is most commonly referring to when they say ‘I’m a vegetarian’.

        Just further shows – understanding what a person means by ‘vegetarian’ can be a nightmare anywhere.

        Far as I see it / was raised (been veggie all my life) understanding that if an ingredient / product required an animal, insect, fish or anything other than a plant to die it don’t matter if it is a pork chop, flake of fish or a piece of candy / gummy sweet containing gelatin – a vegetarian would not eat, wear or use it, or anything made using or containing it. It’s the same definition the Vegetarian Society gives and the NHS in England. As such, the NHS even vegetarian vaccinations and tablets etc.

        Meanwhile, a vegan follows a veggie diet, but also excludes eating and wearing by products from anything alive excepting plants.

  58. 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!

  59. Pingback: Vegetarian Survival Guide to Mexico

  60. Pingback: Chewing the Fat with Never Ending Voyage! | 20 Years Hence

  61. 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!

  62. 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 🙂

  63. 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!

  64. Pingback: Japanese Vegetarian | Japanese FoodPop

  65. 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.

  66. 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!

  67. 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.


  68. 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.

  69. 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!


  70. 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!


  71. 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!

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

  74. 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!

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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 🙂

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

  79. 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 🙂

  80. 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.

      • Dear Erin

        Thanks for the guidance of vegetarian food in Japan . I am going to japan for two weeks and very worried about getting vegetarian food
        Have you published a book with japnese subtitled . I do not mind to buy this book if you have published it
        Please send me an e mail

        s dewan

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