We are extremely pleased to confirm through firsthand experience during our trip in July 2014, that the vegan community in Japan is alive and well!
It is comprised of a small but rapidly growing number of trailblazers committed to bringing veganism into mainstream Japanese culture.
We have put together individual reviews (including food photos, a photo of the restaurant building/entrance, and photos of the menus as of July 2014) of the restaurants we visited in Tokyo and Kyoto, plus one in Osaka. Please pass this info on to any vegans/animal lovers/foodies that are planning a trip to these cities. All the food photos in our blog are vegan to the best of our knowledge...free of all meat, poultry, fish (including bonito and katsuobushi in dashi), dairy, eggs, and honey.
- Choice Café and Restaurant (Kyoto, Japan)
- Café Matsuontoko (Kyoto, Japan)
- Shigetsu inside Tenryuji Temple (Kyoto, Japan)
- TOSCA (Kyoto, Japan)
- Vegans Café and Restaurant (Kyoto, Japan)
- Ain Soph Journey (Tokyo, Japan)
- Eat More Greens (Tokyo, Japan)
- Kuumba Du Falafel (Tokyo, Japan)
- Le Petite Pâtisserie de Mirayné (Tokyo, Japan)
- Mihane Ice (Tokyo, Japan)
- Nagi Shokudou (Tokyo, Japan)
- Pure Café (Tokyo, Japan)
- Sasaya Café (Tokyo, Japan)
- T’s Tantan (Tokyo, Japan)
- T’s Restaurant (Tokyo, Japan)
- Paprika Shokudou (Osaka, Japan)
- vegan at non-vegan restaurants (Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan) coming soon!
- vegan at convenience stores and produce markets (Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan) coming soon!
Our initial list of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants that we wanted to visit in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka numbered over a hundred (check HappyCow.net and you'll see what we're talking about). Since we were there for only a short time, it was extremely difficult, bordering on painful, narrowing it down to just these few. The overwhelmingly positive experiences we had at the places we visited gives us an extra motivation to return as soon as we can to try the rest.
We also want to share two unique food experiences that made our trip extra special:
- Green Tea Leaf Picking and Rolling at Obubu Farms (Wazuka near Kyoto, Japan) coming soon!
- Wagashi Candy-Making Class at Kanshundo Sweets Shop (Kyoto, Japan) coming soon!
Some of the restaurants identified as vegan in various guides and blogs do use some honey (as do quite a few here in the US), so be sure to ask. But as awareness grows over Colony Collapse Disorder and the environmental devastation associated with consumption of honey, hopefully these establishments will phase out honey as well. There are so many better alternatives, like agave nectar and maple syrup, in addition to specialty honey substitutes like apple-nectar based Bee Free Honee and rice-nectar based Just Like Honey).
We were lucky to have the help of bilingual friends, both new and old (thank you especially to Chie, Aya, Tsugu, Minori, Mariko and Kayo!) to help us plan our trip through the vegan Japanese landscape. But even if you don't have bilingual friends, with a little advance internet research (probably the same amount that any serious foodie would do), particularly on HappyCow.net, you will have no problem eating 100% vegan in Japan, just as we did. And ate we did... we stuffed ourselves crazy! We couldn't help it, the food was incredible. We honestly didn't have a single bad meal the whole time we were there.
Thank you also to all the wonderful people leading the vegan movement in Japan! We are grateful for all your hard work and sacrifices to help make this a more compassionate, more vibrant, and more beautiful world. We wish continued success for your vegan restaurants, vegan ice cream parlors, vegan bakeries, and other vegan businesses, and hope we can come back and visit you all again someday soon.
To fellow vegans/animal lovers contemplating a trip to Japan, but are worried you might not be able to find anything to eat:
You have nothing to fear. GO!
Japan is a beautiful country with so much to experience. The vegan community in Japan is alive and well. They are still a small minority, but they are gaining respect and are helping to open the hearts and minds of many of their fellow citizens. Make an effort to seek out and connect with them at their restaurants and other businesses, and they will welcome you with warm smiles, helpful advice, and incredibly delicious food.
Thanks for reading. Peace and love to all who live.
Susan and Ryan
P.S. In Japan, the most common way "vegan" was conveyed on menus and in various print media was in English. But for those planning a trip to this lovely country, it may be helpful to become familiar with two common ways "vegan" is written in Japanese.
One way we've seen is pronounced either "vegan" (as it is pronounced in English) or something like "vwee-gan". This way uses some variations/combinations of katakana characters that have relatively recently come into common use:
The second way also uses katakana characters, but in a more traditional way, and is pronounced something like "bee-gan":