Japan. It’s one of my favorite countries to visit. But what do you eat when you are visiting Japan and only eat vegetarian? There is plenty of veggie option in Japan although hard to find. I made a list of ten food to try in Japan when you’re vegetarian. The Japanese are big on dessert so there’s a few sweets on the list.
When it comes to finding vegetarian food in Japan, it is tough since there is a language barrier and the Japanese definition of vegetarian is different. My Japanse friend (who is fluent in Japanese) has called restaurants to check if there is vegetarian food on the menu and was told yes. When we arrived at the restaurant, we found out it the vegetarian food they serve is bamboo shoots cooked in pork broth. They consider it to be vegetarian since they are not factoring in the broth.
Speaking of broth, the most broth in Japan is called dashi. It’s fish stock based. If you’re vegetarian, that’s music to your ears. But if you’re vegan or pescetarian, you will need to avoid all soups and many dishes and sauces that are used in Japanese food.
Ten Foods to Try in Japan When You’re Vegetarian
Obviously! Let’s face it, you probably came to Japan to try the sushi. N
The American definition of sushi differs from the Japanese. When the Japanse say sushi, they strictly mean sashimi and not rolls. When I told the sushi chef the most popular sushi in the US is sushi rolls with rice on the outside, he laughed. He said it’s for kids. You barely say see any rolls on the menu. Also, the Japanese frown on that since it masks away the taste of the sashimi. They sprinkle soy sauce on the sashimi but never the rice.
Fun facts about Sushi in Japan:
- Miso soup is served at the end of the meal since it is good for digestion, not the beginning.
- The meal actually starts with tofu
- Not a single sushi restaurant serves Edamame
- Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice is not on any of the menus (it’s more an Asian Fusion food)
- There are all these other amazing dishes on the menu like miso eggplant, egg pudding & scallion sushi.
I had the best sushi at a local sushi restaurant under a train station in Meguro, Tokyo. There are so many places like it. All you’ve to do is walk into one. There are tons of Michelin star sushi restaurants like Ginza Kojyu in Ginza, Tokyo. They have a lunch special but it’s still expensive. Honestly, the local places are as good. The problem with the local places is that not all of them have English menus.
While you are in Japan, you have to try conveyer belt sushi called Kaiten Sushi in Japanese. They are fun and perfect for vegetarian since you can find not only rolls but veggie-friendly ones like cucumber roll, avocado rolls, and omelet sushi. You can see the food and order it; no need to ask for an English menu. A great place to try Kaiten sushi is 涉谷Hikarie.
I craved noodles while I was in Japan. Luckily, Soba is noodles made from buckwheat, which is low on carbs and a good source of fiber & protein. It’s just very hard dipping the noodles into the sauce with chopsticks. Have you guys ever made a fool out of yourselves eating with chopsticks? I a great place to try Soba is in the food court of the Tokyo Skytree Tower near Asakusa.
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal served at Ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels). It is an elaborate, multi-course meal consisting of ingredients that are in season (not just the food but the decorations too). They believe seasonal food is healthier for you. You can pre-arrange for a vegetarian meal.
Namagashi – Japanese Sweets Art
Namagashi is a type of wagashi (traditional Japanese confection), which is a general term for snacks used in the Japanese tea ceremony. They are normally made of sweetened bean paste. I visited Tsuruya Yoshinobu Tokyo near Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department store and was blown away. It’s incredible to watch the wagashi masters create the beautiful Namagashi in front of you. The sweets were made according to the seasonal theme.
Ramen is pretty popular in Japan. The problem is traditionally it is cooked with pork broth. However, restaurants like Afuri are now serving vegan ramen. (Click here for where to find vegan ramen in Los Angeles)
Yuba is delicacy made from tofu skin – from soybean. It is very creamy and yummy. It is
Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The chef can prepare a veggie-only grill. I know what you’re thinking! My dad can do that at a BBQ! But these chefs prepare the meal so carefully that it tastes so good even though it’s just grilled vegetables. Hinokizaka is also one of the best places to enjoy Teppanyaki since it comes with a gorgeous view of Tokyo and the chefs are masters.
The original Mille crepe cake shop is HARBS. They serve fresh, handcrafted crepe cakes with tea or coffee. Although most of the portion in Japan are small, the cake slices are huge and can be considered a meal. Well not, really. But you know what I mean. They do serve food too.
You can find these anywhere in Japan. In the food court of the fancy malls in Ginza. Street vendors. 7/11 or Lawson Store (another convenient store). They come in a lot of veggie-friendly flavors like mushroom, sesame, plum, tuna, and pickled vegetables. They are also portable – it is one of the only acceptable to-go foods in Japan (Japanse don’t normally eat on the go). I tried Onigiri (rice balls) at the food court in the Ginza Six mall. We grabbed it to go and I ate it while we were standing in line to go on the Imperial Palace tour. It was so delicious that I had to go back to try another one.
Mochi like sushi goes out saying. But if you never been to Japan or tried mochi, you will want to try every single flavor. My favorites are matcha and sesame.
I hope this helps and please let me know if you have any questions. I would love to assist with making your trip more enjoyable.
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