Japan. It’s one of my favorite countries to visit. But what food do you eat when you are visiting Japan and you are a vegetarian? There are plenty of veggie options in Japan although hard to find. I made a list of 10 food to try in Japan when you’re vegetarian. The Japanese are big on dessert so there are a few sweets on the list.
They are so many types of vegetarians. When I say vegetarian, I mean semi-vegetarians, those who eat fish (Pescatarian), dairy (Lacto Vegetarian) and eggs (Ovo Vegetarian). Although, the list does include pure vegetarian food. Please keep in mind I’m no an expert. I’m just sharing my personal experience with you.
Before you go to Japan, check out 10 things you should know when visiting Japan.
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 Japanese friend (who is fluent in Japanese) called a restaurant to make sure there was vegetarian food on the menu. The answer was yes. When we arrived at the restaurant, we found out the vegetarian food they serve was bamboo shoots cooked in pork broth. Nope, that’s not vegetarian. But it’s impossible to explain that to the chef.
Speaking of broth, the most broth in Japan is called dashi. It’s fish stock. If you’re vegetarian, that’s music to your ears. But if you’re vegan, you will need to avoid all soups and sauces since it is fish-based.
10 Vegetarian Food to Try in Japan
Sushi, the Most Popular of Vegetarian Food in Japan
Obviously! Let’s face it, you probably came to Japan to try the sushi. But 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 using too much soy sauce 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 (another vegetarian food) is served at the end of the meal in Japan since it is good for digestion, not the beginning.
- The meal actually starts with tofu
- You will not find this vegetarian food in Japan: 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)
- But there is all these other amazing vegetarian food on the menu in Japan 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 that. 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. They are fun and perfect for vegetarians 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.
Soba, the Other Noodle
I don’t normally eat carbs but I craved noodles while I was in Japan. Luckily, Soba is low on carbs since it’s buckwheat noodles. This vegetarian food in Japan is a good source of fiber and protein – perfect for the exhausted traveler. It’s just very hard dipping the noodles into the sauce with chopsticks. Have you ever made a fool out of yourselves eating noodles with chopsticks? It’s too funny. A great place to try Soba is in the food court of the Tokyo Skytree Tower near Asakusa.
Kaiseki, the Most Unique of Vegetarian Food in Japan
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal served at Ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels). It is an elaborate, multi-course meal consisting only of ingredients in season. 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). It’s yummy and pretty. Namagashi is a general term for snacks at the Japanese tea ceremony. It is made using sweetened bean paste. I visited Tsuruya Yoshinobu Tokyo near the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department store. I was blown away. It’s incredible to watch the wagashi masters create beautiful Namagashi in front of you. The sweets were made according to the seasonal theme.
Ramen is pretty popular in Japan and elsewhere in the world. The problem is traditionally it is cooked with pork broth. It’s the most searched vegetarian food in Japan. However, restaurants like Afuri are now serving vegan ramen. (Click here for where to find vegan ramen in Los Angeles)
Yuba, the best tofu
Yuba is a delicacy made from dried tofu skin. This vegetarian food is very creamy and yummy and served all over Japan. It is normally served with tempura. More on yuba.
Teppanyaki, the Most Entertaining Vegetarian Food in Japan
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 one of the best places to enjoy Teppanyaki since it comes with a gorgeous view of Tokyo and the chefs are masters.
Crepe Cake, the original crepe cake in Japan
The original Mille crepe cake shop is HARBS. They serve fresh, handcrafted crepe cakes with tea or coffee. Although most of the portions in Japan are small, the cake slices are huge. It’s practically like a meal. Well not, really. But you know what I mean. They do serve food, too. I charge the pasta and it was really good.
Rice Balls, The Go-To Snack in Japan
You can find this type of vegetarian food 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. It is one of the only acceptable to-go foods in Japan (Japanese 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. I ate it while we were standing in line to go to the Imperial Palace tour. It was so delicious that I had to go back to try another one.
Mochi, the yummiest
If you never been to Japan or tried mochi, you will want to try every single flavor. My favorites are matcha and sesame. This is another vegetarian food that you’ll find anywhere in Japan.
I hope this guide of vegetarian food to try in Japan helps make your trip planning smoother. Please let me know if you have any questions. I would love to assist with making your trip more enjoyable.