This is extremely overdue, but I spent a month visiting family in Tokyo last October- November. Whilst there, I decided to go and explore the Vegan options the city had to offer, which were surprisingly large in number. This was the first time I had been actively seeking out Vegan food, so all these places were completely new to me, but I was pleasantly surprised and also slightly shocked, as I had always thought the land of sushi, dashi (fish stock) and pork noodle broth would be the first to reject Vegan fare. Beware, this is a long one!
BROWN RICE CAFE
5 Chome-1-8 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Linked to Neal’s Yard, the popular Organic beauty brand, this is a Vegetarian (although I only saw Vegan dishes on the menu) and mostly Organic restaurant placed in the upmarket Shibuya district. Their philosophy lies with celebrating the health benefits of the humble brown rice, alongside simple and delicate vegetable dishes. The prices were on the high side, but the lunch menu is much better value for money than the dinner menu and didn’t seem to differ much in what you get.
Verdict: worth visiting for beautiful and healthy food with simple flavours, but a little pricey.
Lima is both a health food store and a cafe, and it was mainly for the store that I ventured into this part of town, but finding out there was a vegan cafe (at a time of day when my stomach was screaming “cake! cake! cake!”) was a pleasant surprise. After finding some great finds in the store (such as seitan in a jar and organic orange juice) I popped into the cafe for an afternoon break.
I had a tofu baked cheesecake which was unlike any vegan cake I had tasted before, so I was highly impressed! They had a deal on coffee and cake, and it was extremely affordable.
Verdict: well worth the visit for a two in one of shopping and treat.
〒153-0061 Tokyo, Meguro, Nakameguro, 3 Chome−2−19
There came a point in my trip where I was massively craving bread. With a Japanese mother, I have been raised on rice but rice for breakfast lunch and dinner was making me feel like a walking paddy field. After actually dreaming about eating a loaf of bread, I did some research and found Ballon, in the trendy Nakameguro district. There are of course bakeries and bread sold in convenience stores, however I find the convenience store bread is full of sugar and milk, and the bakeries are pretty much the same.
Although not a patch on the falafel wraps I’ve had in London, it definitely satisfied my craving and I can imagine for local Tokyo residents is a novelty food that is exciting to try. They also had soft serve vegan ice cream, which I have only ever had at Yorica in London (although Yorica is not soya). It was a strange flavour to be honest, you could definitely taste the soya bean, but it was a novelty I was willing to try.
Verdict: very sweet and trendy little cafe, but only worth the visit if like me, you were ready to rip someones arm off for some bread.
Japanese food will always be my comfort food, as anyones mother’s food probably is. However, you are hard pressed to find standard Japanese restaurants offering vegan versions of the classics, so I had pretty much given up with finding these dishes somewhere outside of my own home where I could cook it myself with tweaks. Rainbow Bird Rendezvous was the only place I visited which offered a variety of these classic dishes with a vegan twist, and for that reason it is my most recommended of those mentioned here.
I had not had Kara-age (Japanese style deep fried chicken) for around two years at this point. Imagine my delight when I saw a soy version on the menu; and it actually tasted really authentic. Prices were very reasonable, bordering on a bit too cheap for what you got (I wanted to pay more! But tipping is very bad custom in Japan) My only regret is that I didn’t go back again to sample the other dishes on the menu.
Verdict: Highly recommended, very reasonably priced and all round a lovely cafe
In terms of eating out, I mainly ate lunch out as I would usually eat dinner at home with my family. So, there was always room for a mid-afternoon cake break, which was where Trim came in. A very sweetly decorated, small cafe offering lunch sandwiches and Vegan cakes, it is definitely worth the trek as it is in a bit of a random area.
I ended up going for an apple tart, which was very delicious, but was also eyeing up a chocolate gateau which I wish I tried too.
Verdict: Definitely worth it if you are in the area, if you are not but have a spare afternoon to while away this cafe is a relaxing haven in a bustling city. The adjoining streets also had individual greengrocer stores and independent shops to peruse after your tea break.
2 Chome-18-5 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
This place is the first established organic restaurant in Tokyo, founded 39 years ago by chef Eichiro Yamada, who is still heading the kitchen today (and whom was very attentive, constantly checking if we were enjoying our food). The produce used today is from Natural cultivation; essentially one step further than Organic farming, refusing the use of fertilisers and allowing the crops to grow without human intervention.
You could really taste the freshness in the raw vegetables, and the food was really delicious and pure. Yamada-san explained the health benefits of just brown rice, and went into great detail to explain Natural Cultivation to me, as I had actually never heard of the term before.
Verdict: If you are an organic geek, so worth a visit. The food is delicious, and they do offer fake meat fare but I don’t think it’s needed.
Marketed as Tokyo’s first Vegan fast food cafe, I was again craving some western food by this point and a burger was sounding like the perfect option.
Portions were small, but they are generally in Tokyo anyway. To be honest, for me that’s not a complaint as it means it’s less likely that there will be food wasted, but I know for a lot of Westerners this is a common gripe for Tokyo dining. For once, this burger was not spilling out all over the place and actually the perfect size for my foetus like hands, so for that I was grateful! Not the best vegan burger I’ve ever had, but it was a lovely experience to sit in the light and airy cafe and watch the staff work in their open plan kitchen.
Ironically, it wasn’t the burger which caught my eye on this visit, but actually a coffee. To give you some background on Matcha lattes, I have consistently tried to get them in the UK to try and see what all the hype is about (bearing in mind I have been drinking Matcha tea on and off my whole life) and have been left extremely confused by the milky strange green mess I’ve been handed by every single barista I’ve entrusted with converting me to the Matcha Latte tribe. Seeing Soy Milk Matcha Latte on the menu at Lapaz, I thought along the lines of When in Rome… and ordered it. And I was not disappointed. This was the best matcha latte of my life. Possibly the best coffee of my life (I am pretty sure they put coffee in it which would explain the richer flavour). If anything go here for the Matcha Latte. After all, the Japanese would surely do it best right?
Verdict: Burgers are ok, but the Matcha latte was the star. I would return purely for this cup of heaven.
When I was small, my favourite foods were Ramen and Spaghetti Bolognese. Much to my sadness, Ramen is something that is hard to come by these days as the broth is usually pork bone broth. When I read there was a Vegan Ramen shop in Tokyo station (amazing location!) I had to visit.
This place is extremely confusing to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. Tokyo station is massive, with so many corridors and avenues leading off it, and even after asking one of the train station guards (in Japanese as well so I can’t even blame the language) I still couldn’t find it! After much walking up and down, it turned out I had originally walked past it without seeing it. Oops.
Offering a variety of noodle options, as well as Vegan Gyoza and Kara age (soya meat versions) at extremely reasonable prices, this place is great on the go and when you just want to eat quickly. It’s not the best food you’ll ever eat, but it’s definitely cheap and cheerful, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for a quick and easy lunch.
Verdict: Not exactly as delicious as the classic meat ramen dishes, but still a great alternative and extremely purse friendly. Fantastic location too.
Phew! Hopefully you haven’t died of boredom by this point, sorry for the extremely long post! Navigating a city where you can’t read the language is always hard, and I am always so admiring of those who visit Japan and get out there and find things on their own, considering I have the benefit of being able to speak and read the language.
There are so many secretly vegan foods in Japan, particularly desserts- below is me eating a Dango, which is essentially mochi (pounded rice) on a stick, coated in a sweet sauce, which is also extremely cheap when bought from independent sellers; I found this one from a lovely lady selling them for 90 Yen each which is around 60p. Generally, traditional Japanese desserts are Vegan, so it’s usually safe to go for them.
In standard Japanese food, most contain Dashi (fish stock) (including in Miso soup!) which I would say is a bit of a hurdle when dining in non-vegan restaurants.
I hope that helped anyone who may be visiting Tokyo now or in the near future, and I actually really enjoyed putting that all together. I will be posting more Vegan food guides on my future travels, so please keep an eye out if you enjoy.
Thanks for reading!