Traveling Vegan in Japan
The vegan lifestyle is new in Japan; vegetarianism is not. Shojin ryori (精進料理) - the vegetarian diet of the Buddhist monks - has been around for centuries in Japan. Japanese cuisine (and markets) are conducive to vegan cooking. (Lots of lovely veggies.) If you are used to fancy vegan fare and need a kitchen, consider renting an apartment. If a microwave will do the trick, you can probably rent one. Budget travelers staying at the nationwide Toyoko Inns will generally find a microwave in the lobby area.
For the adventurous vegan, print out the card below. Present the card to the server or restaurant owner and see what she or he points to on the menu. The good news is many family run restaurants offer menus with photos. Also, many Japanese mom-and-pop restaurants showcase plastic replicas of the food they serve outside the shop.
Look for the following items on the menu to assure an easy vegan experience.
- Miso ramen (Regular ramen noodle broth contains bonito flakes and/or pork.)
- Natto (Not the prettiest bean on the block but packed with protein. Wonderful with soy sauce.)
- Veggies (Beware of "nimono" which is often marinated in bonito soup broth and served in bento boxes.)
Waffles are very popular in Japan at the moment. However, you may be hard pressed to find vegan waffles. Load up on these before you board the Japan bound flight!