Having specific dietary requirements has often been a struggle for visitors and residents in Japan. Be it gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, there were never many options in the past. However, Tokyo and Japan are changing, and more and more restaurants and shops are opening up to cater for those who have to, or want to, avoid certain ingredients. Here are a couple of places to hit up if you are vegan in Tokyo.
AIN SOPH is a chain restaurant based in Tokyo. They have several restaurants, including AIN SOPH Journey in Ginza (銀座), AIN SOPH Soar in Shinjuku (新宿) and Ikebukuro (池袋), and AIN SOPH Ripple in Kabukicho (歌舞伎町). AIN SOPH restaurants are 100% vegan, meaning that they do not cook or use any ingredients which have come from an animal. These include meat, milk, eggs, and honey. So whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or allergic to lactose or eggs, Ain Soph can cater for you.
If you want to try vegan ramen or vegan curry, I’d strongly recommend visiting AIN SOPH. You may fear that such a specific restaurant would be horribly expensive, especially in Tokyo; however, AIN SOPH restaurants have reasonable prices and generous portions.
If you have a sweet tooth or fancy a pudding or dessert, Ain Soph is for you; they serve the biggest and fluffiest vegan pancakes in Tokyo! AIN SOPH also serves a variety of desserts that vegans would never usually be able to enjoy, such as an Earl Grey crème brûlée or a soya chocolate fountain, complete with waffles and fruit to dip in! If you are planning to book a party or gathering, then you can rent a separate room in AIN SOPH to have a private party. They even make beautiful vegan birthday cakes.
Top picks: Vegan burger for the main meal and vegan pancakes for dessert.
If you are vegan but also prefer to eat gluten-free (or gluten-free and vegetarian), then Soranoiro is the best place to visit. Don’t fret if you do eat gluten and meat, as there are meals here for you, too. I am allergic to gluten and have always wanted to be able to try ramen, and Soranoiro has allowed me to fulfill my dream! Here, they make ramen with gluten-free noodles and gluten-free broth, with or without meat or animal products.
The dishes here are simply amazing, with a vast number of ramen dishes to choose from. Chinese ramen is available with buckwheat noodles or regular noodles, with eggs and meat or with fresh, raw vegetables. The menu is always evolving here, so seasonal specials will be available depending on when you visit. Past specials have included stir-fry spring vegetables and chili ramen! Soranoiro also has a small selection of souvenirs to buy, such as t-shirts and ramen to take away.
Top pick: vegan Chinese ramen with buckwheat noodles.
On a hot summer’s day, or on a lazy evening, one of the things I miss the most is ice cream. A vegan ice cream shop has opened in Tokyo, offering a variety of amazing flavors. Not only is the ice cream here suitable for vegans, they also use organic products in their food.
Brown Sugar 1st has only recently opened in Tokyo, with a small shop near Harajuku (原宿). Their ice cream flavors have started with a few options, but they are planning to expand what they offer as they become more settled. Currently, the available flavors are Chocolate & Nuts, Wild Lavender, Rum & Californian Raisin, Coffee, Mint Chocolate Chip and Madagascan Vanilla.
Also on the menu are interesting drinks such as rosemary ginger ale, organic coffee, and organic orange juice. This is a must-visit place, especially if you are visiting nearby Harajuku for some retail therapy. Nothing ends a shopping trip better than organic vegan ice cream.
Top pick: Wild Lavender ice cream.
Craving traditional Japanese food? Want a vegetarian meal? Want to eat organic? Then visit Tamana Shokudo in Minato-ku (港区), Omotesando (表参道) (previously known as Natural Food Studio). Open for lunch and dinner, Tamana Shokudo offers vegetarian meals that are nutritionally balanced.
Tamana Shokudo uses all-natural, organic, and vegetarian ingredients. Here at Tamana Shokudo, they pride themselves on cooking meals that will keep their customers in good health. They achieve this goal through the use of traditional Japanese fermented foods and macrobiotic principles. Using only seasonal and fresh ingredients, you can enjoy traditional Japanese meals such as tempura vegetables, but also enjoy continental cuisine from France and Italy.
Not only can you sit and eat beautiful food here, they also run a cooking school and their own shop so you can learn how to make these delicious meals at home.
Top picks: lunch set using over 40 ingredients.
If eating out isn’t your thing, or you simply want to be able to cook delicious vegan food at home, then I’d recommend a visit to National Azabu in Minato-ku. Buying groceries in Japan can be a bit of a struggle, especially if you live in Tokyo and larger stores are farther away. It is especially difficult if you want reasonably priced vegan alternatives to some meal staples. National Azabu stocks specialist food items for people on a vegan diet, or people who prefer gluten, lactose, or egg-free products. They also stock imported food, which can be very difficult to come by in Japan.
Organic items are also available at National Azabu, so there is something for everyone. Here you can pick up gluten-free flour blends, such as rice flour or corn flour. You can also buy gluten-free pasta, noodles, and macaroni. Vegan cheeses are available, and so are vegan burgers and sausages. They even stock frozen food so you can buy in bulk and have vegan food available for weeks to come! If you are a keen home chef, you can also pick up frozen out-of-season fruits, such as strawberries or blueberries, great for smoothies and pies.
Top picks: gluten-free waffle mix, organic chunky peanut butter.
Many people may be put off traveling to Japan due to their dietary requirements. Many people believe that you cannot avoid meat, fish or animal products while traveling in Japan. However, this is no longer the case. If you have an allergy to wheat, eggs or milk, or even if you choose to be vegetarian or vegan, then don’t let food be a problem. You can now travel through Japan eating the best food you choose to eat, without missing out on delicious Japanese cooking.