Japanese people tend to love eating meat. Their main dishes are usually made of fish or meat. Typically, restaurants in Japan serve meals mostly based on meat: pork, chicken, fish and beef. Even if the main dish is not meat, there tends to be a sauce or other ingredient made from fish or pork. The vegetables you can find in restaurants are just side dishes or small portions.
So, you may wonder, what happens with vegetarians in Japan? The locals who decided to quit eating meat or the visitors or workers from abroad who come the country?
Being a vegetarian in Japan is hard and tiring sometimes, but if you learn the right words and places, you will be just fine! First of all, don’t panic. There are actually some vegetarian meals you can enjoy in Japan.
Most of them contain rice and soybeans. So you can easily find options such as:
Of course, not all rice balls are vegetarian. You’ll want to look out for plain salted rice, seaweed, seasoned rice or other seasonal rice balls that might have vegetables in them.
Luckily, Japan has plenty of tofu in many forms as well as many recipes you can make using tofu.
Fermented soybeans – not for the faint of heart!
Immature soybeans, usually served as an appetizer or side dish.
Battered and fried vegetables are a tasty option.
This is a quintessential Japanese dish! If you aren’t already familiar with it, miso soup is made of soybean paste and a special broth, usually vegetarian. The varieties and options are endless with miso soup, so you won’t get bored of it easily.
In some restaurants, you can order a vegetarian version of the typical ramen dish. This means that the soup it is served with does not contain any animal flavored stock.
For committed vegans I recommend visiting Kyoto, where a lot of monks eat “Shojin Ryori”, Buddhist vegetarian food. This is a great option, but a bit expensive.
If Japanese vegetarian food is just not for you, Indian restaurants in Japan always serve vegetarian dishes, especially curries and soups.
As you may know, the number of vegetarians is growing in many countries, and Japan is no exception. For that reason, there are a few vegetarian western options you can find in big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
Also, if you have a rice cooker nearby, it can become very useful for preparing a lot of different veggie dishes, not just rice. Japanese fresh vegetables are delicious, inexpensive, and every season has its own special kind of them. Google a few recipes and you’ll be just fine.
So, before starving during your trip to Japan, learn these basics and fill your belly with the best Japanese vegetarian and vegan food!
・97 Things to Do in Osaka, the Japanese City of Street Food, Culture, and Comedy, in 2018
・112 Things to Do in Kyoto, a City of Culture, Tradition, and Breathtaking Beauty, in 2018
・Niku Nashi! A Vegetarian Guide to Enjoy Japan Part 1