Vegan in Tokyo

People had told us that eating vegan would be difficult, the dreaded sakana dashi (fish stock) would be inescapable. We found it quite easy to find vegan food in Japan, however, especially with a strong Buddhist presence and being the home of macrobiotics. The discovery of an extremely helpful guide book was also a plus. (Their maps are pretty sparse, so be prepared with full maps to compare, if you hope to have any luck finding the restaurants. Also, they claim there is some magical vegan ice cream that exists at some Family Mart locations. We went into just about every Family Mart we passed and could never find any!)

On our first night, our friend Ryo took us to a restaurant near his home. Cucumber, natto, and kampyo rolls are always reliable. I loved that each table had its own hot water spout and powdered tea!

Deva Deva Cafe, Kichijoji (website)

The next day, we ate Deva Deva Cafe in Kichijoji. The teriyaki burger was pretty tasty. I was pleased with the Japanese idea of a serving size. I'm so used to the American, more is better, plates piled high until you burst aesthetic, so it was a bit odd at first, but the smaller portions were just perfect and satisfying. (To give an idea of scale, that plate was more of a salad-sized than a full dinner plate.) The paprika dusted chips were fabulous! Crisp and hot, with creamy centers.

For dessert we enjoyed a decent apple crumble and a wonderful, delicately sweet sesame pudding.

Base Cafe, Kichijoji

Ryo also took us to the quaint little Base Cafe, located up a rickety staircase near the Kichijoji station. We had great soy croquette lunch sets. I loved their industrial decor, minimalist flower arrangements, and mismatched tableware.

Nakamise-dori Market, Asakusa

At the crowded street market in Asakusa, we discovered agemanju, similar to sweet bao, covered in tempura batter, and deep fried. The friendly vendors assured us that they were tamago-free (egg). We also tried some mochi, covered in a sweet soy sauce glaze, and freshly grilled senbei crackers (so much better than the bagged stuff!)

Pure Cafe, Omotesando

Nestled in an Aveda spa and store in the posh Omotesando area is Pure Cafe, one of our favorite finds. I enjoyed the lunch set featuring a tofu-lettuce-tomato sandwich and your choice of soup, salad, and drink. I picked the carrot bisque, mixed greens, and orange juice.

Kinpira takana sandwich (pickled burdock and some other stuff)

The bread pudding was flavorful, but their tofu cream was rather beany.

The tiramisu was absolutely delicious! Not beany at all.

We returned again on our last night in Tokyo for a tasty, late night, a la carte meal. We were also able to purchase some ready made sandwiches to pack for the perfect airport meal.


Spring rolls

Soup pasta (this totally hit the spot!)

Grain burger

Vegan Healing Cafe, Shibuya

Near the infamous Tokyu Hands department store in Shibuya is the small Vegan Healing Cafe, which featured a cute menu board complete with an anti-fur message. They also have a somewhat out of place copy of the Firestorm 7" on their back shelf, along with a bunch of vegan information and cookbooks.

I had the bean stew, which wasn't quite what I imagined, but was still tasty (reminded me of refried beans and rice). Shane had the fried gluten, which he loved.

For dessert, we had soy whip cake and a chocolate tart. The cake was ridiculously good. The frosting was light, smooth, and ever so sweet.

Saishokukenbi, Shinjuku

This was one of our top restaurants on this trip: an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring tempura, gyoza, various noodle dishes, shane's favorite "meat on a stick," soy croquettes, pickles, and much more. They even has a coffee agar gel dessert like my mom used to make! Some of the offerings contain milk or eggs, but each dish is labeled in kanji. It's handy to be able to recognize a few characters, even if you're unfamiliar with the language: egg, milk, soy milk (followed by the character for milk). The staff is also very helpful.

We went back the following night, after dinner service had begun to slow down. They were so kind, they prepared some fresh food and brought it directly to our table! It was a lot to eat, but to be polite we forced it all down.

Brown Rice Cafe, Jingumae (website)
Another stylish cafe near the ritzy shopping promenades, Brown Rice Cafe had a predominantly vegan menu, with a few eggy/milky desserts thrown in. I chose the inari lunch set: a pair of freshly fried inari (crispilicious!) filled with brown rice and topped with miso or ratatouille, salad, and delicious miso soup.

Shane had the veggie burger. He loved the crunchy bread, but the chips were undercooked.

We chose seasonal ice cream and a chocolate tart for dessert. They weren't too impressive. I couldn't figure out what the ice cream flavor was supposed to be and it had a strong soy aftertaste.

I highly recommend their take out shop next door. They have a large selection of vegan cookies and a couple vegan muffins. The almond cookies were great and the crispy, little ginger cookies were melt-in-your-mouth amazing. Neither survived the plane ride home.

der Akkord, Jingumae (website)

Near Brown Rice Cafe is der Akkord bakery, a wonderful little family-owned organic bakery. The friendly staff sucks you right in with samples the moment you walk in the door. We ended up buying a ridiculous amount of breads and pastries because we just couldn't decide.

The best item was probably their fruit and walnut bread. It's the perfect combination of sweet and tangy (from their natural sourdough leavening process), and crunchy, chewy, and soft. I could eat 3 loaves right now.

Also delicious were their anko-sagebrush buns.

Not pictured: mushroom curry bun, olive bread, pumpkin pie pocket, anko pie, apple pie pocket, coconut cake, and cocoa banana cake. I told you we went a little crazy!

Stay tuned for the Kyoto report!


Vegan Invasion! (Ashley Nicole) said...

Everything looks amazing, delicious and beautiful. I can't even process everything in my brain right now, there are so many tasty things here making my mouth water!

Sounds like an excellent trip overall! (minus the horrible airplane food, bleh).

Erin said...

Oh yum, everything looks just fantastic! I can't wait to hear your report of Kyoto :)

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

SO awesome! I can't wait to go back. I've found a lot of info popping up lately about vegan Japan, but you have things here I hadn't heard of yet!
I wonder if the vegan ice cream at Family Mart is the same as the soy push-pops I saw in Germany? They looked to be Japanese.
Also, I love Tokyu Hands!

Animal-Friendly said...

The food in Japan looks great! I would have never thought finding vegan food would be that easy in Japan.

Can't wait to see all about Kyoto!

Anonymous said...

Shane's notes:

I am not as picky as Mel and I enjoyed all the desserts more than her.

Base Cafe is a quant cafe whose exterior looks like a delapidated Tenderloin building.

The agemanju we ate in Tokyo and Ryo referred to as "Japanese soul food" were so amazing, I ate 4 in one visit! Anything fried is better!

I can just imagine the Gather/Risen vegan sXe warriors making a pilgrimage to Pure Cafe for the animal rights slogans and 'Firestorm' 7''.

Big ups to Saishokukenbi in Shinjuku! Fake grilled meat on a stick!! All you can eat!!!

Spending over 50Yen at der Akkord with dreams of "baked goodies" was a letdown for me. But they were nice and liked our tattoos.

mel said...

You mean 5,000 yen. I would eat 5,000 yen worth of fruit-walnut bread right now.

mai ゚・*:.。.†+ said...

So nice to see that you could find quite lot to eat!

i didnt even know that there were so many vegan spot in "my country", thanx mel ;D

After visiting Kyoto, you coming Kobe??
(my city is famous4 the BEEF tho)lol

keep travelin safe!
xx mai

mai ゚・*:.。.†+ said...

oops! forgot telling :P

Not forget trying "Macrobiotic Style なかがわ(nakagawa)"
in Sakyo-ku.

its cafe style and They offer traditional Japanese dishes in vegan. soo comfortly GooD!!
(sorry4 double comments)

xx mai

Anonymous said...

Great pics, but you took so many did you have time to do much else hehe! Fantastic Vegan food, am going later this year and cannot wait to try it :) :)

haim said...

Thanks for the nice list. there are some of my absoulute favourites there. I would add "Hanada rosso" in Yutenji, "Nataraj" in Ginza, and "Chienfu" in Kunitachi, where you can stock up tons of vege products from Taiwan (The owner can tell you which ones are vegan). Now I have to try the one in Shinjuku :)

Being Vegan in Japan can actually be tough outside of Tokyo. I had been to places where I had to settle for Senbe... BTW the Icecream you mentioned must be the "IV" - some flavours were really good - I owe some of my extra Kilos to it... It's a shame they got it off the shelves :( Well, they still sell some Vegan Icecream at CHAYA (Hibiya ro shinjuku) and "Natural house" in Omote-sando

tofufreak said...

man that sounds like fun!

i find that most creamy soy-based desserts in asian tend to have a more beany aftertaste than that of america

K said...

thank you so much! Im def gonna try some of these places

Anonymous said...

so what was the name of the guide book you used. i am headed there next week and would love to check these out

mel said...

"Guide book" in the paragraph above is a link that will take you to their website. Have fun!

Nobby said...

awesome! I live in Kanagawa and I've been to most of those places when I go out. I'm a vegetarian but I eat vegan most of the time. The Chinese place in ikebukuro is amazinnnngggggggg. anyways, i love food and im glad you're blogging aboutit.