The reality of being a vegetarian in Japan set in on my first day in the country.
At the welcome party for all newly-arriving prefectural ALTs, the main dish was meat, which was to be expected — but the edamame, fish, and salad were all coated in a strong fish-flavored sauce. I’d failed to do my research before moving. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Japan ranks notoriously high in almost every listicle as one of the least vegetarian-friendly countries in the world, I’d later learn that many seemingly vegetarian foods such as salad dressing or miso soup almost always contain dashi, or fish stock.
f you’re a vegetarian in Japan — by definition, one who doesn’t eat any meat or fish — it’s safe to say that it’s a good idea to get familiar with cooking. While many restaurants will try to cater to your diet with good intentions, there’s a good chance you’ll still get surprise bonita (fish flakes) or bacon topped on your dish. In cases of eating out, you can always scout out some vegan restaurants in cities around Japan.
However, cooking isn’t always a viable (or ideal) option. And for most budget-wise people living in Japan who don’t want to cook three meals a day, the konbini can provide an array of foods for all your dietary needs. Considering there are more than 56,400 convenience stores in Japan (according to a 2017 Statistica report), one is almost never more than a short walk away. You’ll definitely have to tiptoe around the fish-flavored chips and snacks, but there are a number of vegetarian options at any konbini you can turn into your own meals. Here are seven ideas to get you started.
1. Pizza buns
You’ll notice these with all the hot nikuman (steamed buns with meat filling) near the register. The ピザまん (piza-man) variety are gooey, delicious buns available at 7-Eleven and Family Mart made of only tomato sauce, cheese and a soft outer bun. Hot, filling and delicious, these are a common konbini staple. And at only about ¥130, they’re budget-friendly.
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