With dishes such as sushi, ramen and Kobe beef representing Japanese cuisine to the world, it’s easy to get the impression that Japan is not a very vegetarian-friendly country. Add to that a lack of English label, and the worry of accidentally eating something animal-based goes through the roof! But don’t let appearances deceive you: there are an increasing number of vegan (as well as halal and gluten-free) friendly restaurants in major cities — and some great options for meals on the go.
1. Vegan-friendly convenience stores
While for the moment it’s limited to the Kanto area, Natural Lawson is my go-to for quick meals and snacks during the workweek. With over 142 stores — most in popular areas of Tokyo with a couple in Yokohama, Chiba and Saitama — this fancified version of the common Lawson convenience store chain is apparently aimed at the health-conscious salary woman with plenty of disposable income. Although available products can change without notice, this is a great spot for finding veggie-only, unusual onigiri (rice balls) labeled in English, along with a choice of veggie-friendly goodies. A few of my favorites are T’s TanTan vegan cup noodles, almond milk-espresso from 137 Degrees (as well as other nut milks, including pistachio), Happy Date bars and Biokura cookies. Gluten-free bread from Maisen is also available at many branches.
For those in Shizuoka, Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto, check out Natural House (Japanese) instead. While it is pricey, there are usually some good vegan and macrobiotic options to be found.
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