Unlike other countries, Japan isn’t so vegan-friendly which means we can’t walk into any restaurant or cafe and expect to eat off their menu. As there is a slim chance of walking by somewhere that has vegan-friendly food (but it does happen! We stumbled upon this restaurant in Nikko), the key is to research beforehand to make sure we get something tasty to eat.
Despite the lack of options across Japan, I found three very popular chain stores across Japan with plant-based options that we can eat at no matter what part of the country I’m in. These convenient stores are spread across various locations in Japan which ensures that you have something reliable to fall back on and make sure you don’t go to sleep on an empty stomach.
While all three of these places technically do have vegan options, we, unfortunately, can’t order anything we like from the menu (like we can at T’s Tantan!). As such, it’s important to know what to look out for if the menus change, and to make yourself familiar with their current offerings. So, let’s get into it!
Vegan options: sugar glazed doughnut, banana rice flour muffin, tiramisu, spinach corn & soy patty English muffin, keema curry filone.
Starbucks is everywhere in Japan, they’re in many train stations, malls and all across towns and cities.
They have plant-based milk, as well as vegan-friendly sweets and snacks that are that you can choose to eat in or take out with you on your travels. Luckily for us as Starbucks is one of the most commonly found cafes in Japan which is super handy when you need your morning or mid-afternoon caffeine fix, sweet treat or something a little bit more substantial.
Starbucks is likely the most reliable place to get a vegan drink with three plant-based milk options on offer. They have oat, soy and almond milk but the latter is not vegan – so make sure to get your drink with soy milk or oat milk only!
This cafe is popular with locals and travellers alike and it’s always bustling with energy. In total, you can get 5 plant-based food items from Starbucks and they’re all flipping delicious. We’ve even grabbed a load of food from a Starbucks up in Sapporo when we were too cold to find another place to go. Not ideal, but perfect when you just need some sort of food!
Although it’s worth noting that there is a chance not all stores will stock all 5, however, there will always be at least one option in my experience.
|Keema Curry Filone||¥510 (£2.86/ $3.61)|
|Spinach Corn & Soy Patty English Muffin||¥440 (£2.47/ $3.12)|
|Tiramisu||¥495 (£2.77/ $3.51)|
|Banana rice flour muffin||¥290 (£1.63/ $2.05)|
|Sugar doughnut||¥260 (£1.46/ $1.84)|
A lot of the time there has been a Starbucks in or near the train station or before getting on a shinkansen which has been brilliant because it means I can take a drink and snack with me onto the train!
Quick tip: Just a heads up in case you don’t know, it is ok to eat and drink on a shinkansen but it’s not accepted on normal trains and other transport.
I’m currently loving oat milk iced matcha latte, especially in this Japanese heat, which pairs very nicely with a glazed doughnut. If I want something a bit more substantial, I’ll go for the keema curry filone which is a new vegan item on their menu which I highly recommend trying! If you order it, make sure to have it warmed up because the cheese melts and makes it taste even better!
Vegan options: CoCoICHI vegetarian curry, CoCoICHI vegetarian curry with soy meat hamburger, CoCoIchi vegetarian curry with vegetables
This popular Japanese curry chain also known as “Curry House CoCo Ichibanya” or “CoCoichi” has shops all around Japan. Their food turnaround is very quick and is usually filled with salary men and single diners who go there for a quick serving and tasty meal.
They have a great range of curries on their large book-like menu, with a few that look vegan-friendly. However, the only plant-based curries are the vegetarian curries that specify that no animal-derived ingredients are used.
The normal curry sauce they use has animal-derived ingredients in it. Don’t worry, the vegetarian curry still tastes every bit as good!
There are three curries in CoCo Ichibanya that are suitable for vegans on their vegetarian curry menu, all of which you can customise by adding your desired topping, specifying the heat level, and the amount of rice & sauce you want. They also have plain salads and french fries for those who want a side with their vegan curry in Japan.
Jonny once thought going for the largest amount of curry on the menu would be a good idea… He ended up eating 600g of rice and curry in under 10 minutes! I don’t know how we did it because the normal 300g is more than enough for me!
Just in case you didn’t think the 600g of rice and curry didn’t look very big, the above picture is next to a normal portion of curry! It was so so big, I couldn’t help but burst into laughter when they brought it out 😂
With generous portion sizes, I guarantee you will leave feeling nicely full. On top of their portion size, and the number of curry houses around the country, what makes them so great is not only are they tasty but super affordable too – A vegetarian curry with vegetables will set you back only ¥857 (£4.70/ $6.03).
How mad is that?!
|CoCoICHI vegetarian curry||¥607 (£3.33/ $4.27)|
|CoCoICHI vegetarian curry with soy meat hamburger||¥827 (£4.53/ $5.82)|
|CoCoICHI vegetarian curry with vegetables||¥857 (£4.70/ $6.03)|
The vegetarian curry with vegetables is my go-to order and Jonny likes to go for the vegetarian curry with soy meat hamburger which are both really tasty! Definitely come and try it for yourself!
3. Mos Burger
Mos Burger is a Japanese hamburger fast food chain with a permanent plant-based burger on its menu. This is another place that you will find in many corners of Japan and like most fast-food restaurants, you can choose to eat it in the store out take it out.
Mos Burger’s vegan item is called “Green Burger Teriyaki” which comes in a soft, green bun filled with a soy-based patty, lettuce, and tomato. It’s all rather tasty!
Currently, for a limited time, they also have a mock fish burger on their menu. The Soy Sea Burger is my favourite out of the two for its crunchy texture and for this reason, I really hope that it becomes a permanent item!
|Green Burger Teriyaki||¥590 (£3.21/ $4.09)|
|Soy Sea Burger||¥490 (£2.67/ $3.40)|
As vegan burgers aren’t usually available unless you go into the city, this is a great quick and cheap option to get your fast food fix!
A great option for a vegan burger is Superiority Burger in Tokyo!
Are these plant-based food actually vegan?
To save their backs none of these companies will say their food is vegan as there could be traces of things, processing issues or cross-contamination. However, I don’t worry about it as if you look at the allergen list for all their plant-based products, no animal products are used and that is good enough for me.
How I see it is this: If there is a higher demand for these plant-based products, it shows there are people out there who will buy them and hopefully inspire more plant-based products to be made across Japan.
Now you know about these 3 most reliable places to get food no matter where you are in Japan, you can focus more on exploring and spend less time worrying! If you need inspiration on vegan Japanese food to try when you next visit, have a look at this post!