Gion is the most famous geisha district in Japan, full of history and beautiful architecture. It’s also home to one of the best vegan restaurants in Gion, Kyoto.
祇園 たんと or Gion Tanto is an amazing traditional okonomiyaki restaurant in Kyoto with a wide selection of vegan options. They serve Kyoto-style okonomiyaki, which is incredibly popular among both meat eaters and vegans alike. It’s so good that the restaurant often has long lines of customers waiting to get in.
At a glance
Cuisine: Japanese street food
Vegan or vegan options: Vegan options
Price: ¥1,080 – ¥1,380
Card payments: All major cards accepted
What is Okonomiyaki?
Before I get further into Gion Tanto, let me tell you what okonomiyaki is for those who don’t know.
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is a Japanese savoury pancake -a popular street food and one of the many foods to try when you come to Japan! It’s mostly made up of cabbage and batter, with endless combinations. You always top it off with okonomiyaki sauce (a sweet brown savoury sauce) and mayonnaise!
It’s widely available throughout all of Japan, and they have different versions of it depending on what region you are in. For example, the okonomiyaki you eat in Hiroshima will be very different from the one you eat in Tokyo.
Why isn’t okonomiyaki vegan?
Although plain okonomiyaki can often look suitable, unless it explicitly says so, it most probably isn’t.
In any typical okonomiyaki, apart from the visible meat and/or seafood which make it not suitable, there will likely be some non-visible things such as eggs and possibly dashi (fish stock) in the batter as well.
Typical okonomiyaki comes topped with katsuobushi (shaved fish flakes), and both okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise will, as a rule, have animal products in them too. So it’s safer to stick to places that offer vegan okonomiyaki.
You’ll probably have to queue
The two times I visited, (both for dinner during the week), I had to wait about an hour until we were seated at our table, but I promise it’s worth it. The okonomiyaki here is amazing!
So chances are If you decide to visit Gion Tanto you will most likely have to wait a little bit. Heads up, the queue outside is a little deceiving! When you think you are close to the front you realise there’s a waiting area inside as well…
However, this is where you look at the menu and also where one of the very friendly members of staff takes your order.
Before you sit down in the inside waiting area, you have to take your shoes off and put them away in the wooden shoe locker, which you can lock away. You can take the weight off your feet while you wait for a table to become ready.
Gion Tanto Vegan Menu
As well as their regular menu, Gion Tanto has a separate fully vegan menu with so much to choose from! Normally coming to a Japanese restaurant with vegan options, you maybe get one or two options if you’re lucky. So having a whole menu with a range of items was amazing!
With 10 mains and 9 sides to choose from, we felt spoilt with the amount of choice! You can even add extra topping to your main dish if you want to.
The restaurant was much smaller than I’d imagined and has a very authentic look with low tables that have hot plates on them, zabuton cushions on the floor to sit on, as well as a row of single seats for couples or single diners to eat at.
In total, they have three tables that can fit 4-6 people, four tables on a nice day when they open the doors to the outside so you can sit there with a view of the river. As well as the tables, they have a row of seats with a view of the kitchen, so you can see your meal getting prepared.
It’s very traditional and authentic much like this restaurant in Osaka, which impressed our family who came to visit from England and added to the dining experience.
They have a great system going because once you’re at your table, the drinks and food starts arriving pretty swiftly!
Let me show you the delicious food we ordered!
Vegan Okonomiyaki Sauce
On the table, there are already some brown sauces and mayonnaise there but they have animal products inside. Instead, they will bring you vegan-specific sauces with labelling if you order from the vegan menu.
Soy Meat Okonomiyaki | 大豆ミート
The soy meat okonomiyaki was Jonny’s choice and it was very yummy! As the okonomiyaki is made mainly from cabbage, it has a slightly sweet taste and the soy meat gives a great texture and chew to the dish.
The vegan okonomiyaki from Gion Tanto is super delicious and the added sweet and savoury sauce and mayonnaise combination is so morish!
¥1,380 (£7.96 / $9.87)
Mochi and Corn Okonomiyaki | もちコーン
This was my favourite item out of everything! It was simply scrumptious! I’d never had mochi in okonomiyaki before but this was a game-changer for me. The sweetcorn gave it a sweeter taste and the small chunk of melted mochi acted similarly to melted cheese, adding to the texture.
The flavour and texture combination was a definite winner for me and I’ll always be opting to have those two ingredients in my okonomiyaki if they have it on offer. I chose this one both times I have visited and have yet to leave disappointed!
¥1,380 (£7.96 / $9.87)
Soy Meat Negiyaki | 大豆ミート
Unlike okonomiyaki which is mainly of cabbage, negiyaki is made from negi (green onions) so it has a stronger flavour. As the cut-up green onions are smaller inside, the negiyaki is a lot flatter and more compact than the okonomiyaki.
The soy meat gave it an added texture and was paired really well with the sauce and mayonnaise.
¥1,380 (£7.96 / $9.87)
Mixed Vegetables fried noodles | 野菜ミックス
Yakisoba or fried noodles with vegetables are a typical street food and another common item you can find around Japan.
It’s a dish I ate growing up in Japan and also something I have tried a few times since being vegan and they are all pretty similar. The noodles are in a brown sweet and savoury sauce and filled with crunchy vegetables.
98% of the time, I’ll order it if it’s on the menu as It’s very yummy and I love noodle dishes – It’s also a great dish to share with others.
However, if you come to Gion Tanto, I would highly recommend that you order this as a side item as the okonomiyaki is the main event!
¥1,280 (£7.38/ $9.15)
Things to do close by
- Explore Gion and neighbouring areas
- Yasaka Shrine | 7 min walk
- Kenninji Temple | 7 min walk
- Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater | 7 min walk
- Higashiyama | 23 min walk
Vegan options close to Gion Tanto
V = Vegan, VO = Vegan Options
- Ramen Nishiki | VO | 3 minute walk
- Bali Bali Indonesia | VO | 3 minute walk
- Choice | V | 9 minute walk
- Uno Yukiko – Gion Soy Milk Ramen | V | 6 minute walk
- Zirael Vegan Restaurant | V | 5 minute walk
How to get to Gion Tanto
Address: 372 Kiyomotochō, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan, 605-0084
3 min walk from Gion-Shijo Station
8 min walk from Sanjo Keihan Station
8 min walk from Sanjo Station
Monday – Wednesday 12:00 -15:00 (LO14:30), 17:00-22:00 (LO 21:30)
Friday – Sunday 12:00 -15:00 (LO14:30), 17:00-22:00 (LO 21:30)
Since being vegan and returning to Japan, I’ve only eaten one other vegan okonomiyaki from Osaka. So I don’t have a lot to compare vegan okonomiyaki in Japan but, I have got to say this is by far my favourite one out of the two.
The okonomiyaki from Gion Tanto is much more traditional like the ones I had grown up eating, and it was so nice to be able to eat it again since being vegan.
If you don’t mind a bit of a wait for some incredible Gion street food then get yourself to Gion Tanto. The okonomiyaki was definitely worth the wait for us and absolutely delicious!
I would love to know what you think if you visit!
If you’re looking for cafes and restaurants in this area, you might also like it here!
Note: Gion Tanto is a restaurant serving animal products, there will most likely be cross-contamination. It’s up to each individual how you go forward.