Japan isn’t known for its vegan offerings but a few times a year, across different parts of the country, Japan’s biggest plant-based festival gets held!
Vegan Gourmet Festival is a 100% plant-based festival held in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto: showcasing food companies, small businesses, as well as different vegan and vegan-friendly companies across Japan.
With many food offerings from vegan ramen, burgers, ice creams, and cakes as well as businesses promoting their macrobiotic, organic and gluten-free products, it’s a great day out for any foodie no matter if your vegan, veggie or just curious.
How to find vegan festivals in Japan
Vegan Gourmet Festival has a website that has up-to-date information about all the festivals across the country. It’s not the easiest to navigate if you can’t read Japanese but you can translate the website.
All festivals across the country are free to get into, and to work out when the next festival is held closest to you, have a look at their website, Facebook, or Instagram! So no matter if you’re a vegan in Kyoto, a vegan in Nagoya or a vegan in Tokyo, there is an event you can visit!
I visited Tokyo Autumn 2022, which was held outside at The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park, and Tokyo Summer 2023 which was held in the Tokyo Metropolitan Industry and Trade Center Taito Building – So these are the two I will be talking about!
Let’s discover some vegan Japanese companies together!
- Don’t get super excited by the first thing you see (I’m guilty of this). Do a lap of the stalls to see which items you definitely want to try!
- I like to head to the festival as close to open time as possible. It gets very busy and can be difficult to move around freely. Also, some popular stalls could sell out early.
- Bring a tote bag (or any bag) because you’ll get handed a lot of leaflets, (which I like to collect anyway to remember these vegan brands) and you don’t want your hands to be full when you get handed some samples to eat.
Vegan Festival Autumn 2022: Tokyo
Where it was held: Outside at The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park
Closest train station: 1 min walk from Ariake Station
The number of stalls: 70
We visited our first vegan gourmet festival in the first few months of being in Japan. It was held outside surrounded by a couple of fields and some skyscrapers. A great big open space which was the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and relax afterwards.
It seems silly writing it down but not even a month in Japan, we were struggling with the lack of vegan options. Compared to what we were used to eating back in England, it was definitely an adjustment.
So, when we arrived, I was overly excited by all the different food stalls and vegan options that I had known nothing about. I was actually slightly overwhelmed – I wanted to try everything!
Vegan Gourmet Festival Food Stalls – 2022
Even though this was for the 2022 festival, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of these same vendors are at the next festival when you go as well!
It was mainly food stalls from online stores, restaurants, and cafes. A lot of baked items like cookies and cakes as well as hot food stalls. They had a handful of lifestyle and apparel goods such as VEGAN Standards Japan which sells shoes made from vegan leather.
If you’re unfamiliar with the vegan scene in Japan coming to the Vegan Gourmet Festival is a great way to get an introduction to them all!
There were a few vegan burger stores at this festival, which were very popular with long lines forming.
What did I get?
Gelato from Premaché Gelateria | プレマルシェ・ジェラテリア
Premaché Gelateria is a gelato shop with some vegan options. They pride themselves on making high-quality gelato using organic and Japanese ingredients, free of refined sugar cane sugar as well as synthetic emulsifiers and stabilisers.
We ordered vanilla and caramel but instead received vanilla and banana & Japanese hemp charcoal… no worries, still tasted very nice. It wasn’t overly sweet and it was smooth and super tasty!
Newkuman from Shochiku-en | 松竹圓
Shochiku-en is a fully vegan cafe in Taito, Tokyo known for their beautifully presented cakes and desserts. You can order whole cakes, desserts and steamed bun from their website too.
The Newkuman, from the Japanese word nikuman (meat bun), is a steamed bun filled with delicious mushroom fillings. It’s so pillowy and soft, you feel like you’re biting into a cloud!
A burger and a corndog from Terra Burger & Bowl
Terra Burger & Bowl used to have a restaurant in Tokyo but they are now closed. There are talks about relocating to a cheaper location, so keep your eyes peeled!
I used to get corndogs from 7-Eleven quite a lot! But hadn’t eaten a single one since moving to England, let alone a vegan version! But now I’m back in Japan and a vegan version was presented so nicely in front of me, I had to try it!
Instead of it being a sweeter, softer outer dough, it was harder and crispier, not that I minded as it was still very tasty!
The burger was Jonny’s choice and just what he was after. Although much smaller in size than what we were used to, It was juicy, meaty and damn tasty!
Soy meat skewers (or yaki niku) from Karuna
Karuna the Vegefoods company is an online retailer selling vegetarian and vegan foods in Japan. They sell a lot of mock meats but they also sell a lot of pantry items that can be hard to come by in everyday Japan.
The picture probably doesn’t look like anything special but this little stick of soy meat was so good! It had a smokey sweet but savoury taste to it and I could have eaten so many more.
Bento from Niko Niko Restaurant
Niko Niko Restaurant serves vegetarian Thai food in Chiba and we got to have a taste of their menu in the form of a bento.
There was a few different ones on offer at the Vegan Gourmet festival but we went for two different ones that came with a nikuman. These were honestly so good, full of different flavours and fun textures.
Strawberry shortcake from Salon de the Rima
Salon de the Rima is a cake cafe in Tokyo serving gluten-free and vegan cakes. They use organic ingredients as much as possible and serve beautifully presented cakes.
When I saw the array of pretty vegan cakes in Tokyo, I couldn’t resist, and of course had to go for the classic strawberry shortcake, filled with coconut cream. It’s sweet, soft, and tastes beautiful!
Vegan Festival Summer 2023: Tokyo
Where it was held: Tokyo Metropolitan Industry and Trade Center Taito Building
Closest train station: 2 min walk from Asakusa Station
The number of stalls: 66
Luckily the Tokyo summer festival was held inside the trade centre, which meant we could take a much-needed break from the blearing Japanese sun.
It was spread out on two floors, and although there were fewer stalls than at the autumn festival, it felt as if there were more – perhaps because there was more of a variety of stalls this time and they even had a yoga session to the side.
Of course, the majority of the festival was still food related, with many things that are not so easy to come by in everyday Japan. As well as a few vegan cosmetic and fashion companies which I was not aware of before coming here.
What was here?
I tried so many different samples, from mock eggs, soy meats, cookies, and ramen to coffee, and ice cream – I was in food heaven!
For those of you who want to take food home, there were plenty of stalls selling things to cook at home from cupboard items, ramen, and curry sauce packets, to mock meats. As well as snacks, cookies and other baked goods that can be enjoyed at home.
What did I get?
Vanilla soft serve from Hikari Shokudo
Hikari Shokudo is a vegan, organic and sustainable restaurant and grocery store in Tochigi prefecture. They serve set lunches and dinners with the message of “cruelty-free cuisine” promoting their slogan “Vegan for the animals. Organic for the planet. Cuisine for the people.”
The vanilla soft serve was so velvety and sweet! How great is their message on the ice cream cup too?!
Chocolate-filled croissant roll from Amatschi Bakery
Amatsuchi Bakery is a market vendor with an online store selling 100% plant-based baked goods using organic ingredients.
This was my first time trying a chocolate-filled croissant roll which was so tasty! Buttery and flaky outside filled with velvety chocolate filling!
Jumbo kushikatsu from Karuna
Karuna the Vegefoods company is an online retailer selling vegetarian and vegan foods in Japan. I got the skewered soy meat last time and wanted to try the larger Kushikatsu I had seen many people eat!
It was amazing! Crispy, crunchy outside met with a soft yet textured inside with so much flavour! And the brown sauce, which was sweet yet savoury sauce really added to this stick of soy meat – so good!
Bento from Niko Niko Restaurant
Once again we got the bento from Niko Niko restaurant as we enjoyed them so much last time. The options were Thai curry rice, spicy miso soy meat rice, Pad Krapow and a nikuman set with vegetables.
The rice sets came with stir fry rice, sweetcorn, chunky peppers, vegan karaage (mock chicken) and a nikuman (“meat” bun) which we enjoyed as our dinner once we got back.
Exciting companies I discovered!
LOVST TOKYO is a lifestyle brand that makes bags, wallets and other small accessories using vegan leather made from vegetables and fruits including apple waste to make apple leather.
It’s great to find companies like LOVST TOKYO making positive impacts through sustainable practices. From using fair trade gift packaging and incorporating seed paper tags that can sprout when planted, not only are they showcasing creativity but also demonstrating their commitment to environmental responsibility.
They’re making efforts to reduce food waste and carbon emissions. Both of these make a positive impact on this industry and the planet, and hopefully, it’ll inspire others to follow suit.
COCONO are a 100% plant-based small business that makes natural coconut yoghurt. Their mission is to make living ethically and environmentally responsibly a little easier. So, the coconut yoghurt comes in reusable glass jars and is free of single-use plastic.
I tried a sample of their coconut yoghurt with a fruit compote at the vegan festival and it was probably the nicest coconut yoghurt I had ever tried. Most commonly soy yoghurts can be found in Japanese supermarkets, but this is the first time I’ve seen a coconut version, especially a Japanese-owned business so this is very exciting to see!
AINOKI mebuki is a Japanese cosmetic company that uses organic and natural ingredients in its products. They believe in creating products not only kind to your skin but kind to the planet!
Genka 玄華 & tamamono organic MEN
Genka 玄華 is natural skincare made from brown rice and other domestic botanical ingredients.
tamamono organic MEN is an organic skincare marketed towards men using earth-friendly and highly functional botanicals.
Vegan skincare and cosmetics are hard to come by in Japan. Although you can get some vegan-certified Korean products in Donki, the majority of Japanese products are not vegan, let alone cruelty-free.
It’s difficult to research potential items in Japan when my Japanese isn’t very good and in general, there’s not too much information out there. So, I end up bulk-buying beauty items from England or buying vegan cosmetics from iHerb.
However, it’s so brilliant to see more businesses popping up and I can only hope the future holds for more companies like these where these high standards are the norm.
Thoughts about the vegan festival
As a self-confessed sugar addict, I was very happy with the amount of sweet treats that could be found at both festivals. From ice creams, cakes, doughnuts and waffles, they had something for everyone.
The thing I’ve noticed throughout going to both vegan festivals in Tokyo is that many of their baked items (and other food items) are much healthier. A lot of items are “organic”, “gluten-free”, and “use only natural ingredients”, definitely targeted towards the health-conscious buyer. This is a big difference compared to the UK vegan scenes and I thought was rather interesting.
I think the Vegan Gourmet Festival is brilliant – there is nowhere else you can visit in Japan where you can eat everything in the vicinity like this! It’s so refreshing to come to a space where everything is suitable and where you can meet like-minded people.
As mentioned, it’s a great place to come to familiarise yourself with the vegan scene in Japan and to discover new brands and businesses for future purchases as a vegan living in Japan. You should definitely check out the next one!