I dreamt of visiting Japan since I was a young girl. I imagined Tokyo with very busy streets, with the perfect synergy of modern and traditional. I imagined 1000 year-old shrines perfectly aligned with the contemporary sky scrapers, while being surrounded by very polite and wonderful people. Despite my expectation, I was still pleasantly surprised that this was, indeed, what I found in Tokyo.
I learned the basic Japanese to get around, without having apologise or saying “thanks” in English. It allowed me to better dive into their culture and showing how much you respect it. In some touristy places like stores near Asakusa or Akihabara, store employees addressed me immediately in English, as I obviously stood out from the locals.
Everyone was very, very kind, polite and thoughtful. I could see their joy when I bowed to thank for something as simple as buying groceries, which made me feel closer to their culture – even more than I already felt! Some people asked where we were from and were surprised by how far we went to visit their country, which they said was something they were grateful for.
I sincerely loved all the Japanese cities I had the opportunity of visiting, but I must admit Tokyo has a different vibe. An incredibly large city in a country that values the traditional, but also embraces the modern technology, kawaii and pet cafes. Interestingly, each area is different and you could be in Akihabara, the anime and electronic part of the city, or Shibuya, a very busy shopping and socialising area, walk a few minutes and find yourself in one of the most beautiful shrines and parks of Tokyo.
The mix between greenery and modern life is perfectly kept and everyone knows their part in all this. You rarely find a public litter basket around and yet no one throws litter to the street, instead taking it home where they’ll separate and dispose of it themselves. The premise being, if you bought something that is now of no use, you are still responsible for it. So much to learn with the Japanese!
Most people will think of fish and pork when they think of Japanese food, and they aren’t wrong. Most traditional restaurants offer mostly meat and fish dishes. In fact, I did a lot of research before traveling and found that in Japan some restaurant use the word “vegetarian” to say the dish as vegetable but it also contains meat or fish. Going through a Japanese food menu, you will most likely find that even the vegetarian dishes sometimes contain a dash stock sauce that contains fish flakes.
Although I found and took note of many restaurants before traveling to Tokyo, the reality is that some days you find yourself traveling to different part of the city and end up not going to where you wanted to eat in the first place. This happened one too many times, which plenty of sightseeing while hungry but, thankfully, it also allowed me to discover incredible restaurants I didn’t even know existed!
From underground restaurants with only 5 places to seat, to restaurants where chefs cook your meal in front of you, Tokyo really surprised me with the variety of nice and different places to eat.
It wasn’t always easy to find vegan eats but 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson got my back so many times I can’t even recall how often I visited one of these store per day. Breakfasts were from the convenience stores, as well as snacks. Mochi and soy bean crisps were my favourite snacks and I usually grabbed two seaweed onigiri with coffee and orange juice for breakfast.
I did a lot of research to know what I could and couldn’t eat. Most ready to eat meals had meat, fish or dashi sauce which contains fish. I was able to find vegan soba noodles and tofu wrapped nigiri (one of my favourites, I must say).
Convenience stores took the pressure off my shoulders when I had to think about breakfast, snacks or spending way too much time finding a place to eat when I was tired and hungry.
So, is Tokyo vegan friendly?
Yes, Tokyo can be vegan friendly with some research done. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the options I found, as most travel guides include mostly meat and fish restaurants and maybe one or two vegetarian. I read many posts, watched many videos and spent a long time looking for restaurants before deciding if I was going to follow a strict plan or just loose myself and wander off to find some of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen!
Stay tuned for my Tokyo vegan food diary, coming soon 🙂