Japan is a tricky place to navigate as a vegetarian, trickier as a vegan, and when you throw in gluten free well…. did you pack lots of food bars in your carry on?
I kid! I kid! Ok no not really. A little bit. A lotta bit. Sigh. You know what guys? It’s not easy. Our two weeks in Japan were often really tough food wise despite any legwork done beforehand. Yes there is information out there for gluten free but it’s never vegetarian friendly and veggie advice is abundant in terms of Happy Cow places but I was hoping for posts lining out the best of them or what to order, etc.
What is not there one must create so without further ado- my favorite meals from Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo! Be sure to add these to your roster. I promise to post the other places too as well as general Japan trips but it is a monster of a post so here is a quick “eat here!” post for those who need a place today!
This was a tricky town! We actually ended up eating at the same place twice here. We loved it though, and it was delicious, so it was very much by choice. The staff spoke English quite well and whipped up a brown rice spaghetti in tomato sauce for me that I then ate with chopsticks. ^_^ I hear how boring that sounds but I promise it was ridiculously delicious! Sadly the picture to back up my claims has been lost. Forgive me. You will have to take my word on this one.
Restaurant: Paprika Vegan Dining (the menu will have odd sounding things such as eel or oysters but it’s all vegan!)
Click on the name to go to their Facebook page where they offer a location map and current hours of operation.
Meal: Spiced carrots as a greeting from the chef, brown rice spaghetti with tomato sauce. My non gluten free husband had a sort of teriyaki bowl which he thought was exquisite. We also had the smoothies here and they were really good too.
This place was SO cute!! French provence themed yet very Japanese.
Sadly these carrots from the chef are the only picture of the food here I have! I will add more if I manage to track them down.
Kyoto was actually the easiest place to eat! It is not a large town so getting from one vegetarian restaurant to another is not a crazy trek. The usual Japan issue of early closing times applied – it is not open for dinner everyday. That said, the owner spoke with me personally- her English is flawless- and she reassured me that everything on this place was gluten free! We couldn’t believe it! Everything was SO scrumptious! It’s on the way to Tadaso no Mori Park and Shimogamo Jinja Shrine. The 4 bus stops right in front so be sure to check it out!
Restaurant: Vege Cafe Toska
The meal: A bento of the day with lots of fermented veggies, salads, and these puffed soy nuggets in a sweet sauce that were just to die for. This is one of the best gluten free & vegan meals I have had anywhere in the world!
I don’t know specifically what all of this was but it was all good! The little jelly dessert was coffee flavored. 😋
Our first meal in Tokyo was at T’s for Tantan- a veggie ramen place right in Tokyo Station (we came in via bullet train from Kyoto). I went in assuming they would have something. Maybe rice? Sadly the ramen was super not gluten free and the rice came with barley mixed in that I fortunately caught. There was absolutely nothing I could eat. I ended up going to an Onigiri place next to it and showing them my allergy card basically begging them to find me something to eat (bless their souls, they got out the ingredient list and cross compared everything until they found something!! ❤️). At this point we had spent 4 days in Japan and I had but one wish- to try real Japanese ramen. We went to the hotel where I ate my plain onigiri and shed a short frustrated tear at how difficult an act as simple as eating was turning out to be!
I say all that so you can understand how much finding Sonanoiro NIPPON meant to me! Real Japanese Ramen! Gluten free! Vegan! Slurped right along the salarymen grabbing a bite after work. Sonanoiro NIPPON is on Ramen Street- a side strip in Tokyo Station’s underground mall. You order your Ramen at a vending machine and it prints out a ticket to claim it. You then hand that to an attendant who you force to look at your allergy card to note to not add the barley on top and you’re then shown to your seat and handed chopsticks and a bib. Take the bib. Don’t be prideful. Your clothes will NOT thank you. Then be ridiculously happy at the super delicious meal that follows. Slurping to show you like it? Yes that’s a thing. You don’t actually slurp though (soo messy! Learned that he hard way!!) you just make the noise.
We loved this so much we ate here three times and regretted not finding it sooner to have eaten there more! It’s yummy, cheap, relatively healthy, and open late right in Tokyo station. Every tourist’s dream!
Ramen Street in the Tokyo Station underground mall – First Avenue (how to ask for directions: “Ramen Street, doko desu ka?”). Follow the signs to Yaesu South Exit and exit but don’t leave the building- there are stairs to your right I believe. Head down (floor B1F) and it’s a just a little walk to your left and then it will be a little entryway to ramen street on your right. It’s hard to describe as you might not find the same stairs we did but someone will be able to point you to ramen street! It is super well known as the 8 best of the best ramen shops in Tokyo reside there! (or so they say 😂) Hours: 11:00 – 23:00.
The meal: Vegan Ramen that is completely gluten free and even celiac friendly as long as you make sure they don’t add the barley topping!
So those were our best meals in Japan!
Have you gone and have others to add? Please please please add them in the comments below and also on happy cow. Save someone else the frustration and leg work. Also I need backups for next time in case I get sick of Ramen!! :p