As anyone with dietary requirements knows, Japan can either be a foodie paradise or a total nightmare. I actually went vegan in Japan while researching Buddhism and Edo culture, and quickly found that I needed to be very prepared with my work lunches to be able to survive! Luckily after a few months of research (thanks to Happy Cow and the Vegan Japan Facebook group) I knew the ins and outs of what I could grab quickly at the conbini, and what to avoid. I also managed to bookmark a few hundred cafes and restaurants with vegan options on my Google Map.
After a few years of living in various parts of Tokyo we eventually made our way back out west and settled in Nishi-Tokyo, very close to the foodie hubs of Koenji and NishiOgikubo. This is where we spent most of our time eating out after a long day of packing Neko Box orders, and we found some real gems that we went back to week after week.
On our top 6 list, you’ll find some classics as well as some little-known names that we would recommend in a heartbeat. These are all places we visited many times over a few years, and they’re all fully vegan.
Some of these also have gluten-free options, but be sure to check in advance.
Ain Soph Journey
Part of the famous Ain Soph chain, Ain Soph Journey in Shinjuku is a cozy and iconic venue serving a variety of fusion meals. It’s not the cheapest spot, but it’s one of the best to celebrate a birthday or to treat yourself. We visited on quite a few date-nights and managed to try almost everything on the menu.
The most well-known dish is probably the giant fluffy pancakes. These are almost like the vegan version of the famous Japanese giant souffle pancakes. Served with a side of ice cream and seasonal fruit, these are pretty much a main meal by themselves! Come hungry, or share a plate with a friend.
We also recommend the takeaway tiramisu in a jar, the soy cutlet and the wraps. You’ll want to book in advances as this spot is really popular!
Location: right in front of exit C5, Shinjuku Sanchome Station
This cozy, moody restaurant in the heart of NishiOgikubo will keep you coming back for more. The set meals are the real highlight here – choose from the daily changing set, the soy karaage set or the gyoza set and you’ll be in for a real feast. Even the humble miso soup on the side is a winner!
They also have dessert, and a beautiful range of traditional teas and alcohols to try. We’re so obsessed with the branding, the vintage interior and the ambience of this spot. We used to take the bus into NishiOgi from our apartment and eat here almost weekly in winter, when we needed a warm spot to relax and stuff our bellies.
There is a tiny shop at the counter where you can buy packets of the soy meet to take home and try making your own karaage. We tried it a few times but could never get it as perfectly chewy as the Komenoko chef.
Google maps location here.
One of the most famous vegan spots in Japan, partly due to it’s supremely convenient location, T’s TanTan is totally worth the hype! When we lived in Tokyo we would visit literally everytime we were in or near Tokyo Station, and there was always a queue of foreigners and Japanese alike.
Specialising in Tantanmen (a spicy and creamy Dan Dan noodle dish), this small ramen restaurant also serves plenty of amazing side dishes you have to try. The three main TanTanMen flavours are Kin Goma, Kuro Goma and Shiro Goma – gold, black and white sesame. The golden sesame is probably the most popular, and comes with a little bit of peanut butter on top for an extra creamy satay flavour. If you’re feeling really hungry, definitely order a side of the fried gyoza or soy meat. You can also take home a few cups of the T’s ramen for travel emergencies (very useful!).
Location: JR Tokyo Station (inside the ticket gate), on Ecute Keiyo Street near the Keio line. Google maps location here. They’re now also located in Ueno and Ikebukuro.
The restaurant version of T’s TanTan – this quiet cafe is situated in the charming back streets of Jiyugaoka. It’s a little hard to find as it’s inside a larger building, and downstairs. Once you’re in, you’ll never want to leave! The peaceful atmosphere is soothing and perfect for a long lunch, or a lazy afternoon tea.
Gluten free diets are catered for easily with lots of rice dishes. The curries are a favourite (especially the Japanese veg curry), as well as the daily selection of desserts.
You can also stock up on a selection of T’s products (curries, cup noodle) as well as their cookbook. We have the cookbook and there are a bunch of easy and memorable recipes you’ll want to make at home every week.
While you’re in the area, head up the road to Kosoan teahouse and enjoy a traditional matcha with a few wagashi on the side.
This fusion restaurant, with just one chef (the owner) and a few tables, is upstairs in a charming old wooden building in the back streets of Koenji. The best seat in the house is the bench table by the window, looking out onto the street. We have fond memories of wrapping up warm on freezing days, and looking out onto the winter illuminations on the street below.
Our favourite meals are the fusion rice dishes (curries, taco rice, falafel plates) and the warming chai tea or sweet amazake in winter. The vintage decor and eclectic ceramics add a nostalgic touch to this lovely restaurant. We have the best memories of eating at Meu Nota, and we always met some fascinating people inside!
This delightful little macrobiotic bakery is an offshoot of the now closed Trim cafe (which used to serve the most amazine Chai). Located on a charming street in NishiOgikubo, you’ll find various western-inspired and Japanese fusion goods to stock up on.
Our favourites have to be the banana bread, seasonal muffins, shortbread and almond snow balls. Everything is macrobiotic vegan, mostly gluten-free and refined-sugar free. Just a couple of minutes south of NishiOgikubo station, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the swinging vintage sign with the bakery girl. Takeout only – enjoy at home or at a nearby park (Inokashira Park in Kichijoji would be our pick).
What are your favourite Vegan spots in Tokyo?