There is quite a lot of vegan food available in Japanese convenience stores. In fact, probably more than in Western style convenience stores. The best place to head is the refrigerated section containing the rice balls and fresh food. You probably shouldn’t waste your time staring at the bento, fried food, oden, and bread/pastry sections.
There is also an offshoot of Lawson convenience stores called Natural Lawson. Although a few products from Natural Lawson can be found in regular Lawson stores, it’s worth it to go to Natural Lawson if there are any near you. Natural Lawson stores are currently located in the following areas: Chiba Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Tokyo. They carry a wider selection of products for vegans than any other convenience store. Click here to see some of the products you can find at Natural Lawson stores.
Below are some of the vegan foods we have found which you can use as a general guide. The products available at a particular store will vary according to location and season. If we are aware that a product at a certain store is not vegan, we have noted this. BUT we have not checked the labels of each product at each store (7-11, Lawson, Family Mart etc.), so unfortunately you will still need to check them.
Some foods contain flavouring and emulsifiers which may be animal-derived or sugar that may be bone-char processed. We have marked below wherever we have information on how these ingredients were made.
Each major chain of convenience stores also has a website where you can find information in Japanese about its products, including allergen information about the unpackaged food it sells (e.g. fried food). Some of the pictures below are from the convenience store websites.
Unfortunately, due to labeling laws in Japan, it’s possible for foods to contain small amounts of fish powder and other ingredients for flavoring without being written on the label if the amount is small enough. This can sometimes be marked as その他, “sono ta,” meaning “other.” Also, the convenience stores can change the ingredients of their own items like rice balls and steamed buns at any time without notice, and the new ingredients won’t necessarily be noted on the label if the amounts are small.
It seems that salt onigiri and ume (pickled plum) onigiri are the most likely to be vegan, whereas kombu (seaweed) is likely to contain fish powder to flavor the kombu. However, some ume onigiri do have katsuo (skipjack tuna fish dashi) used to flavor the ume.
Rice Balls (Onigiri)
Current list of rice balls confirmed to be vegan:
Salt onigiri (銀しゃりむすび塩むすび)
Ume (おにぎり (紀州梅))
Kombu with shiso (おにぎり北海道産昆布 (しそ))
Ume (手巻 紀州南高梅)
Current list of onigiri confirmed NOT to be vegan:
Their rice balls vary in ingredients by region. For the Aichi region:
Ume (手巻 おにぎり熟成仕立て紀州南高梅たたき梅): contains katsuo dashi (skipjack tuna dashi)
Kombu (手巻おにぎり二段階仕込み日高昆布): contains katsuo dashi (skipjack tuna dashi)
Kombu (手巻 北海道産昆布): contains animal products
Kombu (日高昆布): Contains katsuo dashi (skipjack tuna dashi) and scallops
Kombu (日高昆布): contains animal ingredients
As for Circle K and Sunkus, it looks like they will end activities and become part of Family Mart.
Inari zushi (rice in a tofu pocket) is often available in convenience stores. Unfortunately, it appears that all the major convenience stores use katsuo dashi (powdered skipjack fish dashi) to flavor the tofu wrap of their inari zushi. It’s not listed in the ingredients or is listed as an ingredient like その他 (“sono ta,” meaning “other”).
Fermented soy bean (Natto) roll
Natto bacteria can be grown on different materials, including plant matter, fish, or gelatin. So, animal parts can be used in the production, even though this won’t be written on the label.
Takana Foods, one of the biggest suppliers of natto in Japan, has said that they do use fish in the production of their natto bacteria, as a matrix to grow the natto bacteria on. This fish will not be listed as an ingredient on the finished product.
It seems that natto rolls are not a safe vegan option. We will update this page if a confirmed vegan natto roll is found.
You can buy ready to eat soba (buckwheat noodles – on the left hand side below) and udon (wheat noodles – on the right hand side below) in Japanese convenience stores. These noodles are usually vegan, just check for egg white (卵白).
The dipping sauce that comes with the noodles will almost certainly not be vegan. You can replace the sauce with soy sauce. Soy sauce may be available at the convenience store counter, but it can be useful to carry your own with you. You can buy very small bottles of soy sauce at supermarkets.
Family Mart has pre-packaged noodle-shaped tofu with sesame sauce. The amino acids in the product are confirmed vegan, however, the manufacturer could not confirm if the sugar used in the product was bone char processed or not.
Be careful to get the product in the red-orange package and not the red-purple package. The one in the red-purple package contains fish.
豆腐そうめん風/Tofu somen style. Ingredients: 【Noodle-shaped tofu】 soybean (USA, Canada), starch components, salt / paste (processed starch, Na alginate, polysaccharide thickener), coagulant (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride) (Contains soy as part of ingredients)
【Attached Sauce Packet】 sugar, soy sauce, salt, sesame seed paste, sesame oil, yeast extract / seasoning (amino acid etc), thickener (processed starch), coloring (caramel), flavouring. (Includes wheat, sesame and soybeans as part of ingredients)
The product is manufactured on equipment that also processes eggs.
Vegan salads are available at most convenience stores, however you should check the salad carefully before you buy it because there are often small pieces of meat or egg included in the salad. You also need to be careful with the dressing. Vegan dressing is difficult to find in Japan, not only in convenience store salads/sachets, but also in supermarkets and restaurants. It can be a good idea to carry your own salad dressing with you. Choose something that does not need refrigeration, such as balsamic vinegar.
Many convenience stores also sell bags of salad and whole tomatoes, if you would like to make the salad yourself.
Family Mart’s Japanese-style dressing/和風ドレッシング and Japanese-style low-salt dressing/減塩和風ドレッシング appear to possibly be vegan. They are available in single-size serving packets near the salads.
Japanese-style low-salt dressing/減塩和風ドレッシング. Ingredients: Vegetable fats and oils (contains soy), sugars (sugar, high fructose corn syrup), vinegar, soy sauce (contains wheat), processed soy sauce product (pure brew soy sauce), dried onion chips, rice fermented seasoning, processed olive product, salt, roasted onion, red bell pepper/seasoning, inorganic salt etc., xanthan thickener, polyglutamic acid, iron gluconate.
None of the individual dressing packets near the salads at 7-11 are currently vegan.
Some stores also have a cup with things like carrot, cucumber and dip. Note the dip at Family Mart stores (see picture below) contains mayonnaise and cod roe.
This one is a ‘maybe’. According to the allergy information on the 7-11 website theirs look ok, but as always the oil and seasoning used may be an issue.
The 7-11 fried potatoes have an allergy warning for wheat and soy.
The Family Mart fried potatoes come with your choice of seasoning, 明太マヨソース/Alaska pollack mayonnaise sauce, トマトケチャップ,/tomato ketchup, サラダエレガンスシーズニング/salad elegance seasoning, and リアルソルトシーズニング/real salt seasoning. The Alaska pollack mayonnaise sauce is not vegan, and it’s likely the salad elegance seasoning is not either. The tomato ketchup and real salt seasoning may be vegan, but the ingredients are not listed on the website.
Note that Family Mart fried potatoes are fried in palm oil.
Available in most convenience stores, but the best bets are 7-11 and Family Mart.
Food to make a meal!
If you are able to cook for yourself while you are in Japan it is handy to know that you can buy the ingredients to make a basic vegan meal – vegetables, tofu and cooked rice – at a convenience store! There are often bags of cut vegetables as well as whole vegetables like potatoes, carrots and eggplants. You can also find packaged cooked vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin. Note the packaged pumpkin at 7-11 contains dashi and egg, so is not vegan.
Many convenience stores sell a good range of fruit, including bananas, frozen blueberries, frozen mango, kiwifruit and pineapple. Some is cut and packaged, some is dried, while some is whole.
Some convenience stores also carry prepeeled, sliced apples. One widely available product is called:
Apple Sweets/アップルスイーツ. Ingredients: apples (grown in Japan), trehalose, antioxidant (Vitamin C), calcium carbonate.
Peeled apple/皮むきりんご Ingredients: apple, maltose, salt/antioxidant (vitamin C)
7-11 also carry a line of fruits bagged in water, including kiwi, pineapple, white peach and mikan. The white peach and mikan include flavourings.
These tasty dried apples with sweetener are a light snack.
Apple Chips from Aomori/青森のりんごちっぷす. Ingredients: Apples (grown in Aomori), vegetable oil, maltotriose syrup.
Most convenience stores in Japan should have fresh bananas.
Most convenience stores have a good selection of nuts, for example peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, walnuts and chestnuts. Check the package to make sure you are just buying nuts, as sometimes nuts are sold mixed with small dried fish and other non-vegan ingredients.
In Japan, “butter peanuts” can sometimes mean that butter made from cow’s milk was added as an ingredient, and sometimes just seems to be referring to a type of peanut, with vegetable oil used in place of dairy. Check the label carefully before buying.
Peanuts will generally be the cheapest type of nut available.
Lawson sells soy-sauce flavored crackers mixed with peanuts.
Cubic Rice Crackers and Peanut mix/粒もちピーナッツ uses amino acids from plants. It uses sugar that has not been whitened using the bone char method.
These chips with Natural Lawson branding on the package are available in Lawson convenience stores. They don’t use sugar or salt and let you taste the natural sweetness of the vegetables.
Vegips Sweet Potato Carrot Pumpkin/ベジップスさつまいもにんじんかぼちゃ. Ingredients: Sweet potatoes, carrot, pumpkin, vegetable oil.
These excellent potato chips have Natural Lawson branding on the package.
Potato Chips fried in Olive Oil/オリーブオイルで揚げたポテトチップス. Ingredients: Potato (not genetically modified), olive oil, salt (Italian sun-dried salt 100% used).
Sweet Potato Sticks
These sweet potato sticks with Natural Lawson branding on the package are very filling.
Organically cultivated dried potato stick/有機栽培の干し芋スティック. Ingredients: Organically cultivated sweet potato (satsumaimo).
Morinaga has a line of macrobiotic biscuits called Macrobiha. They come in three flavors- from left to right, Cocoa, Fruit & Granola, and Nuts & Salt. They are carried in many of the major convenience store chains as well as some drugstores and grocery stores. These biscuits use no animal ingredients or white sugar. They are made on equipment that processes dairy and eggs.
The website is here.
Cocoa/マクロビ派カカオ. Ingredients: Sugar (made from sugar beets), flour, oat flakes, edible rapeseed oil, cocoa powder, brown rice flakes, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, salt / vanilla flavour.
Fruit & Granola/フルーツグラノーラ. Ingredients: Oat flakes, edible rapeseed oil, sugar (made from sugar beets), wheat flour, whole grain wheat flour, dried cranberry with juice added (cranberry, concentrated apple juice, edible sunflower oil), brown rice flakes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, salt/vanilla flavour.
Nuts & Salt/ナツと塩. Ingredients: Wheat flour, edible rapeseed oil, sugar (made from sugar beets), oat flakes, almonds, whole wheat flour, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, salt, soy sauce (contains soy), miso.
Lawson has some vegan cookies available, with branding on them from their more vegan-friendly line of convenience stores, Natural Lawson.
Pumpkin Macrobiotic Cookies/かぼちゃのマクロビオティッククッキー. Ingredients: wheat, beet sugar syrup, rapeseed oil, pumpkin powder, beet sugar, salt. All ingredients except the rapeseed oil are domestically produced.
SOYJOY crispy, according to the manufacturer’s website, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, are “nutritional foods made with whole soybean flour, fruits and nuts, containing no wheat. They offer a smart and delicious way to enjoy the nutritional goodness of soy, including vegetable protein, soy isoflavones, and dietary fiber.”
SOYJOY crispy contain sugar that is confirmed to have been whitened using the bone char processing method.
They come in five flavors, plain, mixed berry, banana, white macadamia (contains non-dairy white chocolate made of soy) and peach.
Regular SOYJOY (not SOYJOY crispy) contains egg. Be sure to check that the package says “crispy” in English, as otherwise the packaging is virtually identical.
The ingredients can be found on the English-language Otsuka Pharmaceuticals website.
Steamed bun filled with sweet bean paste (あんまん – Anman)
Near the convenience store counter you can find a warming oven containing anman and nikuman (steamed buns filled with meat).
Family mart’s 2 anman (simple and with sesame) don’t include any animal-derived ingredients. Lawson uses pork based shortening and lard in the batter, dehydrated eggs and also dairy in rice fermentation. 7/11 cannot confirm for sure if their products contain animal ingredients, as if it’s a small quantity it doesn’t appear on the ingredients or allergen list. It is possible 7-11 anman has some pork or other animal-derived ingredients.
Red bean (Azuki) ice cream
Red bean ‘ice cream’ can easily be found in convenience stores, and many types do not contain dairy. The ingredients of the one below are: sugar, adzuki beans, starch syrup, cornstarch (non-genetically modified corn) and salt.
Asahi’s Ippon Manzoku Bar Cereal Black 80% Less Sugar/一本満足バー シリアルブラック 糖質80%オフ is a chocolate bar that has been fortified with some vitamins, including nearly half of the recommended daily allowance of B12. It contains no animal ingredients. However, it may have cross-contamination from milk being processed in the same factory, so it has a warning on the package that makes it look as if dairy is an ingredient. Be sure to get the one in the black packaging as the others have animal ingredients such as milk. It can be found in many convenience stores.
The following chocolates do not contain any dairy as an ingredient. However, they may have cross-contamination from milk being processed in the same factory, so they have a warning on the package that makes it look like dairy is an ingredient. Look for some of the following choices in convenience stores.
– 力強い深みコンフォートビター Comfort Bitter
– 華やかな果実味エレガントビター Elegant Bitter
– 凛と香り立つブロッサムビター Blossom Bitter
There is also a three-pack available in some stores, but probably not convenience stores, that contains small portions of all of the above varieties.
-チョコレート効果カカオ72% ー 72% Cacao Blocks (comes in two varieties, one large blocks and the other small)
-チョコレート効果カカオ86% ー 86% Cacao Blocks
-チョコレート効果カカオ95% ー 95% Cacao Blocks
-チョコレート効果72%素焼きクラッシュアーモンドー72% Cacao Blocks with Roasted Crushed Almonds
-チョコレート効果 72% 粗くだきカカオ豆 ー72% Cacao Blocks with Coarsely Ground Cacao Beans
The ball type of the Cacao Blocks contains shellac, produced from insects, so they are not vegan.
Most jelly in Japan is made with agar (seaweed) rather than gelatine, although you should still check the list of ingredients. Look for:
gelatine ゼラチン zerachin
agar agar 天草 / 寒天 てんぐさ / かんてん tengusa / kanten
gelling/setting agent ゲル化剤 gerukazai (can be either an animal-based or plant-based ingredient)
Japanese style sweets
You can usually find traditional style Japanese sweets in convenience stores. For example, daifuku, anmitsu (on left side below – check for honey) and zenzai (on right side below):