Below is information about the availability of vegan food/drinks at some the more common cafés, fast food restaurants and chain restaurants in Japan. This information is based on a review of the allergen information provided on the café or restaurant’s website. In Japan, restaurants are required to give information about the presence of the following allergens in their food products:
• eggs, milk, wheat, buckwheat, peanut, shrimp and crab.
It is recommended that they also give information about the following allergens:
• soy, beef, chicken, pork, abalone, squid, salmon roe, salmon, mackerel, orange, kiwifruit, peach, apple, pineapple, yam/sweet potato, walnuts, gelatine and banana.
This information can be useful for vegans. Of course it is not definitive, as other animal products may still be in the food – e.g. fish dashi. Fish dashi, skipjack tuna dashi in particular, is very commonly used in Japan in sauces, soups, and savory dishes. Other types of fish such as tuna or anchovies, seafood such as scallops, duck, or honey can also be present in the food and not mentioned on allergen charts. So, allergen charts are merely a good starting point, allowing you to narrow your search and ask a few good questions.
You may be lucky enough to see allergen information on a restaurant menu, like the one below, but usually it can only be found on restaurant websites.
Note restaurants often change their menus, so it is a good idea to check their websites before you visit. Of course it is always a good idea to check with staff that the dish you want to order is vegan (if possible).
Baskin Robbins/Thirty-One Ice currently has three flavors made without gelatin, milk, or egg: Orange Sorbet (permanent flavor), Midnight Apple (seasonal flavor), and Yummy Grape (seasonal flavor).
The sugar cones don’t have milk, egg, or gelatin, but the waffle cones have milk and egg.
The only food that appears to be vegan at Burger King in Japan are the french fries, hash browns and BBQ sauce. Note the hash browns may be cooked in oil with items containing milk and chicken, or the same utensils may have been used to cook those items (so you may want to ask some questions).
Chabuton is a chain of ramen restaurants. They have a ‘vege-ramen’ which contains no animal ingredients (see the Vegout Tokyo blog). There is vegan gyoza too. On the ticket machine, push the button marked 新野菜系らあ面, “shin yasai kei ramen,” for vegan ramen and ベジ餃子, “vegi gyoza” for vegan gyoza. The button for vegan gyoza is a shared button for chicken gyoza, so be sure to say “vegi gyoza” when you hand the ticket to the waitstaff.
You can find your closest restaurant by checking the Chabuton website.
The drinks that appear to be vegan are: Soy latte (hot or iced, decaf or regular), tea (hot or iced), iced coffee, Doutor blend coffee, American coffee, espresso coffee, decaf coffee (hot or iced), soymilk (hot or iced), soymilk tea (hot or iced), orange juice, apple tea, peach mixed juice, apple and shikuwasa juice, and Aomori-grown apple juice. Some of the fruit drinks seem to be seasonally available. None of the food at Doutor appears to be vegan. The “coffee fresh” creamer contains milk.
Freshness Burger used to have salads that were vegan, but they are no longer on the menu. Their tofu burger and bean burger seem to come and go from their menu, but neither of them are vegan anyway. So what is vegan? Not much.
• The onion rings contain dairy and are also cooked in oil used to cook products containing dairy, egg, shrimp, beef, chicken, and pork.
• The vegetable soup contains dairy.
• All baked goods contain milk and eggs.
All that appears to be left is the fried potato (which is cooked in the same oil as products containing dairy, egg, shrimp, beef, chicken, and pork). You can get the fried potato as a set with a beer, so perhaps it’s not all bad news.
You can visit the Freshness Burger website to see the allergen information.
If you are in Tokyo you are lucky because you can visit this all vegan chain restaurant. These restaurants are in many locations around the world, but there seems to be just one in Japan.
The Loving Hut Japan website is in Japanese and there is some English too.
The supersweet corn appears to be vegan. The side salad comes with a roasted sesame dressing that contains egg. The salad appears vegan if ordered without dressing.
There are no vegan burgers or desserts and the fried potato contains beef according to the McDonald’s allergen chart.
You can see the ingredients of the menu items on the McDonald’s website (Japanese).
The fried potato and onion rings are potentially vegan, but they are cooked together with animal products. None of the burgers, soups or desserts at MOS Burger are vegan.
The toast contains egg and dairy.
You can see the ingredients in the menu items on the MOS Burger website (mostly in Japanese).
According to the Pizza La allergen chart the following items don’t contain meat, fish, dairy, egg etc (see allergen chart for all ingredients checked):
• Four season salad (with either Italian tomato dressing or vinaigrette dressing)
• Pizza La french fries and roasted potatoes (with fancy tomato sauce and/or mustard sauce)
In addition you could consider ordering a pizza with just vegetables and no cheese. You would just need to check whether the pizza base and sauce contain any animal products (they don’t seem to be separately listed on the allergen chart).
From reviewing their allergen chart it appears the following menu items may be vegan:
• Spaghetti with garlic, oil and peppers (spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino)
• Celery pickles
• Grilled potato
• Sicilian lemon sorbet
There may also be other menu items that could be modified to be vegan (e.g. salad without added animal products). For more information see the Saizeriya website.
Salvatore Cuomo Pizza
The marinara pizza appears to be vegan (see English delivery menu with allergen information on their website).
Soup Stock Tokyo
You can see full lists of their soup ingredients on their website (in Japanese but an electronic translator can help here). Their soups change regularly, but there is usually at least one vegan option available each day. They have a book of all the ingredients in each menu item available behind the counter, written in English and Japanese. Current vegan menu items are Italian tomato minestrone (hot), green vegetables & rock salt soup (hot), tomato and summer vegetable gazpacho (cold, limited to summer months), and sambar bean and vegetable spicy curry.
The soup can be eaten with plain rice (the bread contains milk and egg).
The cashew nut hoda Sri Lankan coconut curry looks like it might be vegan from the allergen marks posted on the menu outside the restaurant and by the register, but it contains dried bonito extract.
The Starbucks menu in Japan includes a soy latte, but you can also order other drinks with soy milk for an extra ¥50 (but check for other animal products such as honey and cream). Note you can get a ¥20 discount when you use your own mug, tumbler or cup! None of the food at Starbucks appears to be vegan.
In Japan, Subway is not as vegan friendly as in other countries because the sandwich bread and flat bread contains dairy products. Some of the menu items that appear from the allergen chart to be vegan are:
• Salads: avocado veggie and veggie delight salads
• Dressings: oil and vinegar, balsamic. Salt and pepper are also available.
• Oven potatoes: original and herb salt only. The red BBQ and triple cheese flavours contain milk, chicken, pork, and fish. All the oven potatoes are processed on the same factory lines as foods containing dairy and egg. The ketchup, mustard, and chili sauce appear to be vegan from the allergen chart. The ketchup is processed on the same factory line as sheep, fish, and shellfish.
• Drinks (in addition to the usual vegan options like black coffee): soy latte (iced or hot), iced soy mango latte, and mango orange smoothie
The food at Sukiya that appears to be vegan (there may be some cross-contamination) is:
• Natto (be careful with the sauce, if any. For example, it appears mackerel is used in the sauce provided in Okinawa)
• Green onions
• Salad (no dressing)
• Grated yam with wasabi
• Pickled ginger
Please note the nori sheets contain shrimp. The allergen chart says that the pickles and kimchi don’t contain shrimp, but they may still contain fish.
T’s Tan Tan
This is an all vegan ramen shop located inside the Tokyo and Ueno train stations (behind the ticket gates). It is a wonderful place where you can drop in and have a quick bowl of ramen. Visit the Vegout Tokyo blog for more information.
The tempura batter at Tenya does not contain egg or milk, but may contain traces of these ingredients (as well as other animal products such as shrimp or squid) because of cross-contamination.
The dishes at Tenya that appear from a review of their allergen chart to be vegan are:
• Vegetable tendon (without the sauce as it contains fish)
• Assorted vegetable tempura
• Individual pieces of vegetable tempura – pumpkin, young corn, okra, lotus root, sweet potato, maitake mushroom, and matsutake mushroom (matsutake mushroom seasonally available and only sold at certain branches)
• Cold tofu (ask for no fish flakes)
• Boiled spinach (ask for no fish flakes)
• Flower pickles
The allergen chart says:
• The cold soba sets contains mackerel and the hot soba set contains mackerel and egg.
• The cold udon set contains mackerel and the hot udon set contains mackerel and egg (the child’s udon – hot and cold – also contains mackerel and egg).
The mackerel may just be in the dipping sauce, but if you are going to order the soba or udon it may be a good idea to check the ingredients with the staff.
The miso soup probably contains fish dashi (although the allergen chart does not say this).
You can order a soy latte, or another drink from the menu with soy milk for an extra ¥50 (but check for other animal products such as honey and cream). The Date and Cacao Raw Brownie bar is vegan (the T’s Acai Berry Sorbet contains gelatine).