Vegan food in Japan

Wow, I cannot believe we went to Japan in March/April and I still have not made my food blog! I have been super manic this year, my day job has been extra crazy, plus my photography has been busier too. Time really does fly by!
I will probably make multiple blog posts for Japan as there are so many things to talk about and so many photos to share. This first blog will simply be about food...glorious food.

I wish I had written down more details or saved more websites as I was going along, so sorry for not having all the details or websites for each and every meal :(

However, I hope you can still see how awesome the food was! About 90% of the images are taken on my phone, so not always amazing photos. I didn't want to get my Nikon out for every meal as I was having too much fun, plus so much walking made me extra hungry and the plates were not full for long.

My Husband and I had wanted to go to Japan for a long time, way before we were vegan. So when we finally came around to deciding on 2018 and booking the flights we didn't really think about vegan choices in Japan, we were set on going regardless of our possible lack of food options. We had accepted that we may be living on rice and veggies for over three weeks and we decided not to worry about it till nearer the time. A few months before-hand I had a quick research on the good old Google and I was pleasantly surprised to see a few blogs showcasing some vegan restaurants in Japan (mostly Tokyo), I also had a quick browse through Happy Cow for each place we were staying, I was able to find at least two or three veggie/vegan places for all destinations. After discovering that Japan might not be so anti Vegan we were even more excited to go!

Our cute apartment in Tokyo - loved it so much! Biggest place we stayed. Had the largest kitchen and nicest bathroom too. 

Our first stop in Japan was Tokyo and it was certainly the easiest place we visited to find Vegan food. I will start off with our most memorable meal of the holiday, an adorable little place called "Itosho". We were exploring Tokyo and as usual became pretty hungry so we simply looked for the closest vegan place on the Happy Cow app. We were not to sure if we were at the right place as it was down a little side street and was not lit up very well, we knocked on the wooden door and waited. A man appeared and he spoke very little English but he wrote down some prices on a piece of paper, I was shocked to say the least! I told my Husband he must be wrong and we can't possibly pay that much, so we thanked him and decided to leave to find somewhere else. As we were walking away Craig looked up the restaurant again and came to the knowledge that it is in-fact a Michelin star restaurant and had amazing reviews. We worked out in English pounds it was roughly £75 per person. There was not much else in the area, our stomachs were growling and our feet aching so we decided to take an expensive chance! (plus maybe have Japanese pot noodles and rice balls for the next couple of nights!)


ITOSHO 



To be honest I was not 100% on some of the things we were eating (other than it being a traditional Buddhist vegan cuisine), the chef's English was not great and of course my Japanese is totally pathetic. He and his granddaughter did explain to us as best they could and they took such good care of us! We were there for over 2 hours, we had our own private room and were treated like royalty. I will try to give a brief description of some of the dishes best I can, but honestly it was all totally amazing...like nothing I have ever experienced.


To start we had some really strong but lovely Matcha tea with a small biscuit of sorts. We had water topped up through out too. Secondly was a trio of various things, beans, pickles and spinach with flowers. Sounds overly simple and strange I know! but trust me the flavours were just outstanding.



We then had a miso soup of somekind with seaweed and other green veggies, really tasty. The following dish was maybe Craig's fave, it was a weird take on vegetable tempura but what I can only describe as pop corn tempura.



We also had mushrooms with rice (this place had the best tasting mushrooms I have ever tasted), also some of these dishes also came with a bowl of rice on the side, we certainly did not go hungry.
The dish below was really interesting, some kind of pickled veggies with cooked rice balls, but the black stuff was like a black sesame paste over vegetables...looks disgusting but tasted awesome.



A dish I had actually seen before was cold soda noodles with seaweed and of course soy sauce and wasabi. The dish after consisted of pickles, rice with sesame seeds and a kind of mushroom broth/soup. The mushrooms were the cutest little mushrooms I had ever seen.



I have no idea how to describe the above dish, I know it is vegan and that is about it! We actually had a very similar thing at a place in Nikko. It is some sort of vegetable (like stems of a plant) in a gooey, almost pudding like wrap, it actually tastes fantastic.

 

To finish we had a huge piece of fresh melon and a green tea. We were absolutely stuffed after so many courses and we were so happy we decided to try it out. The Buddhist owner was so friendly and lovely to be around, he also gave us a free set of chop sticks each to take home, apparently made with yew wood which is meant to have anti-cancer properties. Whether or not that is true it was still a nice gift and we have used them at home a lot :)



T's Tantan



When looking for vegan places ahead of our trip I came across a blog which gave a great review of T's Tantan, so I was very eager to go. We had a bit of trouble finding the place at first, we didn't read the Happy Cow listing properly and did not realise that it was inside the station meaning you needed to purchase a ticket etc...as we were going to explore some of Tokyo on the subway anyway we just got a ticket and began our search again. After a minor falling out from stress of trying to find glorious ramen food we eventually got there only to have to queue! We were determined to not waste the previous 30 minutes and in the end the queue moved pretty quickly.
Omg, it was worth it! Amazing price and quick service, yet such tasty food. We ended up eating there three times (twice at the branch near Keiyo line and another time in Ueno station)


T's Tantan is all vegan and most of the menu is various ramen, curries and some side dishes. All the meals we had were amazing, huge portions too! I couldn't even finish my meal on two occasions.
See below an example of the menu (from Happy Cow), really good menu for labeling things in English too. To be honest we found things in Tokyo often had the English words alongside or the staff were able to help us.

(Image from Happy Cow)

I tried a few different side dishes such as fresh greens which were just great to eat on their own or to add to the dish. The dumplings were also good, as were the "chicken" pieces made from soy.

The dishes below are the black sesame tantan and the gold sesame tantan ramen (apparently a Japanese-Chinese hybrid ramen) both full of flavour and there is a bit of a hot kick to most of them, especially when you add extra chilli flakes!

The first image above in the red bowl is the Veggie-tonkotsu ramen which is amazing as it comes with the nori strips which add such a individual taste. We loved this so much that we purchased some when we got back to the UK and I will be honest Craig has made some really great ramens, I will show you on another blog :)



We also bought a couple of the T's Tantan take away pot noodles, these were pretty good and really convenient. You simply add hot water as you would with a pot noodle and you are good to go. We had ours for our first night in Hakone as we didn't get to our apartment till late and there was always a kettle our rooms, for much needed green tea. Perfect to eat in your room as it is no mess but fills you up and tastes great. If you are ever Tokyo and travelling further afield I would certainly suggest buying a few of these if you have room in your bags, we had a few other pot noodle style meals from convenience stores but it was great to know that these ones are totally vegan (without attempting to read the packaging for two hours).



Ain Soph (Ginza, Tokyo)

Another place I had read about on a couple of blogs before our trip was the "Ain Soph" chain of little restaurants. Happy Cow said there were a couple of these in Tokyo but one we visited seemed to be permanently closed, thankfully we found another one which was well and truly open and well worth searching for! It was in Ginza, near a station and pretty close to some of the gorgeous parks and sights.
It was pretty small, downstairs was a counter where you could choose some takeaway options (plus yummy cookies) and upstairs only seated about 16. We had a really fresh and delicious salad with some green tea, followed by the most amazing pancakes with ice cream, nuts, creams and syrups. It was to die for. The pancakes were somewhere in-between an american style pancake and a scone...just beautiful and it all looked so pretty too.
The staff were all very welcoming and extremely friendly, this was also the first place that we encountered the little baskets under your chairs for your bags/belongings! This seemed to be a common thing in Japan and what a fab idea.
I would highly recommend anyone to go here, especially for breakfast and the pancakes were really filling but not stodgy and the salad was so fresh and healthy but was still flavoursome.






So, I have only mentioned three places in Tokyo so far and already the post is quite long (well for me anyhow!) I will leave it there and do another post asap with more amazing vegan food from Japan! I still have more restaurants from Tokyo to talk about as well as all the other places we visited such as Kyoto and Hiroshima.
In the meantime you can check out some of my shots from Tokyo below, thanks for reading, much love C x






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