Where to Eat the Best Food in Tokyo
People like to tell me it is incredibly difficult to eat vegan or healthy food in Japan. I say that’s absolutely not true, but I do have the benefit of travelling either with fluent Japanese speakers or people who eat the same way I do. Which makes a world of difference, sure, but despite that, there are more vegan places in Tokyo than I’ve even had time to consider, so it’s not much of a drought over there, that’s for sure. It just takes, like anything, a little research, preparation, and a working google maps on your phone.
This next trip to Japan in September for the Late Summer in Niseko Retreat (are you coming next year?!) will be trip number 11 for me in the past 10 years of travelling regularly to Japan. As if I could love the country any more, in these last ten years I’ve watched the vegan food (and coffee!) scene completely explode. Like anything in Japan (in my humble opinion) they do it better than anywhere else. Below are my favourite places to eat great food in Tokyo,
Okay I know this place is like bougie or however you want to say it, but it’s my favourite, ever. There’s three options, the curry set, the steamed vegetable set & the seasonal set. The seasonal is usually my favourite but they’re all, always amazing. Sure it’s not a 500yen tempura don, but it’s all incredible clean, light and made with care. Everything is organic and local where possible, and there is an endless drinks menu that I hope to work my way through over time. At the many Tokyo vegan spots the emphasis is on Western food, so anytime there is an opportunity to eat more traditional Japanese or macrobiotic, I’m on it. Brown Rice Cafe is run by Neals Yard Remedies so everything always smells amazing, and you’ll get a little 10% off voucher to use in store after your meal.
Okay lets go polar opposite aesthetics wise, to a tiny ramen spot in the backstreets of Shimokitazawa. This is my favourite ramen in Tokyo. It seats about 8 people (at a squish) around low tables on tatami. It’s not a trendy, white walls spot. All the food is cooked in front of you by an older guy who turned his regular ramen shop into 100% vegan when learning about the health benefits of not eating animal products. There’s no MSG or weird additives in the ramen and everything is made in the tiny space. Go here for when you’re having ramen cravings (he also does gyoza and soy karrage if thats your thing!) or want to impress a staunch non-vegan with something authentic and purposefully uncool.
Absolutely not vegan but every time I have been they’ve had vegan options (usually a salad, an onigiri & a sweet). Last time I was here I had a salad that potentially changed my life after years of believing I shouldn’t eat raw salads based on what I’d been told in the past about my constitution. I didn’t even think I liked salad. It blew my mind. The menu changes regularly and is based on region and season. From what I understand every element, every vegetable, seasoning, sake etc is either organic, local, made made in small batches etc, though it’s worth it to come here for coffee and sweets alone. They also have a small stand of rotating grocery items to buy like konbu seaweed, organic hojicha, spice mixes etc. Arrive for opening time if you don’t want to line up.
Nice place for a date night, or special dinner. Not too high end, but definitely a vibe-y interior with low lighting. 8ablish serves really high quality western food (Italian & Mediterranean mostly) and has the best vegan (soft serve) ice cream I’ve ever found, and I’m not even an ice cream person. Order a few share plates and a local organic beer or wine. Also has a small shop section of vegan snacks and low waste products. Can buy sweets and ice cream takeaway.
Not a specific place, but a food truck court. Commune is great because you can drop in after wandering around harajuku / omotesando for a quick bite or a drink, and you won’t have to argue with your non-vegan friends about where to go. Last time I was here there were two trucks with vegan options, hopefully there are more now! It’s also right around the corner from blue bottle and shozo coffee (do me a favour and choose shozo - it’s so much better!)
Markets & Grocery Stores
The Ayoama Farmers Market is never disappointing. Here you can grab green juice (word of warning - green juice in Japan can be INTENSE and often has things like cabbage and mustard greens. If you’re not into a deep green taste - tread carefully - because it’s also not cheap!) There is usually at least one vegan food truck and a vegan / macrobiotic sweets stand, as well as all the fresh produce, ginger syrups, tea, oils and so on. One of my favourite places to wander around uninterrupted.
Natural House is a health food store with plenty of marked vegan options, herbal teas and fresh organic produce. The larger stores often have a self serve food section with clearly marked vegan options, roasted sweet potatoes and so on, that are great for when you want something to eat in a park, or take a break from restaurants cafes.
NOTE: always look up if a spot will be open before trekking to it / planning your whole night around it. Japanese small businesses are notorious for opening and closing when they please, and having weird as hell hours like, closed every third Tuesday or when the moon is a quarter full. JUST SAYING. Have a back up plan.