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April 12, 2010

Vegetarian options in Tokyo

Veggie tempura

Rusha Haljuci's March 21, 2010 New York Times Travel section response to a reader's request for places to go for vegetarians visiting Tokyo follows.


To answer your question, I contacted Ken Belson, a reporter at The Times who lived in Japan for 12 years. In an e-mail message, he wrote that strict vegans may have trouble finding food because many dishes are cooked with pork or fish broth and mixed with bits of fish or meat, and without knowledge of Japanese, it can be hard to communicate your needs. “Still, there are many ways to survive as a vegetarian,” he wrote. He recommended shopping at convenience stores and supermarkets, which carry vegetarian food, as well as eating at kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi restaurants where you can pick out what you like.

I also came across two helpful Web sites that provide a list of vegetarian restaurants. At the vegetarian-centric site Happycow.net you can search by location (Tokyo included) and get a list of restaurants flagged as “Vegan,” “Vegetarian,” “Veg-friendly” or “Health Store.” Bento.com is a bilingual site that lists restaurants, cafes and bars throughout Japan. Click on “Tokyo area” then scroll down and select “Vegetarian” cuisine. The traditional Zen vegetarian cuisine, shojin-ryori, which is served in temples, can be found in a handful of restaurants, including Sasa-no-yuki (2-15-10 Negishi, Taito-ku; 81-3-3873 1145; sasanoyuki.com), which opened in 1691 and specializes in tofu dishes; and Itosho (3-4-7 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku; 81-3-3454-6538).


Times readers' comments on the piece were far more informative than the article; the best follow.

• Tempura restaurants will serve a vegetable-only meal by request. Tenya is a large chain that serves "yasai tempura teishoku" of deep-fried sweet potato, bamboo shoots, eggplant, maitake mushrooms, kabocha squash, and green beans for only 650 JPY.


• Daigo is a vegetarian restaurant in Atago with a gorgeous Japanese garden. A bit on the high end.

Minato-ku, Atago 2-3-1
Tel. 03-3431-0811


• Na Kaiseki Sen is a vegetarian restaurant by chef and owner Yumiko Kano. She has been included in a Mark Bitterman article in the past. Chef Kano has authored a dozen cookbooks all based on vegetarian cooking. She is a creative and talented chef. She does run a cooking school from her restaurant and as a result it is open on a limited schedule.

Na Kaiseki Sen
Setagaya-ku, Shimouma 5-35-5
Tel. 03-5779-6571


• One of my favorite restaurants in the city is Kintame. It is a pickle shop that is based in Kyoto and has a restaurant on the 12th floor of Daimaru department store at Tokyo station. Order the bubuchazuke and you will get a variety of over a dozen different types of pickles. The meal comes with fish and I believe the egg uses fish-based dashi so watch out for these. But, to try a variety of vegetables pickled in a variety of ways it is a unique dining treat in Japan.


• While there are places in Japan where being a vegetarian/vegan is extremely difficult, Tokyo is not one. ^^; In 2007, I bought a wonderful Guide called Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide (website for where to buy this book: http://www.childrenofthecarrot.info... ) which lists tons of restaurants in Tokyo that are vegan. My favorites are: Eat More Greens, Loving Hut, DevaDeva Cafe, The Brown Rice Cafe and the Pure Cafe. Deserving honorable mention Govindas, Saishoku Kenbi buffet and ChienFu out in Tachikawa. Many of these restaurants are reasonably priced and many are convenient and easy to get to.

• The website Vege-Navi has a large list of vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic options in and around Tokyo.
http://vege-navi.jp/ (follow the link at the top for the English page)


April 12, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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