Vegetarian’s Survival Guide to Japan: Some False Friends and 10 Good Options

**This blog will be deleted by December, 2020.

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For those vegan and vegetarian friends travelling in Japan, is a tricky place! There are many restaurants with vegetable options on the menu. However, contrary to popular opinion, many vegetable options in restaurants use fish ingredients in the process of cooking, the sauce, or garnishing.

I am leaving the photos here for your reference as they will not go into the new blog.

Vegetarian-looking food with meat. It has おぼろ oboro (minced meat).


To Avoid

If you are shopping at the supermarket or ordering, avoid words with the fish character (魚), such as 鮪、鰹節、鯖、鯵. 

These are 3 examples of vegetarian friendly rice balls, onigiri, at a convenience store.

Vegetarian Foods

1. Rice balls (おにぎり onigiri)* Select ones

2. Green Soy Beans 枝豆 Edamame 

3. Soy Milk

4. Traditional Japanese Sweets

5. Tempura (veggies) 野菜天ぷら yasai tempura

Squash and green bean tempura.

6. Tofu 豆腐

Tofu set meal at Okutan in Kyoto

7. Sauteed and Simmered Veggies きんぴら Kinpira

8. Pickles 漬物 tsukemono

9. Skewers 串物 Kushimono 

10. Daikon Dishes 大根 Daikon

 *Note: Some fast food chains have vegetarian options. The chain Mos Burger may have a kinpira rice burger on the menu that is vegetarian.

Athena Lam

A content marketing strategist and consultant.

5 thoughts on “Vegetarian’s Survival Guide to Japan: Some False Friends and 10 Good Options

  1. This is incredibly helpful. Thank you. We are going in a few weeks and I am looking for a phrase I can write out in Japanese to explain the restaurants / shop assistants that we can’t eat fish flakes, chicken / fish stock, meat, fish, etc etc. Do you know where I could find this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jodie,
      I’m glad to hear this is helpful!

      You won’t need to specify all that because the way Japanese stock is prepared, all stock is prepared with meat or fish unless it is explicitly stated as vegetarian. You are better off memorizing the words 野菜 (vegetables) or 素 (vegetarian).

      The simpler way to say it, for example, is to say: 出汁を食べない。
      That you don’t eat dashi stock.
      For the same reason, I also suggest you just keep to the sentence that you are vegetarian.

      Watashi wa bejitarian desu.
      I am vegetarian.

      Yasai dake tabemasu.
      I only eat vegetables.

      [Insert food]を食べられない。
      [insert food] wo taberarenai.
      I cannot eat [insert food]


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