Harajuku, Shibuya, Omotesando, Yebisu & Roppongi
Brown Rice by Neals' Yard Remedies ($$, Macrobiotic, Organic, 🌱)
Mon-Fri: 12:00-17:00; Sat-Sun: 11:30-18:00 (last order one hour before closing).
One minute’s walk from Omotesando Station, Exit 1. Take the first left into a small alleyway, and it will be on your right.
〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前5-1-8 1F
5-1-8 jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0001
healthy, beautifully presented macrobiotic meals.
Moderately expensive, but excellent value given the food, interior and location.
Restaurant 8ablish ($$, Fusion, 🌱)
Twenty minutes’ walk from Harajuku Station and the entrances to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Jingu Shrine.
5 Chome-10-17 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062
A little expensive for the portion sizes.
Olu Olu Café ($$, Hawaiian, 🌱, ❓)
1 Chome-11-1 Ikejiri, Setagaya, Tokyo 154-0001
A little bit off the tourist route, but well worth the trip on the subway.
Peace Café Hawaii ($, Western, 🌱)
Inside the B2 food court of the Shibuya Scramble Building, five minutes’ walk southeast of Shibuya Crossing. Peace Café is just beside the information counter at the far right-hand corner of the building if coming down the escalators from the building’s main entrance.
Tokyu Food Show Edge B2F, 2 Chome-24-12 Shibuya, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0002
Only standing room for eating (but excellent for take-out meals).
Nagi Shokudo ($$, Macrobiotic, 🌱, ❓)
15-10 Uguisudanicho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0032
Crowded, run-down interior.
Kuumba Du Falafel ($$, Middle Eastern, 🌱)
ME Building.1F 23-1 Shinsen-chou, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0045
Long walk uphill; little seating in or near the café; unfriendly staff.
Hemp Café Tokyo ($$$, Raw, Hemp, 🌱, ❓)
3-17-14-8F, Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Japan 150-0011
Small, expensive portions (but prices are fair for raw food).
Ko-So Café ($$, Western, Fusion, 🌱)
(Ko-So is actually on the east side of the train tracks, but due to the layout of the roads it’s faster to get there from the West Exit).
3-25-3 Higashi | Lions Plaza Ebisu 1F, Shibuya 150-0011, Tokyo
Ballon Tokyo ($$, Falafel, Ice Cream, 🌱)
〒153-0061 Tōkyō-to, Meguro City, Nakameguro, 3-chōme−2−19 Ramiaru, Nakameguro 153-0061
It’s a convenient stop on the way to Yokohama, and close to the famous Meguro River cherry blossom promenade.
Limited choice compared with other falafel joints in Tokyo.
Falafel Brothers Roppongi (ファラフェルブラザーズ, $, Takeout Only, 🌱)
1F, 5-1-10, Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0032
Often nowhere to eat it.
Akihabara (秋葉原), Ueno (上野) & Asakusa (浅草)
Komaki Shokudou Kamakura Fushikian ($$, Japanese, こまきしょくどう 鎌倉不識庵, 🌱)
Chiyoda-ku, Neribeicho, 8-2 Kanda 101-0022
It’s not nearly as good as shojin ryori served in temples; it’s expensive; rules about minimum purchases.
Taiwan Shokudo ($, Taiwanese, 🥛, ❓)
A pleasant half-hour walk south along (and across) the Sumida River.
1 Chome-14-6 Ryōgoku, Sumida City, Tokyo 130-0026
Nezu no Ya ($$, Japanese, Macrobiotic, , 根津の谷, 🌱)
1-1-14 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
The attached organic shop sells animal products.
Vege Herb Saga ($$, Indian, ヴェジハーブサーガ, 🥛)
5-22-1, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
It’s like being in India.
Veg Kitchen ($$, Indian, ベジキッチン, 🥛)
3 Chome-44-8 Taito, Taitō, Tokyo 110-0016
Food is not as authentic (or, in my opinion, as good) as at Veggie Herb Saga.
Unlike Veggie Herb Saga, the Veg Kitchen serves alcohol, and sometimes allows diners to smoke at their tables.
PQ's ($, Fusion, 🌱, ❓)
But you don’t need to have any political background to appreciate their honest good food. PQ’s offers a set menu of pasta, curry and bagels, with meals starting from ¥1,000. They also serve good drinks, making this a great place to hang out after visiting Asakusa.
Sasaya Café ($$, Japanese, Indian, Fusion, , ササヤカフェ, 🍯)
1-1-10 Yokokawa, Sumida, Tokyo
Close to Skytree and Asakusa.
|Tempeh curry set.|
Sasaya is one of Tokyo’s best cafes: It serves delicious, large meals, with hearty sets going for around ¥1,000-¥1,500. Like Gopinatha, it serves Indian-inspired dishes with a Japanese twist. I recommend Sasaya’s Tempeh cutlets and South Indian sambar (shown in the photo above); the two complement each other surprisingly well. Its interior is warm and spacious, and it overlooks a small park which follows a stream almost all the way to the Tokyo Skytree. If you don’t take my advice to go up Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building instead of the Skytree, then I recommend coming here while you wait for your turn to queue up, or (if you get the Fast Ticket) any time before or after your visit there.
But it’s worth considering coming here even if you don’t go to the Skytree, especially if you have PC work (or reading) to get done, as it’s only one stop on the Asakusa Line (¥180) and a pleasant ten-minute walk from Asakusa Station. Despite being so close to the Skytree, most of Sasaya’s clientele are local Japanese, many of whom come to bring their children to the park outside. The menu is vegan except for honey in some items (please ask).
Ginza & Chiyoda
Ain Soph Ginza ($$, Japanese, 🌱)
Seven minutes’ walk from Ginza Station and the Ginza shopping district.
4 Chome-12-1 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061
Great price given the location.
This branch of the large Ain Soph chain is a fittingly posh restaurant for Ginza, and the perfect place to finish off your Ginza shopping spree, with sets in the ¥2,000-¥4,000 range. Their pancakes are especially popular. The food is certainly good, but the value is better at the ‘Journey’ branches, including the Shinjuku branch and Kyoto branch.
Food Inside Tokyo Station
T’s Tantan ($, Japanese Noodles, T's たんたん 東京駅京葉ストリート店, 🌱)
Tokyo’s most famous vegan restaurant, popular even among non-vegetarians.
Inexpensive take-outs available.
This is fast food, so it’s important to eat and move on reasonably quickly.
T’s Tantan is undoubtedly Japan’s most popular and most famous vegan business, and is the only eatery at which virtually all vegan (and vegetarian) visitors to Japan dine at least once and usually several times. After the owner’s oldest child left home, she decided to open a restaurant (T’s Jiyugaoka, which I recommend visiting on the way to Yokohama) to serve the kind of healthy food that she liked to eat herself and cook for her family. It was so successful (despite being in an underground basement well off the tourist trail) that when a special health-focussed food “alley” (the underground Keio Street) opened inside Tokyo Station she was invited to open a store. She came up with the idea of a fast, healthy, inexpensive but still very Japanese menu, and it was such a success that what started out as a retirement project has now become the career she never planned, having spent most of her adult life raising a family. She has since opened branches in Ueno Station (recommended in that itinerary) and also one at Narita Airport, Tokyo’s main international airport. She also sells packaged ramen (available in the stores) and bento boxes at Haneda International Airport.
While the focus is its namesake tantan (a type of thin noodle, commonly confused by foreigners with ramen) the menu has expanded to include a (seasonal) Thai Masaman curry, and more recently sandwiches. There is a limited breakfast menu until 11:00. If you are passing through the station and don’t know where you’ll eat in your itinerary (which hopefully won’t happen with this guide) then eat well here and take out a sandwich or two. It’s especially important for this itinerary, because it involves a lot of walking, and there is nowhere good to eat around the Imperial Gardens.
Loving Hut Japan ($, Japanese, Taiwanese, , ラビングハット, 🌱)
Okada Bldg 2F, 1-54, Kandajinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0051
Update this restaurant.
|The Saturday buffet is Japan's only regular vegan buffet, and the best-value buffet meal in the country.|
Unfortunately, it is suspended due to the State of Emergency.
Loving Huts don’t serve alcohol, in fitting with the spiritual teachings of the chain’s founder, international humanitarian and spiritual teacher Supreme Master Ching Hai. This must make running the restaurant so much harder, because the standard business model in Japan is to give away food at little over cost price and to make profit from alcoholic drinks, and this model sets the prices which people expect to pay for food.
The peaceful atmosphere inside the Loving Hut, and the noble work of the organisation behind it, makes for a welcome contrast with the horrors of World War II when visited after Yasakuni Shrine.
Shinjuku, Nakano & KoenjiShinjuku is the home of the sarariiman (salaryman, or male office workers), although the Japanese business world is now slowly becoming more open to women. Nakano is home to Japan's largest mall selling manga (comic book) and other related paraphernalia, and also the city's best Japanese-Indian food and its only vegan pub. Koenji is the home of the underground music and cultural scene, and features a lot of used clothing stores. All have some good vegan restaurants.
SOJO Esperanto-Vegana Kafejo ($, Fusion, 🌱)
From Shinjuku, take the JR Yamanote (loop) Line or JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line or Saikyo Line north to Takadanobaba Station, and then change to the Tozai (subway) Line east towards NishFunabashi. Waseda Station is the first stop.
A chance to learn about Esperanto from a friendly, multi-lingual owner.
A short trip on the subway from Shinjuku’s attractions, but well worth the trip.
SOJO is one of Tokyo’s most unique and best-value dining opportunities, so I highly recommend a visit to anyone who can make it to Waseda, which is twenty-five minutes by subway from Shinjuku Station, and home to Waseda University, one of Japan’s most prestigious academic institutions.
SOJO means Soy in Esperanto, the world’s most widely spoken constructed language. Esperanto was developed by a Polish Jew in the late nineteenth century, while he was still in high school. He was motivated by a dream of a world in which everyone could communicate with each other, and the peace and understanding which he believed this would foster. As a constructed language, Esperanto has none of the difficulties inherent in languages which evolved over time, such as irregular verbs and tenses, so to reach the same standard in German, English and Esperanto takes 2000, 1500 and 150 hours respectively. Most nouns come from Germanic languages (and many are recognisable from English) and the grammar is mostly from Slavic languages – chosen of course to be as simple to learn and use as possible. Studies have shown that teaching Esperanto to young children makes learning other languages easier in the future.
While many people believe that English has become the world’s language, and Google Translate now makes instant communication possible among almost anyone, the talented owner and chef of SOJO, who is quite a linguist himself, passionately believes that there is still a place for an international language which puts everyone on an equal footing, and while discussions about Esperanto are not compulsory, the restaurant’s décor and trilingual menu (Esperanto, Japanese and English) can’t help but inspire one to at least ponder the merits of everyone in the world speaking one universal language (as well as their own mother tongue).
The menu includes a changing daily dish (for regular visitors from the university), and a few other hearty meals, including a chick-pea curry. The set meals are especially good value; a meal, drink and delicious banana-based ice cream come to around ¥1,200.
Nakano (中野)This small ward, officially called Nakano City in English, is famous for its manga centre (below) but is also worth visiting for a cluster of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, especially since it’s so easily accessible from Shinjuku.
Gopinatha ($, Vegetarian, Indian/Japanese Fusion, 🥛 , やさい食堂 ゴピナータ)
Nakano 5-Chome, 17-10
Difficult to find without Google Maps.
Gopinatha serves Japan’s best Japanese Indian fusion food. This is no easy feat, because Indian cuisine is based on aromatic spices, while the elegance of Japanese cooking lies in its simplicity, and how its delicate preparation brings out natural flavours. While fans of authentic Indian food may be more satisfied at Veggie Herb Saga (or the neighbouring Veg Kitchen) in Ueno, fans of Japanese and Indian food are likely to enjoy Gopinathas more, as the talented chef here somehow captures the essence of both cuisines. I especially like their Pakoras and the aromatic tomato sauce which comes with them. It’s also great value, with satisfying set meals starting at around ¥1,000.
Sasaya Café (in Asakusa, near the Tokyo Skytree) also serves great Indian Japanese fusion food. Overall Gopinatha’s menu is more Indian and Sasaya’s is more Japanese, but both are very good.
Koenji (高円寺)Koenji is the centre of Japan’s alternative (underground) culture, and is home to many live houses (pubs which host live bands) and used clothing and record stores, mostly on the south side of Koenji Station. Despite being so close to the hub of Shinjuku, Koenji escaped most of building boom during the 1980s bubble, so it preserves an older Tokyo vibe, with smaller houses and restaurants, in stark contrast to the usual skyscrapers which dominate Shinjuku (and almost everywhere else in Tokyo). This led to cheaper rents, which encouraged artists and musicians, who over the decades have given Koenji its unique character.
Meu Nota ($, Macrobiotic, Fusion, 🌱)
Koenji South 3-Chome, 45-11
Reservations required for dinner.
Meu Nota has stood the test of time and become one of Tokyo’s more popular vegan restaurants. Its focus is on healthy grains, but it serves a much wider range of cuisines than most macrobiotic restaurants, including Middle Eastern and Indian options. Lunch sets are excellent value at under ¥1,000, and this is when I recommend visiting. Dinner courses must be reserved in advance (by phone or Facebook) and are either ¥2,500 or ¥3,000, but customers are also expected to order a drink (around ¥500). These prices are reasonable, and the food is good (but not exceptional), so it’s worth considering if you know you’ll be in the area and will be hungry at the time, but I wouldn’t go to Koenji just for dinner (or lunch).
The menu at Meu Nota is not unlike Nagi Shokudo in Shibuya (where most visitors to Koenji are also likely to spend some time) but its prices are lower and its interior is more pleasant, perhaps because rents are cheaper.
$ = inexpensive ( <¥1000)
$$ = midrange (¥1,000-$2,000)
$$$ = expensive (>¥5000)
Veg StatusFor practical reasons I categorise restaurants by the ‘worst’ ingredients used.
🌱 = fully vegan restaurant.
🥛 = uses dairy, but not egg or meat.
(In my guidebooks I also have symbols for egg and meat, but I don't recommend any restaurants in these categories in Tokyo except for ones inside Tokyo Disneyland.
General Advice for Being Vegan in Tokyo
Use HappyCowHappycow (Android App) is great for finding nearby restaurants. I recommend keeping it set to vegan, as these restaurants are generally the best (even for vegetarians or inspiring vegetarians). As a nation Japanese are probably the most honest in the world, and it's rare to find vegan restaurants serving animal products, but of course it's always a good idea to keep an idea out for animal ingredients, especially fish products, because occasionally foreign travellers misunderstand that a restaurant is vegan (especially tofu and/or vegetable-based restaurants) and then add them to Happycow.
However, I suggest two cautions with Happycow. Firstly, take reviews with a grain of salt. In Japan standards of food (and everything) are very high, and portions are very small. So almost every restaurant has had a few foreign diners turn up hungry having just arrived in Japan -- or having been travelling rural Japan where there are no vegan restaurants) and be so delighted with their meal that they consider it the best of their life, go back to their room and write it a glowing review. Likewise, many restaurants have had a foreign tourist horrified by the 'Japanese' (small) size of the meal and go and write a bitter review on how they spent ¥2,000 on what was like a snack.
Happycow is much more useful in Tokyo than in Kyoto. Here's why: in Tokyo most restaurants serve either macrobiotic food, falafel, or Indian food, and while I have a few favourites (like Vege Herb Saga and the Loving Hut) there are few-standouts, while Tokyo's tourist attractions are very widely spread out, so I suggest planning your day around attractions and eating at whatever restaurants you can find nearby on Happycow.
Kyoto, by comparison, has a huge range of vegan restaurants, from 'cheap & cheerful' tourist traps to high-end shojin ryori (vegan Buddhist) cuisine. Also, the city is much smaller, so with careful planning (which I do for my readers in my guidebook) it's possible to go visit your chosen tourist attractions (which are mostly on a few well-trodden temple hopping paths) and restaurants, wherever you decide to eat. It's therefore very important to choose your Kyoto restaurants carefully. While Happycow is certainly invaluable, the downside is that most reviews are written by people who are not familiar with Japanese cuisine and only dine at a small number of restaurants, so comparing restaurants by their Happycow reviews can be misleading.