Asia,  Garbage Gobbles,  Travel,  Travel Rambles

Garbage Gobbles: Japan Ed.

It’s not a secret that I am a big food-traveler – heck, that’s the entire reason I spit out these Garbage Gobbles sections!

Being a vegetarian, I love seeking out all of the adventurous and veg-friendly options that a new place has to present. Some cities are better than others, but generally I can almost always find a spot that keeps me coming back.

While on my European escapades, I was able to navigate most menus for veggie cuisine, as I am able to speak German and also know a bit of Spanish.

Japan presented a different challenge though. You see, Japanese is not a language I am familiar with.

At all.

And even after trying to memorize “Is this vegetarian?”, I was still embarrassingly unable to remember it.

But – even if I had remembered the right sayings, vegetarianism is not the diet choice in Japan like it is in the U.S. Even the meatiest of restaurants in the U.S. typically have at least a side that I can get, but this was not so in Japan. Most of the ramen joints only had noodles cooked in chicken broth, and almost all of the menus posted outside of restaurants we viewed were of steak or fish.

Luckily, I’d read up on this as being a potential problem before we arrived and made sure to write down a handful of googled, vegetarian options. Below I list several safe options for vegetarians and delicious options for anyone!

Goals & Garbage - A photo of ice cream in Tokyo

In General:

  • 7/11

Bottomless mimosas and brunch are not a staple in Japan like they are in the U.S. In fact, it was a bit difficult for David and I to find any breakfast spots that were also vegetarian friendly.

Before we left for our trip, however, our extensive research led us to find out that 7/11’s in Japan are leagues better than 7/11’s around here. Due to the high reviews, we made it a priority to find one immediately upon arrival. Luckily they are on nearly every street corner – which was a bonus, because we went daily once we saw for ourselves how great they are.

Umbrellas, sake, orange juice, breakfast items, and tons of coffee were all purchased by us from here. Every morning we would try a different breakfast pastry and then walk the calories off in exploration.

  • Vending Machines

Up next on the more affordable of food options in Japan are vending machines. These too are amply located throughout main city streets, with sometimes even three or four sitting next to one another. On the inside they are filled with (mostly liquid) goodies, from coffee to tea to juice.

My favorite vending machine purchase was a Pokemon-themed juice in Shinjuku. It reminded me of V8, which is not what I expected Pikachu blood to taste like.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of a vending machine in Tokyo

Goals & Garbage - A photo of juice in Tokyo

  • Street Vendors

If you are still looking to dine relatively cheaply and/or are having trouble finding vegetarian choices, then street vendors are a great choice.

While not as cheap as some of the street food that you can find in other countries, the price is still very reasonable. For an on average $3 per food item, we got rice dumplings drizzled in tangy sauce, fried red-bean pastries, bamboo and cherry blossom flavored ice creams, gold-flake infused matcha, and more.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of dumplings and matcha in Kyoto

Tokyo:

  • T’s TanTan

T’s TanTan is my highest recommendation for vegetarian, Japanese ramen. In our 7-ish days here, we ate here 8 times.

Yes, 8 times.

Located in Tokyo’s train station, T’s Tan Tan is stuck in a little nook once you pass the gates. It’s a bit hard to find, but any Information stand will be happy to direct you.

The reason this restaurant is my highest recommendation is because it is completely vegan.  There are pages of options for different ramen’s to try, which is one of the reasons we kept coming back. Sesame seed, spicy, vegan chik’n – they were all salty and delicious. Not to mention, their vegan dumplings are a must!

Goals & Garbage - A photo of the author eating ramen in Tokyo

  • Olu Olu Cafe

Olu Olu Cafe is a bit out of the way, but we were happy to have taken the trek to get there.

This cafe is also located in Tokyo, is 100% vegan, and is totally themed around Hawaii. Their decor included surf boards, palm trees, and books about the islands.

Most of the menu is centered in the same way, and I got a fake chik’n burger with tropical sauce. However, they also offer a Ramen of the Day, which David got and was impressed with.

Heads up though: one Kona beer here is the same as a 6-pack in the U.S.! Holy moly, those darn import taxes.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of a burger in Tokyo

  • Afuri

If you’ve ever wanted to order a bowl of ramen from a what-looks-like vending machine, then Afuri is your place. This spot is just a stone’s throw from Harajuku, so get ready to wade through some crowds. But it’s popularity is well merited, even if I was a little weirded-out by the ordering process.

Afuri only has one vegan ramen option and they rotate it out daily depending on the vegetables they have in stock. This in turn guarantees freshness, and we were impressed by the crispness of sweet potato and chard served to us.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of ramen in Tokyo

Kyoto:

  • Vegan Cooking Arashiyama-kan

I don’t think I can ever eat a udon noodle again, because I was spoiled rotten here.

Vegan Cooking Arashiyama-kan is a bit on the pricier side, but it was one of the only choices we could find near the Bamboo Forest. Despite it being our only option, it was (thankfully) incredible.

What makes this little restaurant special are their vegan bento lunches. Buuuuut, these arrays are about $25 each. Since David and I are perpetually on a budget, we declined this option and instead got udon noodles with veggies. Though I feel the owner might have been a little disappointed in our smaller choices, he still joyfully created us our noodly goodness.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of ramen in Kyoto

  • Sake Bar Yoramu

We decided on Sake Bar Yoramu due to it’s high reviews on Google and relative closeness to our Airbnb. When we arrived, we were taken by surprise due to the fact that we had somehow chosen an older-crowd, expatriate hang-out spot.

While we definitely stood out, the bartender was incredibly knowledgeable and kind. He handed David options that were more on the adventurous side, and gave me sweeter flavors when he found out that I don’t actually like sake. The bar owner himself was from Israel and came for the sake over 20 years ago.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of sake in Kyoto

  • Bar Code

If you prefer wild nights out over quaint sake sipping, then Bar Code is your place.

No cover, cheap drinks ($5 each! – and strong), all paired with free karaoke make this place a hilarious hole-in-the-wall. The assortment of songs were plentiful, with popular tunes from all over the world lined up for you.

So go on and get a couple of Vodka Cranberries and mediocre-ly sing the night away.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of the author in Kyoto

TL;DR

Wearing there: You are going to walk a lot. Don’t be an idiot like me – pack some comfortable shoes! I also recommend walking around with a large bag or backpack. We have Herschel’s and we love them.
Shooting there: Images are all captured on my Nikon D750 with my 35mm lens, or my iPhone 7.
Etc., etc.: Make sure that you verify that a restaurant is open before you travel all of the way there. The hours should be listed on Google, but it can’t hurt to check social media either. Don’t just assume they’re open!

Note: Nothing in this blog post was sponsored and all thoughts are my own. Post contains affiliate links – click on them and do your Amazon shopping to support me! 

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