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Vegan Travel Suggestions Discussion Forum

Hi everyone,

we are going to travel to Kyoto in a few weeks and we are on an extremely tight budget, meaning that we cannot spend more that 12 Euros per person on food every day.

We are also very worried we won't find cheap vegan food, so it would be great to get recommendations from other travelers or vegans in kyoto.

One thought we had was getting lunch at one of the cheap vegan cafes recommended here and elsewhere and have packed meals for breakfast and dinner and inbetween.

How, the main problem we have: what vegan products can you get at the convenience store or the supermarket?
We don't speak or read any Japanese, so things are naturally much more tricky.
It would really help us if, e.g. someone would point out specific snacks that are vegan to us. We could just print out pictures of it and try to find it.
And are there maybe some places in Kyoto where you find really, really cheap noodle dishes that are definitively vegan?

thanks so much in advance!

Responses (4)

  • tblois's avatar
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    Posted by tblois at 09/28/14 03:08:02

    Hi, sorry, I guess this is a really old thread? But anyway, I just wanted to warn people that Ramen in Japan is NOT vegetarian - it always is made with pork broth. Same with all of the instant noodles, even if they feature vegetables, they will almost certainly have pork or chicken in them.

    Also, things with tofu (example - Tofu steak, Tofu Burger) or other food you would expect to be vegetarian generally also have meat or fish in the ingredients, unless you buy it at a restaurant or stores specifically for vegetarians.

    You can find vegan things at the convenience store, however; Onigiri (rice balls) with Umeboshi (pickled plum) or Konbu (Seaweed), Inari Zushi (sushi rice inside of fried tofu pockets) and Natto Maki (roll sushi made with fermented soya beans) are usually vegan, but sometimes made with fish stock. You can also find Soya Milk at most convenience stores, which is often vegan, but may have some sort of animal calcium added.

    You can also find bags of nuts or dried fruit, or Edamame (boiled soy beans), and often fresh fruit and salad (but be aware most dressing will have eggs or fish) at the convenience stores as well.

    The Soba (brown, buckwheat noodles) and Udon (white, thick noodles) are vegetarian, but the broth has fish in it usually (either at a convenience store or a restaurant) - but a lot of convenience stores have cold noodles made from tofu that are vegan, I think - they are in a small plastic container, and usually features a large "Only 100 Calories" or something like that in Japanese.

    Now that I have said all that, here is a great link with pictures saying most of the same things:

    The only picture of Tofu Somen noodles I could find is on this page, if you scroll down a bit, find the container with the 84KCal on it.

    Also, most Italian and Indian (not Japanese Curry, it always has pork in it) and some Japanese food restaurants will make an effort to change the ingredients to suit you, if they are not too busy. But they don't always realize that broth counts, or that ham or bacon count as meat, so if you have a written note explaining exactly what you do and don't eat, it will be easier. Chinese restaurants generally do not have anything vegetarian in Japan.

    There are lots of Subways opening in Japan recently (again, be careful of any sauce or salad dressing), and Freshness Burger is a smallish chain that often has Bean, Tofu, or Mushroom burgers -but again ask for no Mayonnaise, etc., there may be meat or fish in the sauce. If you happen to find one of the rare Mexican restaurants, check what kind of refried beans they use in their tacos, and again, be careful of the sauce.

    Hope this helps anyone going to Japan in the future!

  • DC1346's avatar
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    Posted by DC1346 at 08/25/13 13:54:20

    I haven't been to Japan in some 15 years but I doubt the cuisine has changed all that much.

    Ramen noodle shops and stands abound in Japan. If you don't speak Japanese, ask the hotel concierge or desk clerk for directions to a nearby Ramen noodle shop. Have this person write out your request for no meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs on a sheet of paper in Japanese. Take this paper with you when you go to the noodle shop. MAKE SURE THE CLERK WRITES DOWN THE REQUEST TO OMIT BONITO FLAKES (DASHI) FROM THE BROTH. Dashi is a common ingredient in Japan.

    I would imagine that you could have some rather tasty Ramen noodles with a mushroom or vegetable broth with wheat noodles, vegetables, and cubes of bean curd.

    Since a steady diet of ramen could be boring, here are some additional suggestions.

    You could also try eating at a Buddhist Temple. Devout Buddhists are vegan. A good temple to try would be at Shigetsu in Kyoto. The Zen Buddhist monks are very friendly.

    A good vegetarian friendly restaurant in Kyoto is the Mikoan.

    Some vegan friendly foods to try?

    Hiyayako: Chilled tofu served with scallions and ginger: NOTE - ask for hiyayako without katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes) and use soy sauce as a condiment.

    Miso Soup:This is a simple broth made with fermented bean curd. You may order this with bean curd and vegetables. I like eating mine with a side of steamed white rice.

    Nasu Dengaku: Grilled eggplant topped with miso.

    Tempura Donburi: Batter Fried vegetables served on top of steamed white rice.

    Tsukemono: Pickled vegetables. Order Tsukemono with steamed white rice.

    Yaki Onigiri: Grilled rice balls served with pickled vegetables and cold greens.

    Zaru Soba: Cold buckwheat soba noodles served with nori seaweed, green onions, wasabi, and soy sauce.

    You could also try sushi. The word sushi actually refers to vinegared rice and although most people equate sushi with seafood, there are many varieties that are vegan friendly.


    KAPPA (MAKI): The cucumber roll.

    OSHINKO (MAKI): The Japanese pickle roll. Typical pickled vegetables include radishes, daikon turnips, or carrots.

    UME (MAKI): The pickled UME (Japanese plum) roll.

    NATTO (MAKI): The fermented soybeans roll. NATTO

    HORENSO (MAKI): The spinach roll.

    SHIITAKE (MAKI): The shiitake mushroom roll.

    KAMPYO (MAKI): KAMPYO is dried gourd strip which is usually seasoned with soy sauce and sugar.

    YUBA (MAKI): The YUBA (soymilk skin) roll. YUBA is good for making combination sushi with other ingredients such as shiitake (seasoned) or cucumber.

    At a supermarket look for steamed rice balls. Be aware that steamed rice balls are stuffed with various ingredients including meat. Look for plum or ginger or mushrooms as a filling. The labels will be in Japanese, so you'll have to ask for help.

    While at the supermarket, buy fruit, vegetable sushi rolls, and boiled sweet potatoes.

    For sweets, find a Wagashi shop. These are traditional Japanese sweets made with beans, sweet glutinous rice, chestnuts, agar and sometimes seasonal fruit. Be aware that some products include eggs and dairy. Some wagashi products are sold in supermarkets.

    The Japanese are very big on manners - so whenever anyone helps you, please be sure to smile and say, "Arigato gozaimas" – thank you.

    Best wishes!


  • Report Abuse

    Posted by zorgster at 09/06/13 13:19:40

    You have to be careful with Nasu Dengaku because sometimes it is made with dashi added to the miso paste.

    'Bonito dashi' is added to nearly all soup bases except in some restaurants (i found one in Isu peninsula). Many cannot omit the soup stock. The alternative is 'kombu dashi' - you can try asking for that - it is as commonly used as vegetable stock in the West - which is perhaps not that common in places. It is still really very hard to find a ramen shop that is suitable for vegans.. I've always avoided them.

    If you find a ramen shop that uses kombu dashi then you also need to ask if they use eggs in their ramen... udon should be ok...

    Miso soup is also generally made with bonito dashi.

    In Kyoto - it's very good for vegans. There's a Tofu Nabe shop - it does a dish cooked in tofu milk in a pot (tonyu nabe) on your table...

    Look for Shojin ryori (Buddhist Style) restaurants at the temples - they are 100% vegan - but they can be expensive..

    The word for vegan is 'beegan' ?????. "Watashi wa biigan desu." should help some people to know - but like everywhere - not everyone understands.

    You could point at something and say "Sore wa biigan desu ka?" (pronounced: sore-ray wa beegan desska? - literally: That.. vegan is it?)

    Search for vegan kyoto in Google and read some blogs... I just found a review of a place called Mikoan that looks like an experience! :-)

    Also search Google Maps for 'vegan' or ????? ... and note down the results...

    edit- unfortunately HappyCow forum does not correctly show Japanese characters only '?????'...

  • Report Abuse

    Posted by MicalLex at 01/03/14 15:10:34

    Thanks for listing so many useful vocabulary. :)
    My wife and me are going to Japan this summer. Since we will be visiting many cities I'd be very grateful, if you have suggestion for other Japanese cities. (For example, there are no entries for Osaka on this site).

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