So you’ve just received your placement and your vegetarian belly has called out to you “But what am I gonna eat there?”
Don’t worry! This guide will show you typical Japanese dishes you can order, useful vocabulary, and a few restaurant recommendations.
This is the kanji for meat and all kinds of animal meat (besides seafood) uses this kanji. It’s a really handy one to remember and look for on ingredient lists. I remember it as two coat hangers.
” niku ga haitte imasu ka?”
“Is there meat in this?” This phrase will help you a lot in restaurants.
You will often be asked if certain things are okay, here is a list of ones I often encountered:
Broth or dashi is usually made from fish but some restaurants may have a special vegetarian option.
‘Nashi’ means without and is another helpful one for ordering in restaurants.
Eg. “niku nashi daijoubu desu ka?” にく なし だいじょうぶ です か
Is it okay to order this without meat?
Common Japanese Vegetarian Dishes
This dish consists of udon noodles, broth (which may be either fish or kelp based) and a sweet, fried tofu (thought to be a fox’s favourite food, hence the name kitsune 狐 meaning fox).
Like udon, soba noodles tend to be an easy choice for vegetarians, especially if you’re okay with a potentially fish-based broth. If not, you can opt for Mori/Zaru Soba which is served cold with a dipping sauce.
Onigiri is a cheap and easy snack that you can pick up at convenience stores. Vegetarian options of these rice triangles include: seaweed, plain salt and edamame.
This popular Japanese curry chain has a couple of vegetarian curry options on their regular menu. However, these dishes come with small pieces of piece of meat in them. At their restaurants in cities, they have a special vegetarian menu (I asked for this in a small town and they didn’t seem to have it). It’s better to order off this menu to avoid sneaky little mince bits.
Here’s what the vegetarian menu looks like:
A common burger chain with a soy patty option, but some of the sauces (e.g. the spicy sauces) are not vegetarian, so be careful what you choose.
Like most Italian restaurants, this one has a few (unexciting) options like margarita pizza and plain pasta.
A word of caution at other Italian restaurants:
Beware of the napolitana spaghetti! At restaurants such as Joyful and convenience stores, the picture of a perfectly delicious looking spaghetti with tomato sauce may contain fish.
Restaurants in Kobe
Modernark Pharm Cafe
This cafe is completely vegetarian with a lot of vegan dishes too, at a reasonable price. Located close to Motomachi JR & Sanyo stations.
Address: 〒650-0012 Hyōgo Prefecture, Kobe, Chuo, Kitanagasadori, 3 Chome−11−15
Restaurants in Himeji
Koba & More
Run by a friendly local, this small ramen joint offers a vegetarian broth along with standard meat-based ramen.
Address: Hyōgo Prefecture, Himeji, Gofukumachi, 59 第2POSHビル1F
This bakery cafes has 2 vegetarian burger options plus a range of baked goods you can take away!
Location: In between the castle and Himeji JR and Sanyo stations
Address: 〒670-0012 Hyōgo Prefecture, Himeji, Honmachi, 68 平和不動産ビル
This is by far not an extensive list! Check out the resources below to find even more!
Happy Cow – For searching for vegetarian and vegan restaurants in every prefecture.
Gurunavi – An app and website that allows you to search for nearby restaurants by cuisine.
Both of these groups are helpful to see updates on Japanese products and chains that have vegetarian options, even if you don’t live in these cities.
Is It Vegan? Blog – A breakdown of Vegan-friendly Chain Restaurants in Japan.
Vegan in Japan subreddit – Handy for finding out about products and restaurants.
There are loads of youtubers as well if that’s more your thing!
By Jacinta Astles