Whether being a vegetarian in Japan is easy or complicated mostly depends on your destination. If you are spending your time in Tokyo and Kyoto or in smaller cities and rural area will affect how complicated is to find vegetarian food, however, there are plenty of vegetarian options in Japan.
In Tokyo you can find restaurants that serve vegetarian food and this will save you trouble of guessing does the food contains meat, eggs or other animal products. If you don’t want to restrict yourself only to vegetarian restaurants we will provide some guidelines how to find out what ingredients are in the dishes and what to pay attention on.
Kyoto is the place where you can easily find vegetarian and vegan restaurants. This is because Kyoto has tradition of Buddhist temple cuisine, and Buddhist monks eat strictly vegan food. The place is packed with ancient temples and other attractions you might find interesting. While in Kyoto, as well as in other places that have temples, you can choose to eat there. You can even spend night at some temples, which can be pricey but it is an unique experience.
If you are set to explore diverse restaurants in the country, a good advice would be to learn some phrases. You can use simple phrases that translate to “I am vegetarian” but chances are that you will not be understood completely. Better solution is to learn to say that you don’t eat fish or meat in Japanese.
The thing that can cause a lot of headaches is the fact that a lot of meals that are vegetarian are prepared with fish stock. The majority of meals that don’t contain meat, in non-vegetarian restaurants, will, unfortunately contain fish stock.
It is up to you whether you will ignore this fact or you will try harder to find food that is 100 % vegan or vegetarian. Planning ahead and good preparation is best way to avoid all problems with finding great vegetarian options in Japan.
Research the area you are visiting and find restaurants that soothes you, while reading reviews so you know what to expect upon your arrival. The safest solution is always self-catering. Although you will not be always in the mood for preparing your own food, you can do this for couple of days of your stay. Shop in local groceries stores, find local ingredients and test your abilities to prepare local dishes. If you became friends with locals you can ask them for help.
For the end here are some Japanese meals you can order in regular restaurants that should be completely vegetarian: Tempura Donburi (deep fried vegetables with rice), Tsukemono(pickled vegetables), Zaru Soba (skip soy sauce broth, because it is probably made from fish broth), Miso Soup (ask what kind of broth they are using). Those are just few examples of great, headache free vegetarian options in Japan.