Vegan in Kyoto

Kyoto was one of the cities I visited in my trip to Japan. It was a super quick train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkasen. I picked up a few onigri from the convenience store to snack on the trip and left a Tokyo that was pelting down with rain.

By the time I got to Kyoto, I was craving my vegetables and fresh fruit. A quick stop at the local supermarket got me this dinner feast. I have found it helpful to learn to read a few words for ingredients I don’t eat, such as meat, fish, egg, milk, bonito and dashi.

I woke up feeling energized (go plant power!) and decided to take a 30 minute local train ride to Arashiyama. I arrived early in the morning and the beauty of Arashimaya was breathtaking. I took a walk in the bamboo forest which was gorgeous and peaceful at that time of day. I enjoyed walking through the Tenryu-jin Shrine which has a beautiful garden and where my lunch spot was located. Shigetsu is a Zen Buddhist restaurant acknowledged by the Michelin Guide for serving exceptionally good food. You can select set meals from a menu if you make a reservation but only one meal is available if you show up without a reservation

The photo above really doesn’t do it the justice. The flavors are delicate and food is enjoyed in a zen environment whilst sitting on tatami. It costs ¥3,000 for a 5 course meal plus. ¥500 for the entry into the garden.

Walking around Arashimaya, I found these unique mochi which comes from the area. They come served with matcha or ground roasted soybeans. The mochi was tender and delicate, unlike any other mochi I have ever had, and possibly the best mochi I have ever had.

Since I was told that Kyoto has excellent matcha, I couldn’t resist going to Ain Soph which recently opened a branch in Kyoto. They offer a white chocolate matcha pancake which was delicious but super rich. I should have shared it…maybe next time!

For my last dinner in Kyoto, I headed to Togaden which is a tofu restaurant upstairs and downstairs is a tofu shop. They offer a wide variety of tofu and have a vegan menu.

Kyoto is a smaller city than Tokyo and easy to navigate. There are quite a few vegan places to eat and with a little research they are easy to find.

If you are travelling to Tokyo, check out the Vegan in Tokyo post.

Vegan in Tokyo

Tokyo can be an easy place for vegans with a little bit of research. Once you have places mapped out, people are kind, helpful and accomodating. I ate at several vegan places and was amazed at the quality of food, how delicious it is and how busy the places are. There is a good demand for vegan food in Tokyo!

My first meal after landing in Tokyo was T’s Tan Tan. Google maps was able to guide me there really well, and the biggest confusion was working out transport tickets when I learned that my 72 hour subway ticket does not work on JR train stations. It costs ¥140 to gain entry into the station where this restaurant is located. I was surprised to see a small queue which was my first introduction to the popularity of vegan food in Tokyo. I ordered the golden sesame ramen and it was good. The rich and salty broth brought home the umami for a bargain of ¥900.

Farmer’s Market at the UNU is open on the weekend. It was an eye opener to to see some goods marked as vegan at the market, helping me realise that vegan food is not that unusual in Tokyo! I picked up a orange and ginger cake from Cafe/Guesthouse Fete.

A short walk to 8ablish was my first introduction to higher end vegan food in Tokyo. I went all out and got the 4 course lunch for ¥2,700. Kick starting with the fresh burdock confit and chick pea purple sweet potato cake. The tomato sugo was one of the best I’ve had.

Next came the pea, celery and potato soup with salad on the side. What a delicate and delicious soup! This will be inspiring some creations in my kitchen.

Oh my goodness this whole soy tempeh katsu with tatare sauce! I was so happy to be having katsu, a dish I acquaint with Japanese cuisine.

When I walked past Kyushu Jangara Harajuku and saw that the long line had subsided, I felt obliged to stop dor ramen. They have one vegan ramen on their menu which takes on a shoyu style ramen. It was full of flavor including oil on top of the broth that mimicks the fat of a meat broth. The soy pieces had a good chewy texture like char shew but with a soy flavor.

I tried heading to Ain Soph in Shinkuju for brunch but it was already booked out at 11:30am. Although blinded by hunger, the vegan gods were guiding me to find Vege Stand inside Isetan that serves up several vegan salads and smoothies. My body was very grateful for the first whole food plant based meal I was eating in days. I really enjoyed the kale, celery, spinach, chia, apple and pineapple smoothie.

I didn’t give up on Ain Soph though. A short subway ride took me to Ain Soph in Ginza where I was rewarded with the best pancakes ever. Warm and fluffy served with ice cream, cashew cream and chopped nuts; topped with agave syrup. Now I know what the craze for Japanese pancakes is about. This was the best pancake I have ever had.

Whenever I needed a snack, convenience stores such as 7-11 were great for snack options. Like this barley and bean onigri. Onigri can be made of rice also. Stick to the seaweed, kelp, mustard greens or plum options. I also randomly found a bean and gherkin salad which was delicious.

Veganic To Go in Roppongi is a tiny place but I had the whole place to myself when I popped in after lunchtime to hide from the rain. I was happy to partake in yakitori whilst in Japan. Veganic To Go serves this as part of their brown rice bowl.

I was too stuffed to have the soft serve but enjoyed a slice of cheesecake.

On my last day in Japan, I squished in one more meal at Narita airport. Vegan options are scant here but I managed to find vegan Japanese curry at Le Toque.

I also had to fit in one last matcha thing before I leave the country. An iced matcha latte from Excelsior Café. As they were making it, I saw them pour the soy milk from a jug (instead of from a carton), could it be fresh soy milk? They also gave it a generous sprinkling of matcha at the top of the beverage. There is even a tag on the lid so there is no confusion. Oh my goodness, this matcha latte was so good! Actually, it might be the best matcha latte I have ever had. My only regret is to not have found it at the beginning of my trip so I could have had one every day.

And that was my culinary adventure in Tokyo. Japan is a country with a rich culture, wonderful people and beauty everywhere I see. Finding vegan food in Tokyo has not been an issue with a little bit of research and I hope that this post will help you with some of your culinary research of this city. Happy travels!

For Kyoto adventures, see my post on Vegan in Kyoto.