Coming to Japan as a vegetarian can be a daunting prospect. A quick Google search brings up numerous articles on just how difficult it is, as apparently almost everything in Japan has meat in it. Most conclude that visitors will probably just have to pick their battles. However, with a little more planning and effort, anyone can remain completely vegetarian in Japan.
Why is it so tricky?
‘Watashi wa begetarian desu’: I am a vegetarian. These words are usually met with confusion and often with amusement. Despite the Buddhist influence in Japan’s history, vegetarianism isn’t a part of Japanese culture, and a lot of people simply don’t know what vegetarians do/don’t eat. As an island nation, fish really is a staple in the Japanese diet.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
How to do it
Learn some Japanese. Try to get confident with phrases to explain exactly what you do and do not eat. Be specific. Even if you don’t speak much Japanese, your effort won’t go unnoticed, and people will probably be more willing to accommodate you.
The Vegan Society produces a vegan passport which explains what you do and don’t eat, plus the reasons why. Try to speak Japanese first though. The jump from vegetarian to vegan isn’t so big in Japan, where dairy isn’t included in many dishes. If you have data, use the photo function on the Google translate app to take pictures of ingredient lists and menus. Get used to what some of the ingredients are; for example dashi will usually contain fish.
Keep it simple! You can order rice almost anywhere, alongside various boiled vegetables and edamame. Build your own meal out of side dishes. If you have a kitchen, you can make some fantastic vegetarian dishes using Japanese ingredients. Try Japanese vegetables like goya to add new flavors. You can also buy simple soba packs, cooked rice, salad, and edamame at almost every konbini, the most convenient convenience stores you will ever encounter!
Where to go in Osaka
Probably the most quintessentially Japanese vegetarian restaurant on this list, Rocca literally serves its own Rocca rice, which is organically grown in Japan! The restaurant itself has a set menu each evening, which is entirely vegetarian and often vegan, as dairy isn’t really used in such traditionally inspired dishes. Your tray will be beautifully arranged with an array of small dishes, from tofu to seasoned Japanese vegetables, based around miso and a generous serving of rice. The restaurant is set back in a quieter part of Osaka, away from the hustle of Umeda, and it is the perfect place to retreat after a day exploring.
Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Nishi Ward, Tosabori, 1−6−6 LINKHOUSE Tosabori 1F, Japan +81 06 6444 5765
Green Earth is Osaka’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. They serve a cheap and simple menu, including sandwiches/wraps filled with avocado and humous, a daily soup and some fantastic curries. Many of their dishes contain soy meats and everything can be made vegan on request. Not gourmet vegetarian food, but the perfect place to grab an inexpensive midday bite as it is just a short walk from the Shinsaibashi shopping district.
Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Chūō-ku, Kitakyūhōjimachi, 4 Chome−2 中央区北久宝寺町4丁目2-2 久宝ビル 5F, Japan +81 06 6251 1245
Run by a friendly Japanese woman who is keen to chat to her like-minded vegetarian customers, Le Coccole is an intimate restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere. All of the dishes are created using local, organic, seasonal ingredients. The patio entrance is adorned with bunting and candles, and there is seating outside that’s perfect for warm summer days.The atmosphere inside is cosy. From simple sesame rice balls with miso soup to more elaborate dishes, Le Coccole uses its ingredients creatively and busts the myth that Japan doesn’t do vegetarian food.
大阪府大阪市 中央区北久宝寺町３丁目４−1, Japan +81 06 6245 5556
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.