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Vegetarian in Japan Report

Day 1

Hi all... thank you for your tips for my vegetarian travel to japan... i'm doing the best i can, but of course there's almost no way to know if i've eaten something that i "shouldnt". that said, heres what ive eaten so far:

breakfast: in hotel, buffet - eggs, bread, salad, rice, fruit

lunch: kamameshi with chestnuts / eggplant with "sweet and sour sauce" (the sauce was more like hoisen sauce)

dinner: chinese restarurant - fried noodles with veggies (reminds me of the noodles i ate all over hong kong)

snacks: flaky pastry filled with red bean paste (i think thats what it was - whatever it was it was good!), coffee, fried doughy green tea flavored pastry filled with um, maybe more red bean paste?

I've been ordering by pointing, their broken english but great desire to help, and a note that a business associate wrote that says some version of "i am a vegetarian and dont eat meat, poultry or fish". So far so good!

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  1. Day 2 - tokyo / kamakura

    breakfast - in hotel, buffet...salad,rice etc

    lunch - tempura (they understood that i didnt want shrimp, just veggies!), soba (i didnt eat the sauce that it came with, tasted a little fishy), salad, miso soup

    dinner - i didn't do very well for dinner - was taken out to dinner by locals, and though they knew i was veg, thought it would be ok to just scrape the bonito off everything we ordered ( i swear it was on everything!) i picked at my food, but didn't really eat any of it - im the type of vegetarian who wont eat someones french fries if theyre even on the same plate as the hamburger. thanked them profusely, and swore i was too full to eat another bite. went back to the hotel and ate a stale danish i took from breakfast.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nalega

      remember miso soup has dashi in it. some miso soup that is just made with water still has dashi in it because it's often mixed in the miso already. be careful!

    2. Thanks for the report.
      Remember: to most Japanese, ham is not meat!

      1. day 3 - tokyo

        breakfast in hotel

        lunch - taken out by locals, the place was not "japanese" as i would have preferred - it was a cafe, the type of place i would eat at home in NY. Tofu burger, salad, rice, raw egg on top of the rice.

        snack - crepes with bananas and caramel - there are tons of take out crepe places in harajuku

        dinner - robatayaki restaurant - my new favorite! grilled potatoes, eggplant, green tofu, scallions - ordered by pointing to each veggie while sitting at a bar-like area. Watched them grill it, and they passed the plates to us on a wooden paddle (looks like what they use to take pizzas out of the oven in a pizzaria in the states)

        dessert - hagan daaz green tea ice cream sandwich that i came across while wandering around a supermarket just for fun!

        today was the only day that i didnt at some point wonder "is there fish in this?"

        1. day 4 - tokyo

          (cant wait to print all this out when i get home... good way to keep track of it all for myself)

          breakfast in hotel

          lunch - at a tempura restaurant - veggie tempura, rice, lots of green tea

          dinner - started at a place that had all kinds of grilled veggies and meat, so i ordered 4 kinds of vegetables (ginko nuts, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms), which cost a small fortune for enough food to barely even be considered an appetizer. Still hungry and not wanting to completely break the bank, decided to follow in a tradition I always follow when I travel - try the local pizza. Found a tiny italian restaurant - dark, smokey, red checkered table cloths. Had a salad and pizza. Not ready for the night to end, stopped in a pastry shop overlooking the street and had a chocolate cake / mousse with chestnuts.

          snacked during the day on a pastry that i cant for the life of me remember the name of but haveit written down somewhere - about the size of my hand, shaped like a fish, and outer shell that tasted like a soft ice cream cone (wafer), filled with that red bean paste that i am now so in love with. Made in front of me while waiting on a line that went all the way down the block, and served hot. Totally worth the wait...

          Tomorrow, Kyoto. Thinking that it may be harder to eat there, and the it may be harder to find English menus, but we'll see!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nalega

            That snack is called "tai yaki" which means "grilled snapper"- obviously a playful name for a sweet snack. It's a popular street stall food. Have fun in kyoto- tofu capital of the world.

            1. re: Nalega

              oh, in kansai region you might find a takoyaki (octopus balls) restaurant and some of them offer cheese/mochi balls that are vegetarian. they might be cooked in the same griddles as the takoyaki though, but they are just mochi balls filled with cheese. not bad. they have another version that is made with an egg batter.. basically tamagoyaki (egg omelette) but shaped like a takoyaki.. or you can get omelettes pretty much anywhere with any type of fillings. another regional favorite is okonomiyaki, a pancake basically with all sorts of meat and veggies and sometimes noodles in it. i'm sure you can order one that is veg and noodles only.

            2. I'm glad you're enjoying Japan. Please feel free to mention the names of any restaurants that you like - it's allowed here.