Staying vegetarian in Japan can be a daily challenge. The concept is not commonplace and some people may not understand your restrictions or convictions. Even seemingly innocuous veggie dishes may contain dashi (a type of fish stock) or meat-based roux, and the Japanese person you are asking may not consider this meat. As a general rule, even if meat is an invisible ingredient and not a feature, the Japanese will probably call it “vegetarian”. However, with careful diligence and patient explanation, it is possible to remain a successful vegetarian or vegan in Japan.

School Lunch

School lunch in Japan is a fixed meal prepared in bulk for the entire school. Meat will be a daily, unavoidable staple and the menu cannot be altered to accommodate your diet. Establish as soon as you arrive that you will be bringing a bento (lunch box) to school instead, and start curating a selection of recipes you can prepare in the mornings or the evening before. Please note that some schools may not allow you to eat with your students if you bring in your own lunch.

Useful resources

  • Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide – a good guide to eating out as a vegan in the larger cities of Japan. When you are traveling this is well worth the money. It can be used it in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, and even the one listing in Shikoku for Magnolia. Great recommendations and the maps are actually useable.
  • Hokkaido AJET`s Veg Out Guidebook – has some good recipes, and information about food. Some of the restaurants are quite outdated and the directions are not always the best, but still fun to look through.
  • VegJet – an AJET Special Interest Group of vegan, vegetarian, and veg-curious JETs. They support one another by sharing helpful resources, advice, recipe ideas, event postings, and more on their Facebook page.
  • – A good way to search for vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants, they also have an app for when you are on the go.  They include restaurant opening times, contact information, locations and reviews.

Vegetarian Restaurants in Ehime

  • Matsuyama
    • Fumikaden
    • Kanjirushi
    • “Deutches Café Bluhen” German Bakery
    • Four Seasons Thai Restaurant
    • Takashimaya Basement
    • Charlie’s Vegetable
    • Indian / Southeast Asian Restaurants
  • Ozu
    • Sosaku Italian Restaurant
  • Imabari
    • Magnolia
  • Yoshida
    • Tandoor Indian Restaurant (Tandoru)

Shopping for Vegetarian Food

  • In Ehime
    • Natural Greens
    • Pantry
    • Kaldi
    • Local grocery stores
  • Online
    • iHerb
    • Yoyo Market
    • Tengu Natural Food
    • FBC
    • The Flying Pig
    • Warabe Mura – Located in Gifu-ken, this company specialises in natural whole foods without artificial additives, colourings or flavourings. All their products are completely dairy, egg, fish, and meat free. They also carry other products such as aromatherapy oils, toiletries, books, etc.

General Tips

  • Bring your own dashi (soup stock/dipping sauce for noodles) to restaurants.
  • Local farmer’s markets are a great source of organic or low-pesticide produce. And the farmers selling them are a good source of information about how to cook what you’ve bought.
  • Onigiri (rice balls) are sold at the local convenience stores(conbini) and come in vegetarian flavours, such as ume (pickled plum).
  • “Kanten” is a natural jelly made from seaweed used in sweets. But be careful not to mix it up with gelatin, which is an animal product.
  • Rennet-less cheeses are mostly only available through Tengu.

Useful phrases

  • “I am a vegetarian. I do not eat pork, beef, or chicken.”
     Watashi wa bejitarian desu. Butaniku ya gyuniku ya toriniku o taberaremasen.
    (To add more, ‘sakana’ means fish, ‘ebi’ means shrimp, etc etc…)
  • “What do you recommend from this menu?”
     Kono menyu de o-susume wa nan desu ka?
  • “Does this have X meat in it?”
     Kore wa X niku ga haite imasu ka?
  • “Can you make it without meat?”
     Niku o irenai de tsukuremasu ka?
  • “Can I substitute X for Y?”
     X no kawari ni Y o koukan dekimasu ka?
  • “Without X”
     X nashi de