Japanese cuisine hosts a variety of cuisine for vegetarians, but at times it can be difficult to communicate your dietary preferences to the restaurant staff. This guide will give you useful information on enjoying vegetarian dishes while staying in Japan, as well as some local restaurants that cater to vegetarians.
Japanese food contains many vegetables and tofu, but because the culture relies so heavily on fish, there may be many items that contain fish or other animal products as a base ingredient. For example, dashi is Japanese soup stock that is made from fish, and is widely used in Japanese food. Katsuobushi, or bonito (fish) flakes, are also sprinkled on top of many dishes. There is also general confusion between what a vegetarian is; is fish permitted? Are dairy products acceptable?
The most important thing to remember is to communicate clearly what you can and cannot eat to your host family/restaurant staff. Bear in mind that you will have to be much clearer than in other countries. For example, even if you request “no meat”, you may be brought food with chicken or pork in. We recommend listing all the items you cannot eat, to be sure. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, we recommend going to one of the restaurants listed below or cooking your own food as much as possible.
If you are very worried about eating out, you can ask a teacher or friend to write down in Japanese the names of all foods you cannot eat, and carry this with you when you go out, to show to restaurant staff.
Here are examples of some ‘safe foods’:
- Soba/Udon/Ramen (Note: Fukuoka’s famous Hakata ramen is meat-based)
- Sushi (cucumber, natto, avocado, etc.), onigiri
- Miso soup
- Rice, okonomiyaki
- Snacks: mochi (rice cake), senbei (crackers), anko/azuki (sweet bean paste), manju (sweet bun)
- Sake, tea
- I'm vegetarian.
- 「わたしは ベジタリアンです」(Watashi wa bejitarian desu)
- I do not eat any meat at all.
- ｢私は肉と魚を全く食べません｣ (Watashi wa niku to sakana wo mattaku tabemasen)
- I do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs.
- ｢私は肉、魚、乳製品、卵を食べません｣ (Watashi wa niku, sakana, nyuuseihin, tamago wo tabemasen)
- Can you make this without meat?
- ｢この料理を肉抜きで作れますか｣ (Kono ryouri wo niku-nuki de tsukuremasu ka)
- Which are the dishes without meat?
- ｢お）にくが はいっていない りょうりは どれですか？｣ (Onikuga haitteinai ryouriwa doredesuka?)
- I'm allergic to X.
- ｢わたしは Xの アレルギーです｣ (watashi wa X no arerugii desu)
- I can eat tofu, egg, cheese, natto, konnyaku, mochi, and all vegetables.
- ｢私は豆腐、卵、チーズ、納豆、こんにゃく、もち、そして野菜は好き嫌いなく食べます｣ (Watashi wa toufu, tamago, chiizu, nattou, konnyaku, mochi, soshite yasai o tabemasu)
- X is NOT OK.
- ｢Xは だめです｣ (X wa dame desu)
- X IS OK.
- ｢Xは だいじょうぶです｣ (X wa daijoubu desu)
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