Tokyo Embraces Plant-Based Cuisine for Foreign Visitors
Tokyo’s growing plant-based cuisine scene attracts foreign visitors who desire vegan and vegetarian dishes. Establishments such as vegan Izakaya Masaka offer meat-free versions of Japanese classics like fried chicken and juicy dumplings, drawing many tourists and locals alike.
Government Initiatives to Promote Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Recognizing the need for more diverse food options for tourists, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has provided support by holding seminars for restaurateurs and sending experts to help eateries develop new vegetarian and vegan menu items. These initiatives aim to introduce alternative staple ingredients such as dried fish flakes or pork-bone broth.
Encouraging a Culinarily Diverse Cityscape
With local government initiatives in place, Tokyo hopes to increase the number of veggie-friendly businesses in the city. The government publishes specialist restaurant guides, offers subsidies for certification, and employs vegetarian and vegan chefs as “tourism ambassadors” to promote a more inclusive local cuisine.
Restaurants Responding to the Demand
Saido, a restaurant specializing in vegan versions of popular dishes like grilled eel made from tofu and vegetables, is one of many establishments in Tokyo catering to this growing demand. Half of Saido’s customers are foreign tourists, reflecting the restaurant’s global appeal – it has even topped global rankings on the vegan guide app Happy Cow in recent years.
Addressing the Challenges of Vegan and Vegetarian Cuisine
Non-profit organization VegeProject Japan, founded by Haruko Kawano, works to help Tokyo restaurants create vegan dishes while addressing the challenges involved. Some restaurant owners worry about needing separate kitchens or following strict dietary rules. VegeProject aids in debunking these misconceptions and encourages establishments to experiment with animal product-free stocks and seasonings.
Attracting Veggie Tourists with Cooking Classes
Beyond restaurants, cooking classes featuring traditional shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) target tourists who want a hands-on introduction to Japan’s plant-based culinary heritage. These workshops, such as the one led by Buddhist monk Mari Fujii in Kamakura, expose visitors to Japan’s centuries-old vegetarian tradition and its philosophy.
A Vision for a Vegetarian-Friendly Tokyo
Tokyo has made significant progress in catering to vegan and vegetarian tourists. Izakaya Masaka’s PR manager Ashley van Gool believes Tokyo can become as culinarily diverse as New York and London. With continuous efforts from the government, businesses, non-profit organizations, and individual ambassadors, Tokyo is expanding its veggie options beyond sushi to cater to health-conscious and environmentally aware global citizens.