For this week’s Friday Five, I’m reviewing 5 vegan-friendly restaurants in Tokyo, Japan to help anyone running the Tokyo Marathon in February to plan out their trip! There’s plenty more than tofu and cucumber rolls awaiting you! Linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for today’s food-centered post.
Exploring the world through running is one of my passions. Being vegan to improve the environment and my health while decreasing animal suffering is another passion. Sometimes I’m concerned about reconciling them. How can I travel to run marathons while being vegan? Will I find a vegan restaurant? Will I feel fueled enough to run?
Traveling as a vegan used to scare me in the past. To be fair, a large portion of that fear was due to my eating disorder and being very strict about food. However, there is still truth to the concern about finding vegan restaurants while traveling, especially internationally. While the vegan movement is gaining more traction and there are more options now than in previous years, it’s still the minority. Last February when I ran the Tokyo Marathon (race recap here), I was worried about finding vegan restaurants in Tokyo. Yes, I knew there would be tofu and edamame, but then the only other thing that came to mind was cucumber rolls. Could I run a marathon fueled on cucumber rolls? Do they even have cucumber rolls in Tokyo or is that just an American thing?
Rest assured, it was so easy! Traveling to run the Tokyo Marathon while vegan was not hard at all. I found lots of ramen, tofu, and a surprising number of vegan options. There are even some all vegan restaurants in Tokyo. I’m not sure why I was surprised, I think it was more just anxious. Here are 5 places that had vegan options in Tokyo Japan, with a bonus one in Hakone, Japan.
My first vegan dining experience in Tokyo was on the way to packet pickup. Jon, Katie, Marianne and I had to travel through Tokyo Station. Lo and behold there was a vegan ramen place inside the station! I was starving and got the vegan black sesame ramen bowl with some gyoza on the side. This is a great vegan ramen option if you are on this side of the city.
You could pick up Mr. Farmer and easily plunk it down in Wicker Park or Logan Square. It has a cool hipster vibe and LOTS of vegan lunch options. There are wraps, burgers and smoothies. It was right in Shinjuku Station (a main hub in Tokyo), making it a super convenient choice for any meal. The night before the Tokyo Marathon, I picked up a smoothie and quinoa wrap to fuel for the race. I also made sure to stop back here before heading to the airport for a meal to bring on the plane.
The evening of the marathon, Jon, Mark Thomas and I went walking to explore the Harajuku neighborhood. We wanted to see the crazy fashion and nightlife that happens on Takeshita Street. We went to a ramen place that was on the top floor of a small building (which had a HEDGEHOG cafe on the floor below… whaaat?). They had an amazing vegan ramen bowl which was perfect after the race. Nice and salty, full of noodles, and loaded with protein and flavor. A good refueling meal.
Perhaps my favorite place of all was Saishokukenbi (not sure at all how to spell or pronounce that). This restaurant ended up being right next door to our Air BnB! I walked past it at first because it looks like a temple – big courtyard with a Buddha statue in front, but they have a menu outside. Inside it had the feeling of a health foods cafe. The server and chef were SO nice! The server wanted to make sure I understood exactly which items were vegan friendly (a bit of a language barrier) and she even brought the chef out. When they found out I was running the marathon they gave me some extra bread haha. The food was delicious – flavorful gyoza and veggie rolls. I went back a second time with Jon because they were so nice.
We ate at Ain Soph before seeing a Robot Show. Side note, if you are running the 2018 Tokyo Marathon you NEED to make sure you see the Robot Show. It’s just…. imagine the 1980’s meet Tron meet anime? You’ll see what I mean. Anyways, Ain Soph Ripple is a completely vegan restaurant in Tokyo, near the Shinjuku Station. Inside is very cozy, all 5 of us barely fit, but it would be great for 1-2 people. I ate the burrito bowl because I wanted to see how Japanese do Mexican. Exactly the same. I think I would try the burgers next time (Jon got the vegan chicken burger and MT got the Ripple burger and both liked them). They also have vegan desserts.
So I’m not sure how to pronounce this restaurant’s name, but when the five of us went on a day trip to Hakone, we found a ramen shop near the Gora station. Kaitlyn and I made sure to ask if the ramen was vegan and it was – they make it with mushrooms. It was visually stunning and just as delicious.
As I found out, it’s easy to travel to races as a vegan. From ramen, to tofu, to smoothies, there are lots of vegan-friendly restaurants in Tokyo. I did pack snacks just in case, but I was able to find a lot of cool places to eat. You can read about my runcation travel tips here, and my full Tokyo Marathon race recap here. Later this year, I will be traveling to Berlin and hope I will have as many vegan options!
Have you ever been worried about traveling for a race? Have you ever been to Tokyo? I’d love to hear what your experiences have been! Leave a comment below, or share this post on social media to keep the conversation going.