In late summer 2019, I had a chance to visit Tokyo again. People have this impression that Tokyo is crowded all the time, but in fact that’s only true for some parts of the city. Tokyo’s spaces are much more diverse and varied than Singapore’s. This time I tried to explore spots outside of the popular Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku etc…but somehow I still ended up in those places because they are major transport hubs after all.
Cover photo credit to my friend Truphotos, who’s a very talented National Geographic featured photographer.
This time I flew in via Singapore Airlines (I usually fly budget). I’ve booked everything 9 months in advance so the price of SIA was about the same as budget airlines at that point, while being able to fly into my preferred airport at a better timing. By the way, SIA’s vegetarian oriental meal is pretty decent – see my review on abillionveg (yes, you can review vegan airline food there and complain as much as you want! :D).
What to eat at Haneda airport?
Haneda airport is much closer to Tokyo’s centre but it’s not as vegan-friendly as Narita (which now has TWO vegan restaurants!). In Haneda’s international terminal there are a couple of non-veg restaurants offering vegan items (list here). If you have time, I highly recommend going over to domestic terminal (by free shuttle bus) to check out Haneda’s only 100% vegan cafe.
The staff here was SO nice! She spoke perfect English and said she visited Singapore before. It’s a rather small shop with outside shared seating that offers a large menu of lasagne, sandwiches, salad, lattes, cake, cookies and even bubble tea! In the freezer section there was a variety of imported frozen desserts and ice creams. I got a cocoa latte and vegan egg sandwich. Do drop by if you can, their food can be easily taken away.
Wanted to explore more peaceful places outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards so I signed up for Ai-san’s walking tour in Choufu, west of Tokyo.
Lunch was part of the package, so out of courtesy I informed Ai-san in advance of my dietary requirements. I was really surprised that she got back to me saying she called all the soba restaurants in the area we were going to and told me how to get it vegan! I’ve never received such fantastic service on a tour before!
In the evening I went to Ginza, which is within the 23 wards. Signed up for Marion’s vegan Ginza tour. I wouldn’t go there otherwise as it’s pretty similar to our Orchard Road (not a big fan of shopping). Things are expensive, lots of crowds and salarymen/women looking stressed out. Not somewhere I would go to relax, but I wanted to explore hidden food gems here. Here are some highlights from the tour.
Conducted in our teacher’s house beside Meguro River, famous for cherry blossoms during spring. We learnt to make a variety of traditional sweets like dango, daifuku and seasonal wagashi. Hands on, very fun with all materials provided!
After the class I took a couple of stops to Ebisu to have a light lunch (mochi can be very filling). Had a refreshing tofu hijiki (a type of very nutritious seaweed) salad and lemon tiramisu here.
Organic Plant-based Cooking Class
My favourite experience because I finally learnt how to make Japanese-style home dishes. People associate ramen and sushi with Japan but the type of dishes that Japanese people make at home is very different. It’s 1 rice, 1 miso soup, 3 side dishes with pickles. Yukari-san was very detailed in explaining what the ingredients were (some were really new to me) and shared lots of useful cooking tips. I’ve started cooling fried items on a metal rack instead of paper towel because of her!
My Japanese friend brought me to this shop that’s not very visible from the street, would never have found it on my own! Not a veg place but offers 1 vegan curry set. Clean and flavourful without being heavy. Has a shelf of food related books and magazines for everyone to browse.
Best coconut ice cream I’ve ever had! Quite hidden away in a small street in Harajuku but worth the trek. No strong coconut flavour.
Natural House is a chain of supermarkets that are focused on health and organic foods. They are the most vegan-friendly supermarket in Japan, offering imported goods, ready-to-eat bentos and other groceries. I bought some bread and ready-to-eat kelp which turned out to be the best kelp snack I’ve had.
Other places that may be of interest
Specialises in bath bombs, many are vegan – just ask the super friendly English-speaking staff. Offers some Japan-themed bath bombs that are only available in that shop. Bathtubs in Singapore are rare, so I used it up in my Airbnb (bathtubs are common there).
Body Shop Harajuku
Was most impressed that the English-speaking staff knew what vegan was and helped me check if the item I wanted was vegan!
They have always offered a vegan ramen and recently expanded their offerings AND started selling vegan cup noodles!
Located in Daikanyama, a quieter neighbourhood with bars and bookstores that reminded me a bit of Tiong Bahru. Yukari-san, my vegan cooking class teacher, sells organic vegan set lunch at this music bar every Friday. So I just had to visit!
Was trying to clear the fridge (and save some money) so I made a one-pot dinner, which is the usual thing I eat at home and office. When travelling in Japan I always prefer Airbnb so that I can make meals while enjoying a comfortable homely stay. Stark and tiny hotels are not my thing. Japanese neighbourhoods are safe, more peaceful than ours and rather convenient if you book one near the train station.
Futaba Fruits Parlour (Shinjuku)
A fruit-themed, chill and trendy restaurant that offers a few vegan main dishes. Most of the parfaits can be made vegan by requesting soy cream at a 100 yen top up.
Tokyo actually has more vegan festivals than Singapore. Next post will be about what we had at the annual Vegan Gourmet Festival which will happen this year too!
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