A promise to make no use of animal products as a rejection of causing harm to other living things.
Well, that’s how many people would describe veganism, right?
When people think of travelling and living in Japan, the general perception is that it’s difficult to lead a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle here. The modern Japanese diet and fast food chains in Japan do make it hard to avoid meat, and when not meat, the ubiquitous dashi broth, taken from the katsuo fish.
But many people haven’t heard of the traditional Japanese cuisine called shoujin ryouri. Crafted in temples as daily meals eaten by Buddhist monks, shoujin ryouri recreates traditional Japanese flavors using plant-based natural ingredients.
In addition to the Japanese traditions of veganism, contemporary versions of the practice have taken root, much in the same way it has in other places across the world. While in places like the United States, vegan replacement specialty stores have become the norm, with staples such as milk, yogurt, and cheese can now be found in their vegan forms in commercial supermarkets as well as in specialty stores, products in Japan are not advertised in the same way. Dairy products in Japan have a much smaller place in the diet, and other important vegan products such as soy milk are already incredibly common.
There are plenty of trendy vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Tokyo with a wide variety of choices, from Italian to Japanese.
But what about traditional Japanese food? It’s true, Japanese food is flavored by a number of animal products, particularly fish and pork. And without dashi what would happen to that signature flavor?
For this reason we wanted to introduce shoujin ryouri. Shoujin ryouri actually has two: first is to avoid the destruction of life. The second, is by food to create a balanced body chemistry in which the things that enter the body do not provide over-stimulation. Certain plant foods such as garlic, and other strong peppers are not used. This group of plants that lead to a strong reaction in the body are known as gojin 五辛.
So how are the traditional Japanese flavors crafted in this cuisine? Instead of using katsuo as the base for dashi. The vegan dashi is derived from kombu, a tougher seaweed that is often used as a filling for onigiri (rice balls) and as topping for rice.
The following shoujin ryouri restaurants in Tokyo provide healthy options that also happen to be super delicious! Next time you are in the city, please spend a meal at one of our top choices!
1. Fucha Ryouri Bon (普茶精進料理梵)
For those who want not only the traditional food, but the traditional ambiance, we recommend Fucha Bon. Though this place is on the pricier end of things, the experience of eating at Fuchabon will be surely unforgettable.
Budget: 3,500-10,000 JPY
Official Site: http://www.fuchabon.co.jp/english/fucha.html
2. Komenoko, Nishi Ogikubo 玄米菜食 米の子
For a more modern cafe-type setting that services shoujin ryouri, we recommend heading to this small cafe located in the charming neighborhood of Nishi Ogikubo, (maybe before or after heading to the Ghibli Museum, as you’ll be nearby on the Chuo Line) for an affordable meal. With everything on the menu being vegan and organic,
Budget: 1,000-2,000 JPY
Official Site: https://komenoko.com/
3. Oishinbo, Kagurazaka
The perfect place to stop after an evening stroll around the traditional back streets of Kagurazaka. Make a reservation in the private room upstairs with dim lighting and simple wooden floors for a warm ‘at-home’ atmosphere.
Budget: 1,500-2,500 (Lunch)
5,000-7,000 (Dinner) JPY
Official Site: http://wa-kinari.jp/k-oishinbo/index.html