Convenience store & Fast Food
Great food is everywhere in Japan even the convenience store snacks and fast food offerings are amazing quality and super tasty. If you’re on a budget then convenience stores will be your brand new travel friend when you’re in Japan. They’re open super late (a lot of them are open 24 hours), sell all kinds of snacks and sweets and more importantly have incredible prices.
Even if you’re planning on doing lots and lots of fine dining while you’re in Tokyo it is worth checking out some convenience stores and fast food joints just to sample the limited seasonal flavours you’re sure to find. I operate on a ‘try it now while you can’ mode when in Tokyo. Chocolate covered french fries, sure! Cheesecake flavoured potato chips, go for it! It’s all one big food adventure.
Cafes and Restaurants
Tokyo certainly won’t leave you stranded when it comes to cafe’s and restaurants – it seems like they are everywhere. Whatever type of food you are looking for you’re sure to be covered here, due to the Westernisation of Japan you’ll find plenty on offer to you if Japanese food isn’t you’re thing but while you’re in Japan I recommend trying at least one traditional Japanese place if you can!
With the upcoming Olympics lots of cafes and restaurants are gearing up for the increasing tourist trade so don’t let you’re language skills put you off. Many places have started putting signs in their window letting you know that they welcome tourists and a lot of places will have english menu’s available online and inside.
Top Tip: Don’t tip. If you’ve enjoyed the service you’ve been given by all means let your server know you’ve had a good time, but tipping isn’t a custom in Japan and can be sometimes taken as an insult.
I’m a vegetarian and have been for around 10 years now. Though it has gotten a lot easier the past few years to find suitable food it is no where near the amount of choice I would have at home.
If there is a specific ingredient you’re avoiding due to allergies then definitely research what the kanji for the ingredients looks like (for checking labels) and also how to ask if your food contains those ingredients. If in doubt, choose something else instead.
As a vegetarian or vegan certain things are really difficult to avoid in Japan, fish stock is used pretty much universally and in a lot of things you wouldn’t expect it to be in. Occasionally there is no way to be absolutely sure your food hasn’t been cooked using fish stock or an animal derived ingredient. For example a lot of Japanese curry sauce is made using beef, pork or chicken (though CoCo Ichibanya recently introduced a vegetarian curry.)
If you want to stick strictly to your diet while in Japan, with a little bit of research it can be a lot easier than you might think. There are a handful of dedicated vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Tokyo but be aware that you may have to travel a little further for meals.
Top Tip: Check out Ain Soph for really great vegan food, depending on the location you may have to book a seat in advanced but it’s totally worth it.