Tokyo Vegan Gourmet Festival

 

Visited my first Japanese vegan festival last year! The vegan festival scene in Japan is truly vibrant, they have more festivals than us (why Singapore why?? We’re supposed to have a bigger ratio of veg/vegan people!). You can see the list for this year here. Most of them are annual events that have been running for 5 years, they happen twice a year in spring and autumn. 

The Vegan Gourmet Festival happens in 3 different cities yearly – Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya. I went to the Tokyo one with my local friend (who isn’t vegan by the way). It was probably the biggest vegan festival that I’ve visited, with over 70 stalls, good non-humid weather and a strong, diverse crowd. There were a great variety of vendors, consisting of restaurants (vegan and non-vegan), bakers, home cooks, food trucks, vegan handicrafts, jewelry, brands selling products and even a macrobiotic cooking school hosting demos. 

The festival goes from 10am till 4pm. The crowd was a good mix of Japanese and other nationalities. I even saw a group of special needs people having a meet up. Some stalls like Loving Hut had crazy long queues, so go early.

Some stalls were sold out before noon! In Japan, before posting photos on social media, it’s a common practice to cover people’s faces out of respect for their privacy.

At the festival, all food items sold had allergens and ingredients clearly displayed. Out of all the countries I visited, only Japan does it at such a detailed level at events. Although most of them were in Japanese, Google Translate’s camera function may come in handy.

This was fried pork-style soy meat, sold by Karuna (vegetarian food company), was really delicious. Ingredients displayed were carrot, tomato, dates, apple, sugar, vinegar, salt, yeast extract and comb extract. Allergens are wheat, soy and apple.

The vendors

Here are some vendors that I found really interesting.

Cocomo’s organic vegetable curry food truck.
Okinawa soba food truck. Can’t find the business name though, anyone?
Beautiful handmade sushi bento boxes.
I love miso and was so happy to see this! A huge range of miso with flavours like garlic, sansho (young Sichuan mountain pepper), lemon and yuzu. They also had baked miso rice sticks.

Some of the vendors were brands promoting products, so they were selling food that used their products.

Ohsawa Japan is a macrobiotic brand that sells vegan food products. They were promoting their yakisoba sauce.
It was delish! Brown pieces were soy meat (TVP), red strips were pickled ginger.
Ohsawa also had a brown rice soft cream booth. Gentle and malty, this was my first macrobiotic ice cream!
This shop was promoting their cooking oil by selling takoyaki, I think.
Instead of bonito shavings the takoyaki was topped off with fried onions.
The same shop also made deep fried mushrooms and it was superb! Never had better mushrooms before.

Vegan souvenirs

Samurai ramen is a brand of vegan ramen that’s certified halal and allium-free.

 

Chaya Macrobiotics sells vegan and some gluten-free items, many are available in certain supermarkets. Butter sand is a type of cookie cream sandwich that seems to be a Japanese adaptation of Western food.

Couple of things to note when visiting

  • All vendors only accepted cash (Japan is still largely cash-based), so bring enough.
  • Go early! Try to arrive right when it opens as some stalls were so popular.
  • Communication wasn’t an issue as most of the vendors I spoke to knew some English due to the international crowd. But if you are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese etc, you will be mistaken for Japanese at first, so don’t be surprised. I got roped into doing a survey I barely understood by a well-meaning uncle manning a stall!
  • If you don’t want to go alone or need some support to overcome the language barrier, go with the Tokyo Vegan Meetup Group who seem to be really nice and supportive people.
  • In Japan it’s not acceptable to eat and walk at the same time, as we may make a mess on ourselves or others. After buying your food please find a spot to sit/stand and eat there.

I planned my visit around this festival and I’d say it’s worth it! Will love to go again. Highly recommend checking one vegan festival out.

Next post will be Osaka – that means vegan takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Stay tuned!