Plant-Based Japan Travel – Kyoto

Kyoto’s many atmospheric shrines and grand temples offer visitors a glimpse into Japan’s ancient past. Come here to experience “wabi-sabi”, the Japanese aesthetic of finding beauty in imperfection (not wasabi!). Everything seems beautiful, from the moss that covers a rock in temple gardens to the irregularities in the ceramic cup that matcha is served in. Kyoto has a much slower pace of life than Tokyo, which also means that many small businesses close earlier or have irregular opening hours.

Don’t expect to find Buddhist vegetarian food at the temples. In fact, meat and alcohol are sold in many temples – a huge culture shock for me!

Notes:

  • Veg*n is a shortened, inclusive term to refer to vegans and vegetarians.
  • This article is solely based on my experiences and research, thus may not represent the whole of Kyoto.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations

Maps & groups:

Kyoto Tower – visit near sunset!

Kyoto station & Kyoto Tower

There seems to be not much options in Kyoto station except this Korean place (which I wasn’t interested in as Singapore has good Korean food). Kyoto Tower is connected to Kyoto Station. There’s one vegan place in the basement food court.

  • Alliums: One main dish is allium-free
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

A small vegan stall in the food court below Kyoto Tower, more like a bar. Main focus seems to be the alcohol they sell. Not much choice of main dishes, but overall quite tasty. Review.

Why I love Japan – detailed allergen information!

Organic Salute (vegan)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Hidden in an alleyway, but 5 minutes walk from Kyoto Station. It’s located in a wooden house in a residential area. Lovely homemade food. Some dishes are written at the counter, some are inside the menu so look closely. Also has a small grocery section where you can get miso instant noodles and macrobiotic cookies. Review.

Keep your eyes peeled for this door!

Nagomi Yoda Towa (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Present, request without when booking
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Modernized traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn) about 8 minutes away from Kyoto Station. We stayed here a night just for the experience. Highly recommended as the tatami rooms were the most comfortable and spacious rooms we stayed in. They understand vegan and provided the most amazing Japanese breakfast. Breakfast is included when you book through Booking.com – remember to type your request for veg*n one and confirm again when checking in. Review.

Looks simple but fresh and exquisite! Favourites were the grated yam soup, tofu and soy milk.

Hankyu Omiya Station

A transit spot with another station (Shijo Omiya, goes to Arashiyama) and many bus stops nearby. In Japan, it’s quite common to see different stations in the same area run by different companies). So you’re very likely to pass by here.

Vegetarian Ren (vegan)

  • Alliums & Alcohol: None

Taiwanese vegan food – the best-tasting, most value for money and substantial meal we had in Kyoto, served by an old couple who are devoted Buddhists – thus no alliums and alcohol in the restaurant. They were the friendliest and sweetest owners we met. Not easy to find as signage is not clear. Located on the second floor of the building 2 blocks behind 7-11. Review.

Highly recommended for big eaters!

Nishiki Market

A bustling market offering local goods, street food, tax-free shopping and souvenirs. Lots of food options here!

Inside the market

Lots of street food even for vegans! Rice crackers (check for fish sauce), fried tofu (check for meat and fish), pickles, ice cream, traditional sweets and more. We sampled incredible pickled mountain peppers, handmade soymilk, soy sauce dango and black bean ice cream. Review.

Black bean & sesame ice cream!

Ain Soph. Journey (vegan)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted. Some dishes use alcohol. Shop sells alcohol.

Their menu is very Western so wasn’t interesting to me as a tourist from Singapore, but come here for the soy karaage and those vegan desserts (like their famous matcha pancakes) that aren’t available in Singapore. Review.

Vegan version of Japanese deep fried meat, made with soy protein (TVP).

Miso Pota (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted. Sells alcohol

Sells quick and light meals of Japanese-style soups, onigiris and drinks. Labels the soups with fish stock clearly; most of the menu is vegan. Only has 3 seats. Review.

Not sure what are the 3 white cubes though!

Mumokuteki (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Savoury food may contain, check when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

Popular cafe famous for their vegan desserts. There’s a queue system to manage the crowd. We waited for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon, so I got a light lunch at Miso Pota first. Fish stock is clearly labelled here. Request the English menu from the start if you look Japanese – otherwise they will give you Jap menu. Desserts were truly fantastic, but be prepared to wait. Review.

The most perfect vegan dessert I’ve had! That’s a layer of coffee jelly below.

Philosopher’s Path & Ginkakuji Temple

A picturesque path along a canal that leads to Kyoto’s most famous Zen temple.

Grab some fresh matcha along the shopping street leading to the temple.

Gorey Cafe (vegetarian)

  • Alliums: Can be done without, request when ordering
  • Alcohol: None tasted, shop sells alcohol

Big eaters, rejoice! Japan’s food portions are usually small, but here they can upsize for you – for free! Not exactly local food but offers some interesting and tasty Japanese fusion dishes at a great price. Also had the best vegan pudding here. Review.

Wakame pasta! Wakame is a type of very tender Japanese seaweed.

Grilled Onigiri stall (non-veg, can’t find website)

  • Alliums: Unsure, please check
  • Alcohol: Unsure, please check

A small shop located along the left side of the food street near the entrance of Ginkakuji Temple. 3 onigiris labelled vegan. I didn’t try but it looked good – handmade and grilled in an open kitchen!

There’s a few onigiri shops along the street, this was the only one with vegan labels.

Arashiyama

Kyoto’s most famous mountain sightseeing spot with a sprawling, towering bamboo grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

Shigetsu (vegan)

  • Alliums: None
  • Alcohol: Grilled eggplant’s miso topping had slight alcoholic taste. Sells alcohol.

Known for authentic shojin ryori (Japanese Buddhist cuisine). Authentic means it’s fully vegan and cooked without alliums and alcohol (although certain ingredients used may contain a bit of naturally occurring alcohol). There’s other places that serves shojin ryori but with small amounts of egg and dairy, so don’t assume all shojin ryori dishes are vegan. Offers 3 sets, 2 of them requires reservation through their website. Review.

Shojin ryori is like fine dining!

Demachiyanagi station

A residential area about 30 minutes from Kyoto Station. Walking distance from 3 veg*n spots: Apalila Bakery, Falafel Garden, Riverside Cafe plus my favourite Takoyaki cooking class!

Apelila (vegan)

  • Alliums: Some breads have
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

A cafe and bakery that sells breads made from natural yeast. Every single piece we had here were hearty with just the right bite. Now I wish I booked our Airbnb near here so I could wake up to lovely breads every morning. Review.

So good that I get emotional thinking about it now..

Takoyaki Experimental Class (vegan)

  • Alliums: Can request without
  • Alcohol: None used

Learn to make vegan and gluten-free takoyaki (octopus dumplings) in Kyoto with Sayuri from Vegan X Gluten-free Lab! Fully hands-on and you can make and eat as many as you like. Recipe is pretty straightforward and Sayuri is very kind and patient so you can’t go wrong! The perfect activity for anyone who loves learning about food. Drop Sayuri a message over instagram to arrange! Review.

Go off the beaten tourist paths and learn to make local food with a pro!

 Previous: Tokyo 2 . Next: Osaka

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