Plant-Based Japan Travel – Osaka

Osaka is known as the kitchen of Japan, and the friendliest city we visited. Although it’s the third largest city in Japan, it’s comparatively less veg*n-friendly than Tokyo or Kyoto. Good thing is, Osaka is much more budget friendly, which is why we did all our shopping there before coming back to Singapore. In certain eateries, you can taste vegan versions of famous Osaka street food like yakiniku (BBQ meat skewers), okonomiyaki (savoury pancake), teriyaki (grilled meat) and takoyaki (octopus dumplings)!

While offering all the modern comforts of a big city, Osaka is also laid-back and friendly – so I never felt overwhelmed here like in Tokyo. Some shops and even large department stores open late and close rather early.

Maps:

When in Japan, don’t forget to look down!

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 Osaka.
  • Accuracy of information cannot be guaranteed as there may be changes to the eatery’s operations

Osaka Station

The biggest train station in Osaka, connected to many malls and department stores. There aren’t any pure veggie or vegan places here, but there’s a few places that offer vegan dishes.

Breakfast places

Most places near Osaka station seem to open at 10.30am or so, so we didn’t walk around looking for breakfast. After my trip someone from the Osaka Vegans group suggested a few breakfast places with vegan options around this area, which we’ve added to our map.

Generally, you can look for bakeries as those are open early. All bakeries I visited in Japan have breads without egg and dairy (labelled clearly) and most can do an americano. Some may even offer soymilk for coffee. Alternatively, you can grab cheap bites like certain onigiris, edamame, certain cookies, sesame buns, soymilks and more from konbinis – list here.

Chabuton (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, request without
  • Alcohol: None tasted, sells alcohol

On the 6th floor’s restaurant area in Yodobashi Camera building, which is linked to Osaka Station via an elevated walkway. All Chabuton outlets in Japan has vegan ramen and gyoza. You have to buy a ticket from the vending machine and pass it to the server. A cheap and quick place to settle a meal. Review.

Ramen in Japan is always too salty, I really prefer our noodle dishes!

Nakazakicho Station

10 minutes walk from Osaka station and has 4 veg*n spots (WaGwann, Aju, Babel Cafe and Pineapple Cafe) within a kilometer. Thus we booked this hotel (didn’t book Airbnb, we wanted luggage storage and airport shuttle for our last day). 10 minutes walk from this hotel is the fancy Hotel New Hankyu, which has the airport shuttle and is right next to Osaka Station.

Breakfast

The hotel said there’s nothing vegan in the breakfast buffet, which was okay because it was a bit expensive anyway. We can’t really cook in the room, which is why I carried a light and small electric travel cooker for such situations. We got bread, natto (those without fish sauce), oatmeal (I heated up with water in the cooker), wakame and sushi from supermarkets and had a cheap, substantial and balanced breakfast.

If you don’t wish to make breakfast, you can check out bakeries near Osaka station or grab a bite from konbinis.

Better than Gardenia!

Vegebar Aju (vegan) – Okonomiyaki, Yakitori

  • Alliums & Alcohol: Some dishes have, labelled clearly. Sells alcohol.

Has vegan okonomiyaki and yakitori! Impressively large menu of hearty, wholesome foods at an affordable price (by Japan standards). There’s only one person manning the cafe so be prepared to wait if it’s full house. Review.

Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake consisting of cabbage and a type of meat. Usually topped with a tangy sauce, mayo, dried seaweed, bonito (fish) flakes and spring onions. By default, the batter will have egg. Which is why I only ate this in places that serve the vegan version.

Babel Cafe (vegan)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Located in a shopping arcade 8 minutes away from the station. Passed by this place but didn’t find a chance to visit as they aren’t open for dinner on that day. Seems like a healthy vegan cafe with many raw foods.

Looks so fun and welcoming!

Shinsaibashi

Another popular shopping district, this one is like our Orchard Road so I didn’t explore much of it. Only went to a drugstore and bought 15 of this amazing chocolate rice crispy back!

Paprika Shokudo (vegan) – Teriyaki

  • Alliums: Contains, request without when ordering
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

About 6 minutes walk away from the Shinsaibashi (exit 2) station. However, the station is huge (10 blocks long!) and which exit you’ll end up at also depends on where you’re coming from. So if you want a simpler route, exit at smaller stations like Hommachi (Restaurant Green Earth is near this station) and Nishi-Ohashi. Had the best mock meats here, so I’m sure omnivore friends will enjoy too. The teriyaki tempeh is something I won’t forget! Review.

Grilled vegan eel rice bowl (donburi). Compared to Bespoke’s version, this is more shiok!

Dontonburi

Shopping district where the famous Glico running man is at. Come here to be amused by the crazy eye-catching displays made by restaurants and get some omiyage (souvenir) shopping done!

A hungry, ramen-holding dragon isn’t something you see everyday!

Toushoumen Unryuu (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Contains, request without when ordering
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Dontonburi is mainly a takoyaki and okonomiyaki food street and “normal” Osaka street food isn’t vegan. Surprisingly, Dontonburi has lots of Chinese restaurants! We discovered one shop towards the end with a “we have vegetarian food” sign at the door! The staff even checked with us if onion/garlic is okay. You may think that Chinese food is everywhere in Singapore, but Chinese food is so diverse. This place focus on dishes from Shaanxi, Shanxi and Xi’an, and specialises in dao xiao mian (knife shaved noodles). I’ve not found vegan versions of those in Singapore yet! Definitely worth a try. Review.

Says in Chinese, “We have vegetarian food, can do takeaway.” A Chinese restaurant with photos that look like these, is very likely to have authentic food!

OSAKA Namba Station

This may be the station where you get off for Dotonburi, depending on where you’re coming from. Like all other big stations in Japan, it’s huge and has multiple levels, track lines and exits. So always ask the station staff for directions, I learnt that it’s futile to figure things out by yourself!

LIFE supermarket (chain)

On the first floor of Maruito Namba building. A huge supermarket in Namba station with a bakery and prepared foods section. Carries vegan mayo, soymilk bread, natto and cucumber sushi and many more. If you’re unsure about what’s veg*n in the prepared foods section, you can check with the kitchen staff – but be specific when asking since not everyone in Japan knows what vegan is. We did our omiyage shopping here instead of buying in tourists areas. Supermarkets sell pretty much the same thing, with simpler packaging and it’s cheaper! Review.

Japanese mayo is tastier than Western mayo, in my opinion!

Kansai Airport

Hanazoto (non-veg)

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Located in airport’s Hotel Nikko. Has one traditional Kyoto-style vegetarian set indicated on their website. Not sure if it’s vegan though, as tempura batter usually has egg. Seems expensive, so we didn’t eat here.

Bento from Hidamari Tsutsu (vegan)

  • Alliums & Alcohol: Can request without

Before we went to Kansai Airport, I reserved 4 bentos from Tsutsu, a local vegan home chef, by messaging her Facebook page. She met us at Nakazakicho station since it was quite near her house. She even gave us a handwritten menu – so kind and thoughtful! Thanks to this homely, balanced bento, we had a lovely and affordable lunch in Kansai airport! She’ll start her own cafe soon, so follow her Facebook to get updates. Review.

Homely and made with care. A lovely end to our trip 🙂

Family Mart (chain)

This convenience store is in the departure hall, behind the Starbucks where you can get soymilk with your drink. I bought some daifuku (big mochi), natto roll and seaweed onigiri to snack on the plane. Here’s a list of vegan konbini food items.

Notable mentions (AKA: I WISH I VISITED)

Self Takoyaki Bar (non-veg) – Takoyaki

  • Alliums: Takoyaki usually have onions as topping, request without
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

Has vegan takoyaki – likely the only place in Osaka that does! Next to Shin-Imamiya Station, which is outside the city area of Osaka so be prepared to travel a bit. I didn’t visit as it’s a smoking bar, which my family won’t be comfortable in. From reviews in the Osaka group, the takoyaki is really yummy and you can even make it yourself!

Megumi (vegan) – Okonomiyaki

  • Alliums: Unsure
  • Alcohol: Shop sells it

I heard good things about their okonomiyaki and food in general. Sadly, they were closed during our stay in August (luckily I checked their Facebook before visiting), as it was the Obon holidays (which is something like our Qing Ming). Seems like a highly recommended place if you want to taste vegan versions of local food!

Thank you for reading!

Japan is such a wonderful country full of surprises and revelations. One should be able to enjoy Japan no matter what you eat! I hope this series will help greatly and give you more confidence going there! I’ll continue to post more dishes and packaged food reviews over at abillionveg to help their animal sanctuary partners. If you’d like to review any veg*n food, post it there and abillionveg can donate on your behalf to various animal welfare groups! Have a great trip 🙂

Previous: Kyoto

Share this
SHARE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *