Vegans visiting or living in Japan will tell you that mealtimes can pretty tricky! Japanese food almost always contains traces of meat, dairy, eggs, and especially fish. Fish broths derived from bonito feature heavily in most Japanese dishes, even those which appear vegetarian, like yu-dofu (boiled tofu).

This leaves vegans in a proverbial pickle. Either cook for yourself, with limited access to vegan ingredients in Japan, or eat out at a limited, but thankfully growing, number of vegan friendly restaurants. Indulging in Japan’s delicious national cuisine, or the 24-hour comfort of Japanese convenience store fare, is still a luxury unknown to many vegans. But, it seems the time is ripe for change with the opening of Tokyo’s first vegan konbini (convenience store) this December!

Offering a wide range of vegan products, Vegan Store also specializes in providing vegan versions of Japanese convenience store staples like karee (curry), onigiri (stuffed rice balls) or kara-age (fried chicken). They hope to provide access for vegans to the pleasurable ease of a typical Japanese konbini.

Vegan Store opened its doors on December 3rd, at the centre of Kappabashi near Asakusa’s famous Senso-ji temple. This makes a bold statement as Kappabashi is traditionally the most famous place in Tokyo to buy kitchen goods. Could this be a sign of change at the heart of Japan’s traditional food culture?

Excited by the prospect, we headed down to Vegan Store to experience Japan’s original vegan konbini first hand!

Vegan Store

All the Vegan Standards

Photo by Toby M

Inspired by a Japanese aesthetic, the design of the store, much like its name, is simple. A clean wood-paneled storefront with traditional hanging cloth displaying the store name welcome you from outside. None of the typical complexity you might associate with vegan food in Japan.

Once inside, you are greeted by a long room, one wall packed full of vegan and gluten-free products. Vegan Store really is a veritable garden of Eden for vegans:

From vegan cakes,

Delicious vegan muffins | Photo by Toby M

boxes of fresh root vegetables,

Fresh root vegetables | Photo by Toby M

pure, vegan forms of meat;

Vegan cutlets and corn dogs | Photo by Toby M

A tale to tell all your vegan friends: Vegan shrimp! | Photo by Toby M

and the carpet is even made of fake grass!

A carpet of grass like the Garden of Eden | Photo by Toby M

Vegan mayonnaise | Photo by Toby M

But if the vegan mayonnaise wasn’t enough, Vegan Store specializes in providing vegan versions of popular Japanese convenience store staples. You can buy:

Japanese style vegan curry roux,

Vegan Japanese Curry roux | Photo by Toby M

Vegan dashi,

Vegan dashi | Photo by Toby M

even a winter favorite, a soy version of cream stew!

Vegan cream stew | Photo by Toby M

All this within inches of the soy meat and fresh vegetables. It can’t get any more convenient, can it?

Fried tempeh | Photo by Toby M

All the Japanese Standards, in their superior vegan form

Soy steamed rice balls | Photo by Toby M

Delicious vegan bento | Photo by Toby M

Yes it can!

Opposite the wall of ingredients is a kitchen and heated glass cabinet. These are essential components of all Japanese convenience stores, where delicious steamed and fried foods, like nikuman (meat buns) or kara-age (fried chicken), are prepared.

Vegan Store has made the simplicity of these ready to eat and satisfying hot snacks easily available to vegans and vegetarians alike. Their cabinet contains toasty vegan fried chicken, hot onigiri and fried tempeh. Prices at ¥500, all you can do is cry itadakimasu!

Vegan kara-age, better than the meat version | Photo by Toby M

We especially recommend the vegan kara-age, which is crispy on the outside and mouthwateringly juicy within. But non-vegans be warned, it’s so delicious that one bite of this and regular convenience store fried chicken may forever taste like disappointment. Bentos cost between ¥1000 - ¥1350, depending on the contents. Japanese vegan curry is also available!

Scrumptious vegan ice cream | Photo by Toby M

The vegan icing on this convenience store soy-cake was Vegan Store’s homemade soft serve nut-milk ice cream. They said they regularly change the recipe but when we visited it was macadamia milk, with added nut pieces and hibiscus syrup. The texture was identical to dairy soft serve, but the taste was refreshing and lighter on the tongue and mind, knowing that no cows were harmed in the making. One cup is ¥200 plus ¥50 for each topping.

What’s Next?

Situated in tourist hot spot Asakusa, and only a few minutes walk from Tokyo’s most famous temple Senso-ji, we are confident that Vegan Store will prove to be a highly fruitful venture. Especially with the Tokyo Olympics coming in 2020, where the metropolis’s need to cater to dietary requirements is only going to increase. Vegan Store is leading the way in this respect, as they offer foods suitable for most dietary needs, like gluten and lactose-free, or halal, in addition to vegan. So whether you’re carnivorous, vegan or have any special dietary needs, know that delicious vegan goodies await between your chopsticks at Vegan Store.

Store Details

  • Name: Vegan Store / ヴィーガンストア
  • Address (EN): Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Nishi Asakusa 2-25-9
  • Address (JP): 東京都台東区西浅草2-25-9
  • Opening Hours: 6 AM-11 PM
  • Closed: Mondays (or Tuesday if the preceding Monday is a national holiday)

For more information, see their press release here.

By - Toby M.