Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Asakusa

templeDogOn New Year’s Eve we found ourselves in the district of Asakusa the home of the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. It turned out it was the perfect place to be. New Years is a big holiday in Japan, maybe the biggest and there are lots of traditions. The main one is that you go to a temple and put in your prayer for the new year. It’s important to do this as fast as possible once the new year starts so there are tons of people lined up waiting for midnight to approach the temple. Sensō-ji had an atmosphere of a huge festival with vendors selling snacks and charms for blocks and blocks on the way to the temple. Inside the grounds, you could also get your fortune scroll after making an offering and picking a lucky number. Mine said I’m going to lead a revolution.

We waited around but it was pretty cold and so we left for a little to warm up at a bar in a fancy hotel overlooking the sky tree where we were completely underdressed but still treated with kindness and respect. Japan is really great. In Asakusa you have a great view of Tokyo Sky Tree which is lit up at night. Also, it’s just one stop over from Uneo station which is home to another T’s Restaurant. On New Years you are supposed to eat Udon Noodles for luck and this was the spot to do it for sure.

We made it back over to Sensō-ji for midnight where we got to hang out by some VIPs who were ringing the toki-no-kane (bells of Time),  for New Years.  It rings 108 times and every single ring is made by a different person. It was a magical night as we ushered in the Year of the Dog!

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Top 5 vegan options in Asakusa

    1. Toryanse

    2. Sekai Cafe

    3. Kaemon Asakusa

    4. Sumida River Kitchen

    5. Aasics Connection

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 Vegan Guide Japan

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Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Harajuku

cupcakeSweets in Japan are a pretty big deal but vegan ones aren’t always easy to find. Unless you stroll into the tiny Brown Sugar 1st where you will be overwhelmed with things to buy like coconut popcorn and yuzu cookies and soft serve ice cream and cupcakes.

A district in Shibuya, Harajuku, is unlike anywhere I’ve been in my life. It became famous for the “Harajuku Girls” who come out to shop in the most fabulous clothes you’ve ever seen. And girl power is definitely the name of the came. Everything is kawaii (cute), in pastel colors, and looks like it was designed by the coolest committee of twelve-year-old girls anywhere. There are cat cafes, bakeries, crepe shops, animal costumes, and stuffed animals everywhere. And this is for sure the place to pick up that glitter filled cell phone case you’ve been dying for. I would want every girl in the world to have a neighborhood like this to wander around, there were so many small groups of unchaperoned girls just having the best time. It made our trips to the mall in the 80s seem pathetic by comparison. And yes, we did spend way too much money on this giant rainbow cotton candy! cottoncandy

Top 5 vegan options in or near Harajuku

    1. Harukucchii
    2. Sass-no-ha
    3. Hachinoki
    4. Kamakura 24sekki
    5. Kitotoki

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Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Shibuya

HachikōMaybe you’ve heard the story of Hachikō, the dog that waited at Shibuya station for his human to get off work every single day. He was so famous for his ever-present to folks in the neighborhood for his unwavering attitude that when he passed they built a statue of Hachikō, waiting in his spot.

Shibuya is probably the area that you think of when you picture Tokyo in your mind. It’s like times square on some sort of intense Japanese drugs that they only have in anime movies. Everywhere you look there are giant ads, giant building, and millions of people everywhere. The day I was at the famous intersection across the station enjoying my matcha latte at Starbucks, I even saw a bunch of people driving go-carts dressed like all the characters from Mario Kart, Luigi, Toad and the Princess were all there. They say the intersection is the busiest in the world and it’s super interesting to watch the lights change and see it swarm with people.

Aside from the many stores and coffeshops, (one has a David Lynch theme!) there are plenty of vegan options. We tried Afuri which was very different than other bowls of ramen in Japan because it was positively swimming with bright, colorful vegetables. It was very tasty and I recommend it for sure. There are a ton of other options and many are open late so check Happy Cow and Yelp to see what’s what.

Vegan Guide Japan

Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Shimokitazawa

ShimoStreetWhen we found a David Bowie-themed Airbnb it soon seemed like Shimokitazawa was the neighborhood for us! We were so glad to find this spot which I can’t imagine will be around for very long. Unlike everywhere else in Tokyo in Shimokitazawa everything is human-sized. Through the main section they don’t even allow cars, it’s just narrow little streets with hip young Japanese people heading to and fro. It’s not at all overwhelming like the other neighborhoods but there are tons of cafes and vintage shops.

Our first stop was for, you guessed it, ramen and gyoza. We were very excited to get to order from a vending machine at Chabuton. It was pretty tasty but probably the least exciting of the bunch. We loved the gyoza though!

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We also got to try a couple of coffee shops. The weird part about Shimokitazawa is that most places don’t open until 11am, even coffee places! I later found out there was a spot with a ham and cheese crepe called blank but we couldn’t work it into our schedule. There was one Australian style coffee shop, Frankie Melbourne Espresso,  that I ordered a soy chai from and it was literally the best chai I’d ever had in my life. When it came out, it was still steeping so there was a little hourglass on the tray to let me know exactly when it was done. So adorable.

For late night I loved the bar Mother. It was also very close to our airbnb and was made out of cob painted gold so it resembled a super fancy tree house and had a super cool vibe. They had vegan options marked so I had to try the Okinawan noodles to go with my ume plum & shiso cocktail. It was delightful! mother

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Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo

TsRamenTokyo is one of the largest cities in the world and its vastness can truly overwhelm you when you are first starting to plan your trip. It took me forever to make some sense of the neighborhoods and districts and even now I’m not entirely sure what is supposed to be where! For example, I have Harajuku listed as it’s own page but it’s a part of Shibuya which is listed separately. Shibuya has many neighborhoods inside! Generally, I’m going to categorize places by what seemed right to me but when you are planning, it’s easy to figure out by looking at the train stations.

And speaking of trains, the whole system is vast and confusing. The bigger the station, the more likely that you will find a tourist desk for English speakers but if you can’t, no worries. Like in New York, the best way is to often ask a stranger! People in Japan were incredibly helpful everywhere I went. Learning a couple phrases like “Do you speak English” and “Thank you very much” will get you far. You will end up spending a lot of time on trains and in the station so it’s best to plan where you are going to eat based on what train station you are already going to be near.

The most recommended vegan restaurant in all of Japan, T’s Tan Tan, is actually located inside Tokyo station. So, it’s a great first stop on your way in from the airport if you are staying near the station or transferring through. I read MANY accounts of people saying that they would plan all of their routes through Tokyo station just so they could keep on eating at T’s.  Even though it’s a tiny restaurant, lots of people had big bags that the staff allowed for storage in the entryway so don’t stress about that, but every station has tons of lockers which you can also store your bag in. I read that finding the T’s in Tokyo station was difficult but really it wasn’t so bad because I followed the directions on Happy Cow to get to Keiyo street which is inside the station. I had more trouble finding the location in Ueno station. Really, I should have just asked someone sooner because I wasted a lot of time wandering around. The key is to just find the big food court and then from there as someone who looks like they work there. The ramen at T’s is unsurpassed, I tried multiple versions and they were all the best ramen I ever had! Everything is vegan and best of all, if you are traveling on a holiday, they keep their social media up to date so we could find out that they were indeed open on New Year’s Day which was one of the most exciting things that happened to me while in Japan because everything is closed around New Years.

Other things to note about Tokyo, if you put money on a PASMO card at the subway you can use it throughout the city and Kyoto for subways and trams and you can keep adding money as necessary. There is also an unlimited tourist rail pass. We used google maps to find our way around and, in my opinion, it’s pretty important to have an International SIM card or Pocket Wi-Fi. We had the latter from Pupuru which worked fantastically. You can pick it up at the airport when you land and then drop it off in the prepaid envelope in a mailbox inside the airport before you take-off. Note that the mailboxes are outside the security after check-in. I’d also recommend getting a powerbank to keep your cell and wi-fi charged up. When you run directions and google translate all day it can really drain the battery. And once your battery is drained, your completely screwed! Note that they don’t have Uber in Japan. And lots of places take cash so make sure you get a Yen infusion at the ATMs in the train station whenever you start to get low.

Google Translate is one of the best things that ever happened to vegan travelers. I had heard people say that, but I didn’t understand until my friend explained the camera capability. You just take a picture or point your camera at the list of ingredients and like magic it will try and figure out what the words are! You can easily tell if your onigiri is filled with red bean paste or tuna! Sometimes the translations are a bit tough though, I assumed that “rice flower floating in wind” was vegan. Usually, animal words are obvious. And that is my final tip about Japan. Everything is really expensive and getting around can take lots of time so the ubiquitous 7-11s and Family Marts on every single block are a godsend! We ate so many rice balls and chips when everything was closed at breakfast time or late night. The options are way better and totally different than in the US. Check out my friend Jojo’s post for more info on what’s what at convenience stores and lots of tips for travel and vegan restaurants. And watch the video for how to open the convenience store onigiri, the design is magically Japanese. 711food

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BBQ Revolution GIVEAWAY + #atxvegan News

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Austin’s own Barbeque Revolution is BACK!!! It is now located in front of White Mountain Foods at 3301 E. 5th St.

Giveaway closed 6/7/2018  To win a free sandwich of their new MahCrib (Smokey Tempeh ribs slathered in barbecue sauce and topped with slivered onions and tart pickles, all on a hoagie style bun) just comment below and I’ll choose FOUR WINNERS at random.BBQmahKrib

More Upcoming Events:

Thursday 5/31/2018 Celis Brewery is having a Vegan Brews and BBQ night hosted by Southern Fried Vegan

Friday 6/1/2018 Is June ATX Vegan Drinks at Possum Park, it will be BYOB and you can get food from The Great Y’all, Bistro Vonish, Zucchini Kill Bakery, and newcomers, SNO Place Like Home.

Saturday 6/2/2018 The Wandering Vegan Market at Buzz Mill from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It’s the last market until September and your last chance to buy cruelty-free skincare products, makeup, jewelry, candles, succulents, artwork, clothing and much more while eating a Plow burger.

Saturday 6/2/2018 This weekend  Vegandale is coming to Houston! There will be vendors from all over like No Bones Beach Club in Portland and Compton Vegan from LA plus all your favorites from Austin like Rabbit Food and Capital City Bakery.

Sunday 6/3/2018 Monthly Vegan Brunch at Mr. Natural at 1901 E Cesar Chavez St 10:30am-2pm . This one will have soul food including Fried chic’n, Sweet potato waffles with bourbon maple syrup, Mac and cheese.

Tuesday 6/5/2018 Vegan Night at Winebelly. This South Austin favorite will have a full vegan takeover of their menu all night.

You can also still get tickets for the ATX Vegan Party Barge June 17.

Restaurant News:

The Vegan Yacht will soon reopen in the ’45 parking lot.

Rabbit Food Grocery Recently had their grand opening at their new spot by the Beer Plant.

Recent additions to my Austin Vegan Friendly Guide include Loro’s  Smokehouse with their Szechuan Bowl and Won Tons and Thai Salsa Jugo Fresh Juice which has vegan entrees downtown along with smootheis, a popcorn tofu sandwich at Holy Roller downtown, another vegan taco at Barley Bean Cafe, Breakfast tacos at The Funkadelic Brunch in South Austin. Bento Picnic on the east side which has cute bento box meals, Yuyo a Peruvian restaurant on Manor, Le Bleu on Burnet at 183 which is an offshoot from the Saigon le Vendeur truck which and has tofu and seitan for their vermicelli bows, Sushi Bang Bang on 183 also has lots of vegan sushi,  and a nice update that Bao’d Up in Mueller is back to using vegan dough. ls-austin-vegan-guide

Anything I missed please leave in the comments!

Vegan Guide to Venice Italy

Vegan Guideto VenicePreviously on Lazy Smurf’s Guide, I wrote about how easy (and incredibly delicious) it was to be vegan on the Ligurian coast and even in the tiny village of Apricale. Venice, with it’s many, many tourist restaurants, wasn’t quite as mind-blowingly scrumptious. Although there were more all-vegan places than other places I’d been in Italy, the random restaurants that I didn’t search out weren’t nearly as good (probably since they cater to non-discriminating vacationer with epic menus in four languages). Only 55,000 people live in Venice and about 60K show up every day to stare at ancient buildings and bridges and gondoliers.  It was on my list of places that I needed to visit asap before it’s underwater and I’ve wanted to go ever since my second-grade teacher told me about it (the roads are made of water?). It already floods quite regularly, and they don’t do the sewage collection that I’m used to here so it can get a bit gross. But they have a, dare I say, ludicrous plan to deal with the water. Check out this video How Does Venice Work.

Despite the overwhelming amount of tourists, I still found the city just so magical. It was impossible to not walk around with your eyes wide and mouth hanging open. Every street is beautiful. Even the city bus -which isn’t a bus but a boat, the Vaporetto – is a delightful experience as you glide by all the ancient buildings. Seeing churches with sunken waterfilled basements, visiting the glassmaking island of Murano and the colorful island Burano after passing deserted islands that had cemeteries, or used to house monks or prisoners, or lepers were fascinating. We got lost every time we tried to find something but we found things we had no idea we were looking for. At night, the cruise ships and daytrippers all leave and the city feels empty and like you could be living in another time.

It’s much easier to eat vegan anywhere in Italy than just about wherever else I’ve been because you can nearly always get pasta marinara or pizza marinara & ask them to add vegetables to either. Even on the island of island of Torcello, which has more goats than people, the little restaurant had a vegan menu! The difference in Venice was they cater so heavily to tourists that they don’t put as much care into ingredients & preparation as other places in Italy. People mostly seemed to pick restaurants by the view & they generally had the same epic menu of every Italian dish you’ve ever heard of in 5 different languages. Generally, if a restaurant serves a ton of dishes that isn’t a good sign.

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Barely anyone lives on Torcello, one of the islands around Venice, but they still had a vegan menu available!

The traditional soup of Venice is Minestra de Pasta e Fagioi or Pasta and Beans Soup and I asked at a couple different places & it was always vegan so that’s a solid option.Vegan Croissant

For breakfast, inexplicably to me, vegan croissants are plentiful at coffee shops along with other vegan pastries and I had no trouble finding soy milk. Note that if you order at the counter it will be cheaper than if you sit at a table and get waited on. In most places, you pay when you are done eating at the register. Somehow they remember what everyone ordered even though they don’t write it down.

Grocery stores have a ton of vegan options & they are often marked with the little vegan symbol in English, often that will be the only English you see! Convenient! Overall things are pretty expensive in Venice since it’s an island so if you can score a place with a kitchen you will save a lot of money & won’t be missing out on amazing vegan restaurants all over. Then you can go out for wine or coffee at all the beautiful cafes on plazas everywhere.

There are gelato places on every street. Sometimes multiple gelato places on the same street on the same block! They usually have a fruity sorbet that’s vegan but you can also seek out delicious soy-based gelatos, check out Vegan in Brighton’s recommendations, that’s what I followed.venice23_37259972804_o.jpg

The number one must that you will hear from everyone is Pizzeria L’Angelo and it is no joke. If you go to one place in Venice make it be this one! If I could do my trip to Venice again I would just eat there every day even though it isn’t even a restaurant, but a counter where you just walk up and order. The downsides are that there is nowhere to sit, it’s takeout only, so many people were eating their pizza just leaning against the wall. Also, it’s really popular with locals so you might have to wait. You can get whole pizzas, slices, or paninis & omg do I recommend the latter if you are the kind of vegan that loves tons of meat, cheese, olives, and bread like me! I was in pizza heaven! It’s so tiny you can walk right by it. It’s actually easier to find when the gate is down because it’s closed. Then you just stand there, longingly wishing you had checked the hours. Finally, it isn’t all vegan which is nice when traveling with non-vegans because dragging them to vegan places in Italy is not easy! But they had multiple excellent vegan options.

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La Tecia

Another all-vegan spot that I got to check out, La Tecia was all vegan and also delicious. The menu was all in Italian and there were some things I had never heard of (Arrosto di seitan) some things I’ve heard of all my life and was dying to try in Italy (Lasagna con ragu’ di seitan, Ravioli con seitan e funghi porcini, Tagliatelle di riso alla taillandese) and then some things that seem to be required at vegan restaurants (hummus, burgers). This chickpea pancake sounded like my obsession Farinata but it wasn’t quite the same. I wish I could have tried everything there!venice39_37939268022_o

I knew I was going to get Lasagna at Wine Bar Teamo which had an epic omni menu with a couple of vegan options on the last page. It was super dark so the picture isn’t great but definitely try lasagna while in Italy, it’s very different with super thin layered noodles.

Sometimes you will find that if you just ask you can find random vegan foods. I’d read on the Nomadic Vegan’s write-up of Venice that this amazing little bakery on the island of Burano had vegan cookies and so I marched right in and said…something in Italian…apparently I asked him if he was vegan (whoops) but the baker set me straight and told me all the products that he makes that don’t have any eggs, butter, or milk. I was in heaven on the ferry ride home munching on my sweets. BTW, it’s “Sono Vegana” if you want to say “I’m vegan” (feminine) or “Sono Vegano” (masculine). I don’t know what you do if you don’t use masculine and feminine pronouns but there is a trans gondolier you can support who probably knows how to make that happen.veniceislands07_26194350069_o

I wish I would have gotten to spend more time in Venice, two and a half days was not nearly enough! I especially wanted to try the Crêperie I read about, Cocaeta – Non le solite Crêpes, but it was just too far away from where we were staying and I can only get my mom to go on so many ridiculous out of the way vegan excursions with me!

Here are some pictures from Venice and the islands Burano, Murano, and Torcello and there are more on my Flickr.

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