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It is commonly stated that Japan is rather vegan historically due to a combination of factors; the eating of meat being prohibited by the influence of Buddhism, dairy did not existing until recently, the available land for farming on the main and southern islands is very limited and in many place poor or hard to farm. However, seafood and especially a dried and fermented form of Tuna to make stock from, has always been consumed to some extent and the Buddhist edicts neither reached nor were they followed universally in all areas. For some communities, "fish" included whale meat and in mountainous areas game and wild boar would be included.
Veganism does not have a large following and most healthy restaurants are closer to vegetarian than vegan or even omnivorous.
Dr. Masakazu Tada, elected an Honorary Vice-President of International Vegetarian Union in 1960 and serving as such for 25 years, stated that "Japan was vegetarian for a 1,000 years". This is not exactly true but, as late as the 1920s, it was reported by J.W. Robertson Scott that the society was 90% vegetarian with 50 to 60% only eating fish on festive occasions. A figure as likely to be true from poverty as for any other reason.
Buddhist temple food is called "shojin ryori" and can be either vegetarian or vegan. It is an exquisite and ceremonial cooking still served traditionally at temple inns such as those in Mount Koya, Wakayama.
Notable too is Daitokuji Ikkyu  at the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto, a restaurant has been preparing vegetarian shojin-ryori since the mid-1400s surely making it the old veggie restaurant in the world. It serves dinner as well as lunch from Y4000 to Y8000.
Influence of the WestEdit
Under the influence of Westerners traders and missionaries was introduced to a meat based diet. Interesting, at Gyokusen-ji there is a memorial statue to the first cow slaughtered for its meat and milk drunk dated to the late 19th century and the influence of the first American Consul General Townsend Harris (1804-1878).
Increasingly, since the American "re-education" period Post-WWII, the Japanese diet has begun to mimic the North American diet. More and more Japanese are relying on meats, dairy and junk food for their calories. "Super-sized" hasn't taken off in Japan yet, but there are McDonalds and local MOS(Mountain, Ocean, Sun) Burger chains across the country. As Japan's wealth increase in the boom periods, so did its diet become far richer in animal products and imported food stuff until it reached its now unsustainable level. Japan is an important market for American and Australia beef industries.
Alternatively, more recent Westerners, and Japanese travelers to the West, have introduced typical wholefood shops and distributors such as Waraba Mura and Alishan. Both are now run by Japanese.
The Japanese diet includes numerous specialist foods that are very healthy and interesting contribution to a vegan diet and which have influenced it through the spread of the pro- but not exclusively macriobiotics. For example; miso, natto, many varieties of tofu, yuba, amazake, goma-tofu (sesame tofu), a wide variety of grains, and gluten products such as fu, pickles, seaweeds, noodles, beans unusual vegetable are widespread. Dried fruit and nuts are not and are very expensive but high quality. Fruit and vegetables in general are also very expensive and tend to come "gift wrapped'. The $200 melon is not a myth! Care needs to be taken not to buy foods that look innocent but include bonito. Home cooking benefits hugely.
Numerous regular food scares happen relating to lower quality Chinese foods relating to the over use of pesticides and illegal additives.
Wholefood shops Edit
There is a chain of healthy food shops in many large cities called Natural House, and another more macrobiotic (selling organic animal produce) called Anew where most staples can be bought.
Almost all miso soup contains bonito or other animal products, even in some vegetarian cafes. You might have better luck in the mountainous regions where shiitake mushroom stock is used instead.
Udon (wheat noodle) and Soba (buckwheat) bars are ubiquitous and appear hopeful but the stock (dashi) almost always contains animal products. It is possible to request just plain noodes and add your own ginger, shoyu (soya sauce) etc.
Almost all tempura is fried in the same oil as animal products.
Traditional Japanese sweets are largely vegan, especially those made with mochi (sticky) rice and azuki bean paste. Also included are warabi mochi, made from a fern root, kanten (a jelly made from seaweed gelatin). Dango (mochi that is shaped as a ball) is also vegan.
Breads are American-style soft white slices with milk products and sugar in them introduced after WWII. Wheat is not a native crop and does not grow well in Japan. French-style bakers and the odd wholegrain natural rise breads can increasingly be found in big cities.
Apart from the ubiquitous and many varieties of tofu that are available locally and freshly made, there are many other soya products from edamame (green soya beans often served with beer), yubu (the skin taken off cooking soya milk), fresh soya milk, natto (fermented soya beans eaten generally at breakfast), gomatofu (tofu with sesame seeds, some icecreams and tempeh etc.
Vegan-friendly shops, restaurants and cafes Edit
- Crayon House - Omotesando - Famous bookstore, organic store and cafe/restaurant. A small world/community. Broad selection of organic food and a nice lunch buffet.
- Pure Cafe - A small and rather fashionable cafe attached to a natural cosmetics store. Small but nice menu. Portions are slightly small so maybe order extra side dishes. Cafe does not take reservations.
- Brown Rice Cafe Omotesando - Right across the street from Crayon House. Smaller, newer and fancier than Crayon House specializing in a broad range of drinks and teams as well as brown rice. Interesting menu featuring a veggie burger and curry rice.
- Yasai-ya Mei - Omotesando - Located in Omotesando Hills. Japanese style dishes with organic vegetables.
- Mominoki House - Sendagaya, Harajuku - This old estabilished organic restaurnat, which been in business since 1976, has a variety in vegan dishes. It opens for lunch and dinner.
- Gaya - Yoyogiuehara - "Izakaya"style restaurant. Organic vegetables. There are also branches in Aoyama, Tachikawa and in California, US.
- Vegan Healing Café Shibuya café review. Haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising.
- Cafe Eight - Aobadai, Meguro - Run by the same company as Pure Cafe. Catering and online shopping available. http://www.cafe8.jp/
- AEN - Jiyugaoka - Organic restaurant. There's a branch in Shinjuku Isetan Departmentstore.
- Fangsong café Akasaka - Small, organic/vegetarian café on a back street in Akasaka. Very good and fairly cheap. Web page in Japanese, map: 
- Daigo - Toranomon - Located in Atago Hills. This high-class Japanese style restaurant serves "shojin ryori" courses (starting with 10, 000 JPY) in private rooms.
- Inakaya - Roppongi - "Robatayaki" grill restaurant. Not a vegan place but various kinds of grilled fresh vegetables available. They perform a "mochitsuki" rice cake pounding show two times a day. Popular for Hollywood stars.
- Shizenshiki Shokudo KeKe - Ginza - Across the streeet from Plantan Ginza - Buffet-style restaurant of organic vegetables, chemical seasoning and preservatives-free dishes. There are also branches in Haneda Airport, Setagaya, Yokohama and Saitama.
- Chaya Macrobi Cafe&Deli - Hibiya - Macrobiotics delicatessen and cafe.
- Govinda's Nakano. "Pure vegetarian restaurant non violence food—Our dishes doesn't any meat, fish, onion, garlic, alcohol and caffein."(sic)
- Monk's Foods in KichiJoji - This is not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant per se, but it's organic and macrobiotic and he only serves 3 options a day, one of which can be prepared vegan on request.
- der Akkord - A small but famous bakery for vegans, serving variety of breads, cakes and pies. Online-order available.
- hifumi organic cafe and foods - Chiba-shi - organic cafe/restaurant and shop serving vegan and macrobiotic foods. Every Thursday there is an organic food market outside of the cafe/shop with fresh, organic produce from local farmers