Vegan Savory Items

Sometimes the overwhelming selection on display in many stores can lull you into a false sense of security, believing that there is a huge selection for vegans. It essentially boils down to what’s on this list. If you aren’t sure, and something looks like it might be vegan, check our vegetarian and vegan kanji list for the keywords to look out for, paying special attention to the kanji for fish stock and chicken extract.

Rice Balls

One of our favorite snacks is the good old rice ball, onigiri in Japanese. Why on earth hasn’t Western culture caught up with this concept yet? Many rice balls contain fish stock or fish, but there are normally one or two choices for vegans.

  • Salt
  • Plum
  • Seaweed (double-check for fish stock)


Japan’s love of tofu yields a tofu version of basically everything. Yogurt, noodles, desserts, you name it. Watch out for gelatin in yogurt and desserts, as well as fish stock in packets of noodles.

  • Asahico’s Purin, Chinese Almond Pudding: Widely available across many stores and clearly labeled as vegan, it’s close to the real thing.
  • Tofu Bars: Some flavors of these protein bars are veggie and some aren’t. Ones that aren’t include the wafu (Japanese style) flavor. The plain version is a good bet.
  • Tofu Noodles: In the last five years, tofu noodles have appeared everywhere, in a variety of flavors. Be sure to check the ingredients carefully on these. The plain ones from Family Mart, for instance, contain fish stock. Go for the sesame variety instead. Is It Vegan Japan has a great list.


Salads are tricky, as Japan loves to put small amounts of animals in them.

  • Plain: Many — if not all — convenience stores have plain salads available. Be sure to check the contents to see that you aren’t accidentally picking up one with bonus shredded chicken or tiny fish.
  • Dressing: Most dressings served in little packets next to the salads are vegan. Just be careful of honey.

Hot Foods

  • Hash browns: Oily as heck, but suitable for vegans.
  • Fries: Sold at the front of the store, piping hot.
  • Anman (steamed buns): Among the hot, steamed Chinese buns next to the cash register, you’ll usually find a sweet red bean paste one. That is vegan. Look out for the sesame paste anman from Lawson.

Photo by Terence Toh Chin Eng via Shutterstock

Vegan Savory Snacks

When you need a quick pick-me-up.

Packet Snacks

These are snacks people often have with alcohol. Many of the classic varieties are vegan.

  • Nuts
  • Dried plum sheets
  • Dried konbu (Japanese seaweed)
  • Popcorn: Salt flavors are generally vegan.

Potato Chips

You probably won’t be able to partake in the exciting flavors like pizza and spicy cod roe. But local favorites like seaweed and extra-crispy are good to go. For a comprehensive list, see the Is It Vegan site.


  • Ritz Biscuits: These are great for camping.
  • Vegetable sticks: Try daikon for a subtle Japanese hit.
  • Dried Sweet Potato: A lifesaver. Sweet, rich and chewy, it’s everything you wish a dried banana could be, and more.

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Vegan Sweet Snacks

Even vegans and flexi-gans need that sweet fix.

Japanese Sweets

You’ve come all this way, so of course, you want to try something that is Japanese. Rice-based wagashi, such as mochi (rice cakes) and daifuku are often made without milk and eggs, and tend to be vegan — lucky you. Watch out for shortening, though.


Fruit is fine. Nothing added here. From pineapple and apple to kiwi and orange, take your pick. Fruit in syrup is also okay.


As long as it isn’t gummy sweets, jelly is generally suitable for vegans, too. Normally, the thickener here will be agar-agar or something similar. As one of the main allergens, the company is legally obliged to indicate if it is used, so check the packet to see if gelatin is included in the ingredients or not.

Ice Creams

Arguably, the best vegan foods are accidentally vegan, meaning that the original recipe doesn’t need changing because the product is vegan to start with. The good news is that a few Japanese ice creams fall into that category.


Sorry, vegans, there is really not that much on offer in terms of chocolate in a typical convenience store. That said, the dark chocolate flavor of Ippon Manzoku is your savior when it comes to vegan chocolate bars. Delicious, and great for an energy boost, too.

Photo by Morumotto via Shutterstock

Vegan Drinks

Hangover remedies that look like they’ve been dealt out of someone’s coat? We got you. Strange soy milk flavors? Let’s go.

  • Ukon no Chikara: The most popular turmeric-based drink for curing a salaryman’s hangover, Ukon no Chikara is loved by suits and students alike.
  • Soy latte: Many of the soy lattes are vegan, although you’ll need to be careful of bonus milk.
  • Kikkoman soy milk: Kikkoman, Japan’s most popular brand of soy milk, has a range of flavors that are suitable for vegans, from sweet potato to dorayaki. The latter is great for vegans because even though the real thing is off-limits, it’s available to drink.
  • Black vinegar drinks: Known as kurozu drinks, these come in black cartons, normally a mix of apple juice and vinegar, marketed as providing an uplift. Surprisingly tasty.
  • Fruit juices and smoothies: The majority of these are vegan. The odd smoothie may contain milk products.

More Japan Vegan Guides

If you’re after other vegan-related information to help you enjoy your time in Japan, check out our other guides: