A guide to meat-free convenience store selections in Japan.
Research revealed that Japan is incredibly high on practically every listicle as one of the world’s least vegetarian-friendly countries. Many supposedly vegetarian meals, such as salad dressing or miso soup, almost invariably contain dashi, or fish stock.
If you’re a vegetarian in Japan — by definition, someone who doesn’t eat meat or fish — it’s a good idea to learn how to cook. While many restaurants will do their best to accommodate your diet, there’s a decent possibility you’ll still get bonito (fish flakes) or bacon on your meal. If you want to eat out, you may always look for vegan eateries in cities throughout Japan.
Cooking, on the other hand, isn’t always a practical (or ideal) choice. And for most budget-conscious Japanese individuals who don’t want to make three meals a day, the konbini may give a variety of items to meet all of your nutritional needs. With over 56,400 convenience stores in Japan (according to a 2017 Statistica survey), one is rarely more than a short walk away. You’ll have to avoid the fish-flavored chips and munchies, but there are plenty of vegetarian options in any konbini that you can make into your own meals. Here are seven suggestions to help you.
1. Pizza buns
You’ll notice these near the register with all the hot nikuman (steamed buns with meat filling). The 7-Eleven ピザまん (piza-man) version are gooey, wonderful buns comprised of solely tomato sauce, cheese, and a soft exterior bun. These are a popular konbini staple because they are hot, full, and delicious. They’re also reasonably priced at around ¥120.
Just a heads up: While 7-Eleven sells konbini pizza buns with tomato-and-cheese filling, we can’t speak for the “meatlessness” of all konbini pizza buns. Most fast-food restaurants provide some variation of these saucy buns, some of which may include ground pork or other meat in the filling. If you can’t read the Japanese ingredients, it’s advisable to ask store personnel if the bun you want is vegetarian. Look for the character 肉 (niku) in the ingredients list, which denotes animal meat.
Onigiri, or rice balls, are commonly available and quick to eat. The ume (plum) onigiri might just be your next favourite! It’s a triangular wrapped with seaweed and stuffed with plums. Other vegetarian flavours include yaki (simple grilled), kombu (kelp), mame (bean), plain salt, and seaweed.
Natto, or fermented soy beans, is regarded as one of the healthiest foods available in Japan. Natto rolls are frequently accessible in each konbini’s refrigerated section. Be aware that most people, including Japanese, seem to either adore or despise natto due to its distinct, pungent flavor. However, the flavor isn’t as intense when folded up like sushi, so natto rolls are a fantastic way to see if you can handle this healthy vegetarian option. It’s also vegan!
Prepackaged pancakes, which can be found in many konbini, are an ideal little breakfast snack. 7-Eleven mochifuwa (soft and fluffy) pancakes are pre-wrapped with butter and syrup on the inside. But you have to be quick – at only ¥100 each, they generally sell out quickly in the mornings! To get your day started, pair it with an almond milk coffee from the drinks area.
A pack of soba (buckwheat) noodles or thin, white rice noodles can normally be found in the refrigerated section. They’re normally eaten cold, which makes for a refreshing summer supper. Because some products include a sauce containing fish sauce, try eating them plain or replacing the sauce with your own soy sauce.
Many konbini sell a variety of sandwiches in the refrigerated section, including egg salad, Japanese omelet, and mayo-egg salad mix. If you’re fortunate, you might even come upon a sweet and delectable fruit cream mix sandwich. 7-Eleven sells some with a blueberry, chocolate, and cream combination.
7. Fried potato
Served warm as a simple go-to quick meal!
Konbini sell fried chicken and other meat products at the cash registers, but many also sell hash browns and french fries under the titles (hashupoteto) and フライドポテト (furaidopoteto). The hash browns rival McDonald’s, and the French fries are a fantastic lunch side.
Pair any of the above items with a fruit smoothie (available in the refrigerated section at 7-Eleven and other stores), fresh apples, bananas, and fruit mixes, chocolate-covered nuts and trail mix, or even the humble boiled egg (sold individually in single boxes to make a totemo oishii (super delicious) meal!
It’s not simple to have dietary restrictions and food allergies in Japan, but it’s doable. Fortunately, Japan’s vegetarian convenience shop snacks can assist. Although being a vegetarian in Japan is a daily effort, it is not impossible!