The next few posts will cover some of my favorite and recommended vegan restaurants in Japan. I’ve wanted to write this series of posts for a while now, so I’m quite excited to release them.
Many vegans ask me if they would have “anything to eat” when they arrive in Kyoto. This question kind of shocked me, since there are dozens of 100% vegan, mostly-vegan, and vegan-friendly restaurants in Kyoto. So, how come so many people don’t know about them?
Well, when you check the app HappyCow, it finds you the vegan restaurants out here, but you might not know exactly what to expect. Well, that’s why I’m here.
I was working on this quite a lot, since I really want to provide accurate information to help vegans that live and travel in Kyoto. I wish I read these kinds of guides when I had just arrived in Kyoto myself (I was absolutely clueless).
But, before we start, there are a couple of important things you need to know to make your life easier when eating in vegan restaurants and cafés in Kyoto as well as in Japan in general:
Lunch and dinner times
Usually restaurants in Kyoto open in two shifts – for lunch and for dinner. As Japanese people usually start eating lunch around 12:00-13:00, if you find yourself hungry around 15:00, it might be difficult to find a vegan place open. That’s also true for almost all vegan restaurants in Japan. So, as the famous saying goes: in Rome, do as the Romans do. In Japan, eat lunch around 12:00. I will mention places which are continuously open from lunch time until the end of dinner – so keep a look out for that.
Opening and closing hours
Every country has its own manners and customs for when restaurants open and close. In my home country of Israel, many restaurants don’t have an exact closing time and remain opened until the last customer finishes (usually). Even when there is an exact closing hour, you might still be able to come in after some light negotiation. Well, NOT IN JAPAN. Restaurants in Kyoto usually have very strict operating hours. When the restaurant is said to be open, it will be open, and when it says it will be closed, it’s closed! Keep that in mind before coming.
Last Order (L.O.)
Some restaurants will write their operating hours, as for example, “closed 22:00. L.O. 21:00”. What this means is that you can order until 21:00, and after that, only the customers who are already seated can stay in the restaurant until it closes at 22:00. If you try to come in at 21:02, it’s a total waste of time since they won’t let you in. The same goes with lunch: even if the restaurant is open until 15:00, it might be that the last order is until 14:30 – so better watch out.
This happens sometimes, since some smaller restaurants are operated by one person, and that person has some occasions when he or she can’t open the restaurant (although it should be open). Sometimes they even close when they run out of food. The only thing you can do is make a phone call in advance to make sure they’re open. They might speak a little bit of English, so don’t hesitate.
Some restaurants ask you to make a reservation. I will note if there’s a restaurant that explicitly asks for a reservation. Reservations mean that they prepare the food especially for you, so as for cancellations –PLEASE DON’T DO IT!
Changing the dish
If there’s some ingredient you really, really don’t like, you can try to ask them to change it. Although they might agree, you should be prepared for your request to be refused.
That’s it for now. See you in the next post – about Vegan Restaurants in Kyoto!