We must be honest: Japan is not really a vegan-friendly destination. Of course, especially in the last years, the place displaying the words “plant-based” or “vegan” is not really 100% vegan-safe. The reason is that often there is a misunderstanding about what is the philosophy behind the vegan lifestyle.
In Japan, the word “vegan” is intended more as “healthy”, so it might happen that even if you order some vegetable tempura promote as “vegan-friendly”, you’ll receive vegetables with classic tempura style, which means the use of the egg.
Luckily recently, with the growth of the vegan community in Japan, it’s becoming easier to find real vegan-friendly restaurants in Japan, especially through social networks and dedicated websites, like Happy Cow. But finally, some vegan shops and restaurants have started to open, especially in the cities and some destinations are trying to improve their vegan option.
Vegan options in Ikaho Onsen, Gunma
In Gunma prefecture, the Ikaho Onsen town especially, it’s trying to implement vegan-friendly options, also thank the influence of Bukkan Housuiji temple, a branch of a Buddhism sect from Taiwan, really focused in vegan food.
The cafè inside the Housuiji Temple offers a variety of vegan food with Taiwanese taste and it’s a good lunch spot for those who visit this interesting temple with an amazing view of the valley.
Another cafè that offer vegan snack like oshiruko, a soup of pressed red beans and mochi, or organic apple juice is Chaya Tamaki, a quiet cafè at the bottom of the Ikaho Stone Steps, the main sightseeing spot of the town.
In the famous Udon district, know as Mizusawa Udongai, you can enjoy tasty udon to deep in a sesame soup or shoujin (mushroom-based) soup, 100% vegan at Tamaruya Restaurant. On the other side of the street, you can also find the cafè Nowana, owned by the same company, that offer vegan snacks such as vegan cookies and apple tarts.
Ikaho Onsen is aiming to become a vegan-friendly destination and some ryokan are offering vegan meals upon request at the moment of booking. This finally allows vegan people to experience the highest expression of Japanese hospitality of ryokan with the traditional Kaiseki dinner course and abundant breakfast.
For direct experience, we can suggest 3 ryokans that offer vegan options. Please consider that the vegan menu is needed to require in advance and might not be always available when you try to book from the websites. We recommend to contact us to check the availability and reserve your vegan option.
Nyoshin no Sato Hibikino
A quiet ryokan immerses in the greenery, with a traditional path that leads you to the restaurant area and a gold-water open air onsen that spring directly from the source. The indoor bath is really useful for fatigue recovery, health promotion, post-illness recovery period. The vegan menu includes vegan sushi, tofu and yuba (tofu skin) cooked in several ways, mountain herbs and vegetables and soy meat.
Nagomigokoro no Yado Omori
Namigokoro is close to the Ikaho Stone Steps and its higher position allows you to enjoy a beautiful sunset view from the roof top onsen. Interiors are renovated there is particular attention to the dishes’ decoration. Fresh vegetables and high quality food are served at the restaurant and meal-in-room service is available.
The most vegan-friendly option at the moment of our visit, that also features a buffet of vegetables cultivated by local farmers due to the abundant water of the Tone River system and the blessed natural conditions such as longer daylight hours.
The interior of the hotel, as well as the presentation of the dishes, perfectly mix the tradition of Japan with the modern taste, creating a really fancy atmosphere. Golden and silver hot-springs with a great view from the top.
Sightseeing in Ikaho Onsen
Ikaho Onsen is a famous onsen town since the XVI century, where the injured warriors of the Warring States Period of Japan come here to healing in the hot springs water. Actually, the central stone steps back to that time and was built to help them to reach the upper springs area.
Along these Ikaho Stone Steps, there are many shops and cafè for souvenirs and also an ashiyu (foot bath) of golden water.
The area of Shibukawa Onsen, in particular the Mount Haruna and the lake, are much loved by the Japanese artist Takehisa Yumeji and nowadays is possible to visit his Memorial: Taisho buildings that contain some of his works and an exhibition of sophisticated glass art.
Mizusawa Kannon Temple is located at the beginning of the Mizusawa Udongai, while the Housuiji Temple is along the street that connects this area to the center of Ikaho.
In this city you can also visit the Toy and Doll Museum, where enjoy collection for the past, in particular from the Showa Era (1926 – 1989).
Let us assist you in the organization of your vegetarian/vegan travel in Japan!