Vegetarian Meals in Tokyo | The Highlights

by Lisa on Wednesday: Sep 14, 2016

It can be tough to be a vegetarian while visiting Japan. The cuisine there is known to be chock full of meat and fish, and in general the vegetarian lifestyle is not widely recognized. I’ve written about my experiences specifically at the Tokyo Disney Resort where there is 1 restaurant in each of the parks with exactly 1 dish that is vegetarian.

The rest of Japan is even harder to navigate when it comes to food. However, despite this, I was able to have quite a few meals this time around that were pretty delicious and all vegetarian. Here are some of my vegetarian meal highlights:

Lunch at the AKB48 Cafe
The AKB48 cafe is a must visit for fans of the J-Pop group AKB48. For those not in the know, AKB48 is a wildly popular group in Japan consisting of 48 girls. The cafe is something akin to dining in a movie theater as the group’s live performances and music videos play on the big screen while you eat.

AKB48 Cafe

Aside from the fun ambiance, I was able to find an equally fun vegetarian dish to try out (after a quick check with the waitress to make sure it didn’t contain any meat or fish).

AKB48 Cafe - Spicy Pasta

As the drawing on the mozzarella indicates, this pasta was SPICY! In fact, it was the most spicy thing I had eaten in recent memory and that’s saying a lot for me. The sauce was delicious and the cheese was a nice touch. As a pasta lover, I was happy to find something like this to eat for lunch.

Breakfast Buffets

During our stay in Tokyo, we had the opportunity to dine at two separate breakfast buffets. The first was located at the Keio Plaza Hotel where we were staying and took place at Jurin All Day Dining. The restaurant was upscale and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was much nicer than your typical American buffet experience.

One of the stars of the buffet was the scrambled eggs. I don’t know what it is about the scrambled eggs in Japan, but they are extremely creamy and have a much more orange color to them than American eggs. At this buffet, they were served alongside ratatouille (delicious!). I also was able to get a side salad, potatoes and much more.

Jurin All Day Dining - Breakfast Buffet

Of course, if you’re not a vegetarian, there are plenty of unique options – like this squid and shrimp marinade. D was a fan!

Jurin All Day Dining - D's Squid and Shrimp Dish

The second buffet was at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel where we spent one night while exploring the Tokyo Disney Resort. This breakfast buffet was even more varied and fancy than the first with many dessert options offered as well. I also partook in a danish and a serving of mango pudding, which were very nice to round out the meal.

Rice Omelettes
Rice omelettes are always a dish I’m relieved to see on a menu whenever we’re visiting cafes. This trip I had two such occasions: one at Eorza Cafe (a Final Fantasy XIV themed cafe) and the second at Maidreamin (a maid cafe). Of course, when visiting Maidreamin, the waitresses draw cute pictures on your omelette with ketchup:

Maidreamin Rice Omelette

But the one at Eorza Cafe was more standard:

Eorza Cafe Rice Omelette

Either way, this is a tasty dish and is at least somewhat Japanese.

Duo Fourchettes
Another great find was Duo Fourchettes which was billed as a French/Italian restaurant, though I found that most of the items were decidedly Italian. This was one of my favorite meals from the trip, and yes it is another pasta dish. It was filling and tasty.

Duo Fourchettes Pasta

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It may seem like my highlights here are ignoring the traditional Japanese cuisine, and it is true that most of the meals I ate were not Japanese. This is because it’s very difficult to find any foods in that category (it is difficult while in Japan – vegetarian Japanese food in America is not that rare) that do not contain meat, fish or some kind of meat or fish stock. As this is my third trip to the country, I’ve learned to stick with what I know I can eat and on the rare occasion I do find a Japanese option with no meat, I will give it a try.

D, on the other hand, ate up a very wide variety of Japanese foods including ramen, sushi, curry, takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings) and various types of fish.

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Coming soon… Stay tuned for my vegetarian meal FAILS while in the country! That’s a fun post 🙂

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Have you ever traveled to Japan?

What countries are on your wish list to visit?

A Weekend in NYC

by Lisa on Tuesday: Mar 22, 2016

This past weekend, D and I decided to take off for a quick getaway to New York City. We love getting away to NYC and try to go at least once a year. Since we only live 4 hours away, it’s not a big deal to drive down and spend a long weekend when we feel like doing so. Also, I went to college in NYC, so I love to go back frequently to revisit the city.

Welcome to New York

We packed up and headed out pretty early on Friday morning, with a car loaded with snacks and water bottles. In a spur of the moment decision, we decided to make a quick detour off the highway to visit the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut. D had been there before, and we thought it would be a fun, random thing to do while we were driving by.

Maritime Aquarium

This turned out to be a fun, spontaneous decision. They had all sorts of rays, sharks, seals, frogs, lizards and more. We spent about an hour there looking around and taking pictures.

Maritime Aquarium Jellyfish

Maritime Aquarium Sharks

After that, we were only an hour away from the hotel and seemed to arrive pretty quickly, after just a tiny bit of city traffic. We were staying at Hotel Indigo in the SoHo area, which is an area I’m not as familiar with. It was fun to walk around a new part of the city and explore. The hotel was very nice, especially for a New York City hotel – which in my experience usually are extremely small, old and have some issues.

Hotel Indigo Shower

This one was very new and modern feeling and had quite the “lobby” on the 14th floor, with incredible views of the city.

Hotel Indigo Lobby

Hotel Indigo View

We stayed until Sunday, and while we were there, we ate tons of good food:

Penne alla Vodka (a favorite of both of ours) at Ryan Maguire’s:

Penne Alla Vodka

Japanese ramen! They had “spicy vegetarian” ramen on the menu and it was absolutely delicious. The restaurant was called Mr. Taka’s and had a very authentic Japanese ramen shop feel to it. Much to our surprise, there were ramen shops all over the place in the city. The trend is taking off!

Mr. Taka Spicy Vegetarian Ramen

We went to the Creperie, which apparently has been on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Creperie NYC Throwdown

We got the New Yorker crepe which had cheesecake and strawberries in the middle. Delicious late night snack!

Creperie NYC

We also walked around a ton, all the way from the Seaport downtown to Times Square and many place in between.

NYC Seaport Buildings

It was great to get away from all the every day stresses for a long weekend. We came back refreshed and had a great time. I love going back to NYC, and it will always have a special place in my heart.

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Have you ever been to New York City?

If so, what’s your favorite thing to do there?

A Tokyo Engagement Story

by Lisa on Wednesday: Feb 10, 2016

Before I get into today’s post, I’d like to say hi and welcome to anyone stopping by from the Runaway Bridal Planner’s blog hop!

While you’re here, also make sure to check out Monday’s post on My Favorite Go-To Vegetarian Dinners, and stay tuned for more posts about my travel, food and life adventures.

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In September of 2014, my then boyfriend (now fiancee) D and I went on the biggest trip of our lives to Tokyo, Japan. I had been to Tokyo once before many years earlier and had absolutely loved the experience. Meanwhile, D had always dreamed of visiting the country, and we had been planning to go together for several years, but had to wait until the timing was right and we had enough money saved up for the trip.

After much preparing and planning, that time had finally arrived and we were on our way!

Right away, Tokyo proved to be beautiful, unexpected and filled with everything that we love:

Tokyo Japan

But the biggest surprise came two days into our trip in the middle of a random adventure. We had set out that morning to find the store Artnia, which is the new Square Enix store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Both D and I are big fans of Square Enix video games, so this had been on our wish list for a while.

Artnia

However, finding Artnia proved to be more difficult than anticipated, and we ended up completely lost on the streets of Shinjuku. It was only by luck that we happened to stumble onto a random shrine tucked into one of the side streets. We decided to be whimsical and stop in, as it was the first shrine we had encountered during our trip, and we wanted to explore.

Hanazono Shrine

It was very important to D that we visit several shrines on this trip, and he was intent on writing several Emas while we were there. These are little wooden boards that you can purchase on which you write wishes or prayers for yourself or loved ones. They are then displayed on a board in the center of the shrine.

Hanazono Shrine Wish

We headed straight over to purchase one for D. I gave him some privacy while he wrote, because I didn’t know if he wanted to keep his wishes private. I turned away and entertained myself with this poster while he was writing:

Tokyo Construction Poster

When he was done, we walked over to the board to hang what he had written on the board, and he started getting a little weird. I thought it was because he didn’t want me to see what he had written, but then he said to me: “Take a look around. I want you to remember this moment.”

And he hung the board on the wall and let me read the writing. His wish that he had written was to have a long and happy marriage with me as his wife. When I turned around to look at him, he was taking a ring box out of his pocket and he asked me to marry him! I was in total, utter shock. I had no idea he was planning to propose, and I have no idea how he kept it such a secret for so long.

He then told me that he had actually asked my father’s permission a few weeks before we left on our trip, and that he had been carrying the ring around in his backpack with him the whole time (that explained what he was carrying that backpack everywhere!). Also, he was smart enough to get a stand-in ring instead of risking taking a real one all the way across the world on a plane. We later picked out my real engagement ring together.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating, and made calls home the next day (when it was a more human hour in America) to let everyone know.

D always jokes that I had no choice but to say yes because we were only on day 2 of a two week trip in a foreign country, and it would have been quite awkward otherwise 🙂 But this event solidified how special Tokyo is to the two of us and made it one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

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Other posts about Tokyo:
How to Be A Vegetarian at Tokyo Disney

Other posts about the wedding:
Ten Things on My Wedding To Do List
So I Went Wedding Dress Shopping
Wedding Planning Updates
Wedding Planning Adventures

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If you’re engaged or married, tell me what your engagement experience was like!

What travel destinations are on your bucket list?

How to Be a Vegetarian at Tokyo Disney

by Lisa on Tuesday: Jan 26, 2016

In fall of 2014, D and I went on the biggest trip of our lives (thus far) and visited Tokyo, Japan. It was my second time visiting the country, but the first time for D. This was also the trip where we got engaged – a story I will be writing up in the next few weeks (stay tuned!). While we were there, we knew we wanted to make a stop at Tokyo Disney.

If you’re unfamiliar, Tokyo Disney is made up of two parks: Tokyo DisneyLand and Tokyo DisneySea. We decided to do one day at each park in the middle of our two week stay in the country. Since D and I have been together, we’ve gone to Disney World in Orlando many times, and it is a very important part of our relationship’s history, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to see what things were like in the Tokyo version of the parks!

Tokyo Disneyland Castle

Before we left on our trip, I did extensive research on everything we would be doing while we were away, and Tokyo Disney was no exception. As a vegetarian, I knew it would be challenging to find meals anywhere in Tokyo and thought it would be a good idea to have some restaurants inside the parks picked out ahead of time.

Thankfully, I had found several blogs during that time to help me with that process, most notably: The Honorable Rat. I think I read almost every post on his blog before we left!

I could (and probably will) do a whole post on what the parks themselves were like, but for now – let’s talk about food!

Thanks to the Honorable Rat’s post on the topic, I knew the situation going in ahead of time: There was one restaurant in each park that served one vegetarian dish. So, it is an extremely limited selection, and if you didn’t know this information going in, you’d definitely be frustrated running from place to place only to find out everything contained meat or fish!

Tokyo Disneyland

The one restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland that contains a vegetarian option is Eastside Cafe. We foolishly wandered around a little bit beforehand instead of going straight there because we were on the other side of the park. We happened to spot a pizza place called “Planet M”.

Tokyo Disneyland Planet M

I was sure I would at least find a slice of cheese pizza there, but much to my dismay (and confused agitation), I found that they only had meat pizzas, and yes, fish pizzas. Welcome to Japan, where fish pizza is more common than cheese.

It was at this point that I realized how serious the “one restaurant with one dish” recommendation would be, and we high-tailed it over to Eastside Cafe before we got too hungry.

Tokyo Disneyland Eastside Cafe Menu

Here they actually had a 3 course vegetarian option displayed in a separate menu, as pictured above. This was quite a pleasant surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Italian-style lunch. I was very full afterward, and would definitely go back again. We didn’t stay long enough at the park to warrant a second meal, though if we had, I’m not sure what we would have done.

Tokyo DisneySea

DisneySea Entrance

DisneySea was our second stop, and after learning our lesson at DisneyLand, we did not bother looking at other restaurants and went straight to Ristorante di Canaletto.

DisneySea - Ristorante di Canaletto

There was a short wait here for lunch, but knowing it was our only option, we happily waited. The views outside of the restaurant were spectacular. DisneySea is breathtaking and is nothing like any of the other Disney parks when it comes to atmosphere and theming. If you’re going to go to one park over the other in Tokyo, pick this one.

DisneySea Gondolas

Ristorante di Canaletto did not have a separate vegetarian menu like Eastside Cafe, but true to word, there was exactly one dish that was meat and fish free.

Ristorante di Canaletto menu

This pasta dish was flavorful and contained a ton of fresh veggies. Side note: in Japan, there is not really a concept of “vegetarianism”, which is why it can be so challenging to find food there if you don’t eat meat or fish. At the same time, in places like Disney where there are actual vegetarian dishes, they are almost always vegan as well.

It can be challenging to find vegetarian cuisine while at the Tokyo Disney parks, but if you know exactly what you’re looking for ahead of time, you will be fine. There are also snacks around the park such as popcorn and sweets that will also be okay to eat.

In the next few weeks, I’m planning to do a similar post about what it was like as a vegetarian on our trip to Tokyo as a whole. Stay tuned for that!

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What is your favorite travel destination?

Have you ever traveled to an international Disney park?

Ever tried fish pizza??

How to Be a Vegetarian at Disney World

by Lisa on Tuesday: Nov 17, 2015

It’s no secret that eating while traveling can be difficult when you’re a vegetarian. Will there be food there for me to eat? Will I have to eat plain white rice while everyone else is having a ten course meal?

Mickey Waffle at Disney

Luckily, Disney World is one travel destination that makes it easy to eat vegetarian without much effort.

Avocado Maki at Disney

One of the first times D and I planned a trip to Disney World, we used a travel agent who helped us explore some new restaurants we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. When I informed her that I was a vegetarian and asked if specific locations would have options for me, she provided me with tons of information about the places that offer vegetarian options. She also let me know a very important fact: At Disney World, even if there’s nothing veggie on the menu, nearly every restaurant has a vegetarian option waiting in the wings if you just ask (side note: the same goes for other dietary concerns and allergies).

Mama Melrose - penne vodka

Let Your Server Know You’re a Vegetarian

During that trip in 2012, we booked a restaurant at her recommendation called ‘Ohana. This restaurant specializes in Hawaiian style foods that are brought around by the servers on giant meat skewers which they slice off for each person who wants that particular meat. In other words it is an almost exclusively meat-centric menu. When I informed them at the start that I was a vegetarian, I was given a special multi-course meal that was all vegetarian. It began with hummus and pita chips followed by tons of veggies, rice and tofu among other side dishes. It was so much food, I couldn’t come close to finishing it all – and that says a lot for me!

I have also been offered vegetarian entrees at several other restaurants on property when there were none listed on the menus. The Mexican restaurants especially come to mind, as they always have a veggie quesadilla, burrito or fajita dish to offer you.

Be Prepared to Eat Veggie Burgers

Of course, it’s not always that easy. For one thing, I’m not a huge fan of veggie burgers. I find them kind of boring and only eat them when they’re the only option. An unhappy trend that I’ve noticed at Disney lately is that they’ve been replacing several of their very tasty roasted veggie sandwiches at quick service locations with plain old veggie burgers. Not my favorite! But at least there’s still an option if you’re hungry.

Do Your Research

While I have definitely walked into many Disney restaurants without knowing what was on the menu without consequence because of the accommodating nature of their staff, it does help to come prepared with a list of restaurants you want to try. Disney provides the menus for all restaurants on their website. It’s a good idea to have a look whether you’re a vegetarian or not to make sure you’re getting to try everything you want!

The Festivals Can Be Challenging

When Disney does their Food and Wine Festival and Flower and Garden festival, they open up numerous booths around World Showcase which serve food and beverages from any number of different countries around the world. This is a fun event for everyone and brings in all kinds of unique foods. But I have to say, the vegetarian options are pretty limited. The menus do a good job of indicating which items are veggie friendly, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that most of them are dessert options. If you’re looking for savory foods, you’ll be looking for a while. Luckily, there are still the normal Epcot restaurants all around if you strike out at every festival booth.

Some Delicious Veggie Meals I’ve Eaten in the Past

As a vegetarian, I have still been able to eat many delicious, mouth-watering foods in Disney World. Here are a few!

White Lasagna:

White Lasagna at Disney

Mushroom Ravioli:

Mushroom Ravioli at Disney

Caprese Salad:

Mama Melrose - appetizer

Pistachio Creme Brulee:

Creme Brulee at Disney

Vegetable Cottage Pie:

Rose and Crown - Vegetable Cottage Pie

Pasta Primavera:

Tony's Town Square - Pasta Primavera

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Disney is really very accommodating to all kinds of diets, and in fact at most restaurants, they will begin by asking if you have any dietary concerns or allergies. Take advantage of this if you are a vegetarian and you won’t be disappointed.

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Tell me about a delicious meal you’ve had while traveling!