Friday, 25 April 2014

Vegan in Japan: Day One in Tokyo

Eeeeek, you guys, I'm so excited to tell you about my trip! I can't believe how in love with Japan I am. I mean I knew I was going to enjoy it but I wasn't necessarily expecting to fall in love. I fell hardest for Tokyo, it was like that feeling when you just click with someone but y'know, with a big, bright, buzzy, bustling city. We arrived home on Monday after a three week trip that started and ended in the capital but also took in the sights and sounds of Nikko, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Ōkunoshima.

All of my research and obsessive cherry blossom watch website stalking payed off and we touched down super early in the morning on the day that the cherry blossoms came into full bloom. So perfect and so serendipitous as you can never really predict when the blossoms will come. After dropping off our luggage we walked to Shinjuku Gyoen and despite having looked at a million pictures of the blossoms online I was amazed at how beautiful it was. We wandered around the park taking breaks to sit on the grass and on benches to check out both the blossoms and the people checking out the blossoms. Hanami, cherry blossom viewing, is a big deal and it was wonderful to watch people enjoying the bloom; so many people had fancy cameras and tripods and everyone was trying to get the perfect shot.

This was a spectacular start to our trip, I could have stayed until dusk but hunger eventually dragged us away and we headed for T's TanTan to fill up on ramen. T's is one of Tokyo's most blogged about spots by vegan travellers so I was pretty excited to finally be visiting myself. Located inside Tokyo station it's been described as difficult to get to but we had no problem at all thanks to instructions we found online. It's located on a shopping street (yup, inside the station!) called Keiyo Street. If you're arriving by train you just need to follow signs to the Keiyo line and then for Keiyo Street, if you arrive on foot you need to use a ticket machine (instructions available in English) and buy a platform ticket for ¥130. You'll find T's in a little corner just at the top of some escalators and it will either be a very long or very short walk depending on where you're coming from, the station's massive!

As well as serving a variety of ramen dishes T's also serves curry.

On this first visit I picked the Miso Ramen from the Spring menu...

...and Nick chose T's Shoyu Ramen

We both loved these hot, flavourful, comforting bowls of soup and as we were eating and chatting we realised that neither of us had ever eaten ramen before! I've eaten noodle soups but with udon or soba and we've both eaten ramen style noodles with stir frys but never actual ramen. Ridiculous. I'm sure there's a recipe on The PPK and I can't wait to try my hand at making it at home. Whilst I enjoyed the spring special, I love corn, my favourite and the ramen I ordered over and over again was T's Shoyu Ramen. I loved the slightly salty broth as well as the yuba, nori, bamboo shoots hidden within. My love for the noodles should go without saying. Being a little ridiculous when it comes to anything peppery I did find the broth a little on the peppery side but we cunningly circumnavigated this issue by visiting at breakfast time. We discovered entirely by accident that the broth's significantly less peppery at breakfast, don't worry though pepper lovers it comes with a shaker of the white stuff so you can go crazy! If you're visiting Tokyo T's should be a must visit, we loved it so much that we ate there three or four times and I'd be pretty stoked if a place like this opened up in Brighton.

After walking around the city a little more we checked into our hotel so that we could change out of our travel clothes and then we headed out to do even more exploring. On our early evening adventure we stumbled across a Hello Kitty Sakura pop-up shop! I was so excited! As we we'd only brought backpacks on the trip and were heading all over the place via train in the coming weeks I just picked up a couple of little things.

They came in the cutest bag I've ever seen, there's a rosette sticker for fucks sake! Obviously I kept it! 

There really is cute stuff everywhere in Japan, it was so hard not to buy every single thing with Rilakkuma or Hello Kitty on it. I'd have needed 10 extra backpacks rather than the one extra bag I bought and brought home full of stuff.

As well as loving spotting cute things everywhere I looked I was also enamoured with the amount of neon in the city, I swear I was taking pictures of everything that glowed that first night. This kitschy looking place was one of my fave's. I assume they have no vegan options, I'm often optimistic about these things but not stupidly so!

We ended our evening of exploring at the famous Shibuya Crossing which I would guess we crossed about ten times before deciding that that was probably enough for one evening!

This is also where I tried my first ever Starbucks! I'll be going back to boycotting them now that I'm home but in a place where vegan options aren't scarce but are definitely harder to come by I couldn't resist the call of a matcha soy tea latte - a Japanese speciality that I'm told isn't on the menu anywhere else in the world. I'd read about their soy milk card system online before we left and it made me feel much more confident that I wasn't going to end up with dairy milk by accident. I'd love it if all busy coffee places would do this!

This was the first of many of these latte's that I enjoyed on the trip, I'm a long time matcha fan and I'll be attempting to make one at home soon. We loved people watching from up above and we were super lucky to grab a table, that never happened again at this busy location!

We had a pretty early night that night and dinner was some snacks we grabbed from the conbini eaten in bed.

Conbini, if you don't already know, are small, well stocked, and seemingly always open convenience stores that are on almost every street in the big cities and are relatively easy to find almost everywhere. 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson are the three we spotted the most and the ones we put the most effort into researching the vegan-ness of snacks at. At the beginning of the trip we only knew that these few things were definitely vegan but you'll never catch me complaining about salted potato chips, onigiri and edamame. Thankfully we got a whole lot of help from the amazing people who run the veganjapan Instagram account and together we found loads more snacks that I'll be devoting a post to soon.

I don't want to overwhelm you with a hundred pictures or hurt my wrists (stupid joint pain is now exacerbated by typing as well as everything else - don't worry I'm seeing a physio next week) so part two of my super fun adventure will be popping up shortly. Have a great weekend!