In larger cities across Japan like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, finding vegan cafes and restaurants is becoming much easier, and the number of available options is growing all the time. What about smaller city locations, though? Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture has a real gem of a spot for vegans which can be found just a short stroll from the iconic Matsumoto Castle - Healthy Penguin Cafe.
The cafe offers a great variety of completely vegan dishes on their menu, from a Thai-inspired yellow curry filled with mixed vegetables and quinoa, to smashed avocado toast, and their very berry smoothie bowl. Many of the offerings are also gluten-free, and they are clearly labeled with GF on the menu. The best seller is the classic burrito bowl, which is packed with spicy beans, colorful peppers, hearty mushrooms, salsa, salad, guacamole, and a wedge of lime. There's also some distinctly Japanese flair to the burrito bowl, with the addition of grilled lotus root for a bit of extra crunch!
If you're a sweet-tooth, you're covered there, too. The dessert options rotate, but have previously included earl grey banana scones, Mayan chocolate truffles, and a raw raspberry chocolate "cheese" cake which is also sugar-free and gluten-free. You can pair your sweet treat with a smoothie, coffee, latte, or premium tea from Australian tea purveyor T2. Their sencha mango and Melbourne breakfast blends are personal favorites.
Do note that the cafe is closed every Tuesday and Wednesday if you plan on making a special trip.
For more on what there is to see and do in Matsumoto, visit the Japan Travel guide here.