Come with us as we browse the shelves and eat at the restaurant inside this vegan wonderland.

Convenience stores are an iconic part of everyday life in Japan, loved not just by locals but people around the world, with big stars like Katy Perry going crazy for their perfect chicken nuggets and foreign visitors expressing their desire to marry the humble konbini in song.

Now, Japanese convenience stores are heading into unventured territory, with a brand new type of konbini that opened in Tokyo’s Asakusa district on 3 December. Called Vegan Store, this new establishment is dedicated to selling vegan goods, and many of them come with a dash of Japanese flair, covering traditional meals like onigiri rice balls and bento boxed lunches.

We decided to visit the store to find out exactly what type of vegan fare was on offer, and to really test the mettle of the goods we sent along our food-loving non-vegan reporter Yuuichiro Wasai to give us his verdict on what would be his first foray into the world of vegan food.

Stepping through the wooden glass door at the front of the store, Wasai was immediately surrounded by products he’d never seen before.

▼ There were frozen foods and sweets…

▼ Organic raw chocolate bars…

▼ And cakes and tarts from Daughter Boutique, a vegan, gluten-free, organic bakery also located in the Asakusa neighbourhood.

There were also some more familiar Japanese products on the shelves, including somen noodles and rice-and-veggie-mix packs.

What really grabbed Wasai’s interest was the restaurant on the second floor, which had both Western and Japanese style meals available.

Heading up to the next floor, Wasai sat down and ordered the pasta meal. As a self-confessed meat lover who rarely eats vegetables, Wasai wondered if the food here would have enough flavour to satiate his grumbling belly, but any fears he had soon dissipated after this plate of pasta arrived before him.

Glistening with oil, the pasta was surprisingly creamy thanks to the addition of coconut cream. The mushrooms were fresh, and Wasai was surprised to find himself loving the dish, rating it a good solid nine out of ten.

The soup cost an additional 250 yen (US$2.28), and when Wasai visited, the soup of the day was pumpkin. It had a lovely depth of flavour, with the addition of some extra vegetables, and the delicious aroma made it the perfect comfort food for a cold winter’s day.

Wasai couldn’t leave without dessert, so he ordered a vegan soft serve ice cream for 200 yen. This came with the option of a roselle syrup topping, priced at an additional 50 yen, which our reporter was keen to try. It was a bit of a let-down for Wasai, though, as the syrup had a strong flavour that overtook the whole dessert. It wasn’t bad, but it was very different to the creamy, milky, light-as-air soft serves he grew up with here in Japan.

You don’t have to eat everything in-store though, so Wasai picked up a couple of items to try at home as well. He snagged a vegan cake slice that was made with sake lees for 420 yen, which was considerably less sweet than an ordinary cake, but good nonetheless.

And a menchi katsu bento, which Wasai found confusing at first, as menchi katsu is a Japanese breaded, deep-fried ground meat patty.

Looking at the ingredients revealed there was in fact no meat to be found here, as the deep-fried menchi katsu in this bento was actually made from “soy whole meat” and gluten-free flour, tapioca flour, and cornflour.

▼ The soy menchi katsu looked like regular meat-stuffed ones from the outside…

And on the inside, the minced texture was there as well, only with soybeans in place of meat. Wasai was completely surprised by how well the texture had been replicated, and by how tasty these fried morsels were.

The 700-yen bento also came with a generous serving of rice, which was filled with vegetables and packed with flavour. Wasai was impressed with the delicious taste of the entire bento box, and would recommend it to both vegans and non-vegans alike.

Wasai walked away from his first vegan experience a happy, satisfied man. While veganism is yet to take hold here like it has in other countries, Vegan Store is introducing first-timers to the scene with some tasty food selections that are bound to get more and more people interested in finding out more about the plant-based lifestyle.

The only thing that could make this place even more special is if they added a sakura vegan burger to the menu during cherry blossom season. If they do that, Wasai will definitely be dining here every day!

Shop information
Vegan Store / ヴィーガンストア
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Nishi Asakusa 2-25-9
Open 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
Closed Mondays (or Tuesday if the preceding Monday is a national holiday)

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