Being vegan in Japan, a country who's meals always include vegetables is surprisingly hard. The current food culture in Japan is very meat, fish, and dairy based. KFC is super popular especially around Christmas time. We managed to survive despite going to bed hungry sometimes, but we got to experience some of the best food we've had! Do not worry about the little mistakes because you will make them.
Google translate will be your biggest friend. When shopping you can take a photo of the ingredients and it will translate it for you. Sometimes it can be difficult and will take a few times, but will be worth it in the end. Find a few staple items and stick with those! The "Eat Away" app is also awesome, it will translate a message saying what you don't eat and you can show the server. Or just write it down on a card!
2// Stay in Hostels/Airbnb
Your biggest mistake would be to stay in hotels. We recommend choosing Airbnb or hostels with kitchens. Buying and cooking your own food is the safest, easiest way to stay vegan in Japan.
3//Research Local Vegan Restaurants
Eating vegan at a non-vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Japan is almost impossible. Almost everything in Japan has fish in it, even the rice sometimes has fish flakes in it. Even if things are labeled vegetarian in a normal restaurant that does not guarantee it is fish free. Finding a vegetarian/vegan restaurant is going to be the only way to know you are safe. If it seems vegan, assume it isn't. Japan loves to add meat and cheese to everything even bread! Some chains in Japan have vegan options like, Coco Ichibanya in Tokyo has a separate vegetarian menu with vegan curries, they are fully vegan but only at the locations with the vegetarian menu. Any sushi place that has veggie rolls is a great option as well.
4//Eat at Convinence Stores
7/11 and Lawson are two great stores to get edamame, chips, salad Inari Sushi (usually always vegan) just check that it is plain inside with no fish, veggie rolls, etc. We ate so much Inari, potato chips, and edamame on our trip.
5// Random Tips
You can request vegan meals on your flight, we also found a vegan bagel with hummus and veggies and vegan soup at the airport. Some stores and street vendors sell roasted Japanese sweet potatoes that are insanely delicious. Check happy cow and yelp, of course! Natural House is a natural/vegan store in Japan that is so awesome for snacks and food.
Our favorite restaurants in Japan// T's Tan Tan, Salunpowaku, Otis, Bon on Shya, Kinatei, Papurika, Sujata, Veg Out, Veganic To Go, Ain Soph Ripple, Organic Kaemon (vegan buffet), and 8ablish.