A tramp to Tokyo VegefoodFesta last weekend led to a completely random and awesome day in Japan’s capital city.
The rain was just heavy enough to keep the crowds thin at Yoyogi Park, where two separate festivals were taking place simultaneously. VegefoodFesta is an annual beacon for Tokyo-area herbivores, offering a few dozen booths with 100% plant-based eats, fresh produce and responsibly-made goods.
I love these kinds of events because it’s an opportunity to get a taste of traditional Japanese foods without the fear of meat or fish sneaking into the dish. There were vegan versions of takoyaki (octopus fritter), tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) and Japanese curry (usually has chicken).
One booth made “hie of fish” sandwiches, using Japanese millet (hie/ヒエ) to create a fish-like patty. They also offered an “American Dog,” which was a corn dog that replaced the “dog” with a large chunk of burdock root (gobou/ごぼう).
Our friends from Loving Hut were on hand with three separate booths featuring their meatless version of yakitori (meat on a skewer). Mana Burger was right by the gate and I had one of their veggie burgers in hand within moments of entering. I was looking forward to visiting them on our trip to Fukuoka, but they’d closed up shop. In July, they reopened in Yokohama and made the short trip up to Tokyo for the festival.
The other half of the festival grounds was hosting Fiesta de España. I’d pretty much eaten everything in sight at VegefoodFesta, but there was still room for some Spanish red wine and a churro. We watched a couple songs from Seville, Spain folk-dub-shoegaze duo IAMDIVE on the main stage before heading out.
We walked across the street and into the actual park area of Yoyogi Park. The leaves are in full autumn mode and the park grounds had transformed from summer green to fall yellows and reds. The park was crawling with photographers and models, taking advantage of the short-lived landscape.
After wandering around Harajuku for a bit, we hopped on the train for Roppongi. The trees along the streets near Roppongi Hills are wrapped tight with lights alternating from blue/white to red every few minutes.
Inside the Roppongi Hills complex, a small Christmas market featured small ornaments and German food and beer. Christmas in Japan is all about the secular and is very Western in terms of music and decor.
The Tokyo night was brightly lit between the trees and the shining Tokyo Skytree tower in the skyline. Everyone was in good cheer—maybe because “Whisky Hills 2014” was hosting 300 yen (about $2.50 USD) whiskey tastings.
All the walking around worked up an appetite. We (barely) found the nearby Chien Fu vegetarian Chinese restaurant. A nondescript sign led to an elevator to the shop. We entered the dining room with its ornate tables and decorations. Everyone was dressed up for a night on the town. I felt a bit like a drowned dog after tromping around in the rain all day, but they didn’t seem to mind. We split a sweet and sour “pork” dish, spring rolls and an eggplant dish.
As we left, the sweet old man who greeted us when we came in asked “Vegetarian?” We said yes and his face lit up…. “Very good!!! Vegetarian… very good!”
I’ll say the same for Tokyo on that day… “Vegetarian… very good!”