Vegetarian and Vegan Options in Matsumoto, Nagano!

My family was here until last week, visiting me in Japan. We mostly stayed in Tokyo, but we took a trip to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture for a weekend.

In addition to its famous castle (pictured below), there is also a pretty cool art museum with an impressive Yayoi Kusama exhibit. Nagano is also known for its soba (buckwheat noodles) and other local food. In comparison to Tokyo and other big cities here, however, vegetarian and vegan-friendly food is harder to find. This post includes a couple options I found.

Matsumoto Castle in mid-December. Part of the moat had frozen over, and the sky was so beautiful and blue!

After sightseeing, one of my goals was to have my family try some soba as well as other regional specialties here.

Pictured above is a plate of zaru soba, or chilled soba. There is warm soba, which typically comes in a soup. Unfortunately, the broth almost always contains bonito or some type of fish or animal product. Zaru soba comes with a dipping sauce that also usually contains animal products. I didn’t bring my own sauce so I used the soy sauce, green onions, wasabi, and pepper that was on the table. The noodles were delicious, but I did wish there had been something hot on the menu that was vegan-friendly.

Next, I had oyaki from a food stand nearly Matsumoto Castle. Oyaki are dumplings made from flour and some type of stuffing, and they are another product Nagano is famous for in Japan. The worker at the food stand helped me determine which oyaki contained meat, fish, and animal products, and which ones were safe for vegans. I chose a sweet oyaki with a chesnut filling.

Lastly, I managed to go to one of the only all-vegan establishments in Matsumoto. I took my family to the Healthy Penguin Cafe, which is a small, adorable restaurant a close distance from the castle.

I ordered the burrito bowl, which consisted of beans, tomato, and various vegetables. It was very satisfying and the presentation was beautiful. My family ordered vegan french toast and a quinoa curry, which were also apparently delicious. English is spoken here and there is also an English menu. The owners of the shop appear to be a couple, and one of them is from Australia. This is a convenient and delicious option if you are in Matsumoto!

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