Vegan Bento Hanami Essentials

Vegan Bento Hanami Essentials

Vegan bento options for a hanami picnic


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The origin of Japanese hanami (flower viewing) traditions is traceable to festivities behind palace walls that were reserved for the elite. Today, the legacy stands transformed — from a sophisticated admiration of the transient beauty of flowers to a tradition of gourmandizing, while lying in joyous abandon on a neon-colored mat under a tree in full bloom. Much akin to the saying hana yori dango (dumplings over flowers), takeout food defines life under sakura trees.

Takeout food in Japan manifests its homely, healthy an intricate nature through the bento (lunch box). Several types of these traditional boxes contain balanced portions of assorted foods. Typically rice makes up one-third, with the remaining sections including a protein such as meat or fish plus assorted vegetables. Still, vegan options are available with plant-based protein.

This hanami season, we bring you a hand-picked list of the best vegan bento options you can buy near hanami spots in Tokyo. By the way, we’ve rounded up our favorite places to view this season’s cherry blossoms in our guide Hello Hanami.

vegan bento hanami essentials aikta kumar vegetarian picnic lunchbox sakura viewing

Ekibenya Matsuri, Tokyo Station

Vegan bento type: ekiben (bento sold at train stations)

Closest hanami spot: Imperial Palace East Gardens

If you were to imagine a bento paradise, it would surely look like the Ekibenya (ekiben store) at Tokyo Station. It’s clear how popular the store is once you see the plethora of choices. There’s something for everyone here — seafood bento, teriyaki chicken bento, pork cutlet bento and voilà, the “vegetable bento.” A rarity in Japan, Ekibenya clearly labels its food so you can easily find vegan options. The meal comes nestled inside a traditional bamboo box: fluffy white rice, sekihan (red bean rice), soy karaage (vegan fried “chicken”), hijiki (seaweed), crunchy purple radish tsukemono (pickle) and fresh mushroom, lotus root, pumpkin and peppers.

The only downside is that you must be inside Tokyo Station’s JR gates — so remember to get your bento before you leave the gates.

Price: ¥1,000

You might also like: The 10 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Spots in Tokyo

vegan bento hanami essentials aikta kumar vegetarian picnic lunchbox sakura viewing Pariya

Pariya, Shibuya

Vegan bento type: hokaben (bento served with hot rice)

Closest hanami spot: Yoyogi Park

Japan’s depachika (department store basement) are treasure troves for takeout food. Endless counters of tantalizing food can feel overwhelming, but vegan options are there if you know where to look.

The staff at the Pariya delicatessen chain are happy to help you create the right bento for your dietary requirements. Each bento has four compartments that you can fill with vegan-friendly options.

Vegan deli options include marinated vegetables, leafy salads, grainy vegetable salads and noodles. Choose from white rice, brown rice and black pepper rice. The resulting box is as flavorful as it is colorful. 

There are multiple branches across Tokyo, including around Shibuya, which is close to Yoyogi Park. 

Price: ¥1,590

vegan bento hanami essentials aikta kumar vegetarian picnic lunchbox sakura viewing

The konbini haul – craft your own vegan bento

If you can’t make it to Shibuya or Tokyo station, there’s almost always a convenience store within a 5-minute walk of any location in Tokyo. While it’s nice to have a pre-made bento, don’t underestimate the quality of meals available at convenience stores in Japan. Lawson, Family Mart and Seven-Eleven have a ton of vegan options worthy of a hanami picnic. Some options include:

  • Onigiri (rice balls) — Three vegan flavors: shio musubi (plain salted), sekihan (red bean) and ume (plum)
  • Soft tofu (sold in packs of three)
  • Salted edamame beans 
  • Soy and buttered sweet corn (for vegetarians)

Price for all of the above: Around  ¥650

Two of the safest and most underrated vegan options at convenience stores in Japan are the shio musubi onigiri and the soft tofu. Both can be enhanced with sauces or seasonings, like soy sauce, that you can also buy at convenience stores.

Although most products in Japan are not clearly labeled as vegan, you can usually find the list of ingredients written on the back of the products. Google Lens is a great application for this as it uses the camera lens of your smartphone to translate in real-time.

You’ll also find that convenience stores sell festive cherry blossom-themed snacks and drinks to fill your picnic basket making convenience stores another great vegan lunch option.

Ekibenya Matsuri

JR Tokyo Station (Platform 6/7 area), 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku


Tokyu Toyoko Food Show B1, 2-2-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku