Being vegan in Japan is very possible, but requires learning a few words and phrases. Here is a short list of kanji, phrases, words to remember, when ordering food or translating items on packacking. Obviously, a great way to avoid animal products is to not buy pre-packaged foods, but that is not always possible, so here goes:
Without fish, meat, eggs and milk please.
Is there any vegan food?
Vegetables only please.
Is there any egg in this?
Is there anything on the menu that doesn't have meat?
I am vegan.
I don't eat meat.
Vegan onigiri exist in Japan, it's only a question of reading the tags and identifying them properly. Here is a list of the ones to look for:
This tuber is a good egg alternative when baking both sweet, and savoury dishes. When grated, it becomes slimy and thick and can be used as a binding agent in many recipes. It imparts little flavour. It is perfect for okonomiyaki.
Fu, wheat gluten or seitan, is widely used as a meat alternative. It has a chewy stringy texture, and can be made into many shapes. You can buy fu in japan, it looks like dry bread cut into small discs, otherwise you can buy gluten flour and make your own. It is also possible to extract the gluten from the flour, but it requires a lot of water and time. You can use fu to add bulk to soups, and the flour can be used to make sausages and a variety of faux-meats.
A potato that can be processed into a jelly-like substance, it can be used to make faux-sashimi and is delicious with soy sauce and wasabi. It is very low calorie, and high in fiber.
Kanten, or agar agar, is made from red edible seaweed and can be used instead of gelatin in jelly-desserts. It can also be used to make faux-cheese.