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Finding Vegetarian & Vegan Options along the Kumano Kodo

Hints & Tips Eat & Drink 6/28/2022

For many, dining at inns along the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi pilgrimage route in the middle of the Kii Peninsula, feasting on local fish, herbs and vegetables, can be an epicurean paradise.

However, for vegetarian and vegan travelers, it can be challenging to find suitable dietary options in the rural Japanese countryside.

Why are vegetarian meals so difficult to find?

  • Vegetarianism (and veganism) are still relatively new concepts to Japan, and particularly new to countryside inns.
  • Family-run businesses have established themselves as – and take pride in – being traditional inns renowned for their menus and choice ingredients handed down for generations. Culturally, it had been inappropriate to ask them to change their menu.
  • Katsuo Dashi (fish broth) is a traditional ingredient used for many types of seasoning and is very difficult to remove from Japanese cooking.
  • Alternatives for fish or meat dinners are not readily available.
  • Even for inns that are willing to provide an alternative, it can be costly and time-consuming, especially during peak season, and may not be consistently offered throughout the year.

However, rest assured, there are ways to find dietary options along the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi course.

Vegetarian Options

Luckily, rural Japanese cuisine already consists of mountain herbs and vegetables as a base, and there is a growing list of accommodations along the Kumano Kodo that are adapting to vegetarian meal requests.

To find accommodations offering vegetarian meal options on the KUMANO TRAVEL Community Reservation System “Search” window, follow these steps.

  1. Check the Accommodations box.
  2. Select the area (village, town).
  3. Select type of accommodation.
  4. Check the box if you are planning to walk the Kumano Kodo.
  5. Check “Yes” for Vegetarian.
  6. Select one of five Vegetarian meal types.
  7. Finally, click the “Search” button.

You can also check accommodation meal information in the Details section for any accommodation.


More Vegetarian meal information.

Koyasan and Shojin Ryori Cuisine

Staying in Koyasan is not only a meditative, relaxing temple stay in the Shingon Buddhist mountain enclave, but it is also the chance to try the very healthy, tofu-based vegetarian meals called Shojin Ryori.

“Shojin Ryori” translates to mean “devotion cuisine.”

These special meals are intimately connected to monastic life in Koyasan and part of the monks’ training routine. They are served on low tray tables often lacquered red or black. No strong tastes or smells such as garlic, onions, curry, etc. are used.

Meals at Koyasan feature “Koya-dofu,” a kind of frozen, dried tofu that derives its name from Koyasan and was introduced a couple of hundred years ago. Koya-dofu is said to be a nutritious meal with multiple health benefits.

Vegan Options

Vegan meal options are more challenging to find in the Kumano region and require more creative solutions.

Vegan-friendly Accommodations

Having some vegan options that first night in Takahara after walking from Takijiri-oji can help guests start their trip right.

In Takahara, both Kiri-no-sato Takahara Lodge and Minpaku Akatsuki can provide vegan meals with adequate advance notice (although no guarantees for allergy-based requests without consultation).

Vegan-friendly Bento Box Lunch

Guests can have a vegan-friendly bento delivered by Loro Kitchen Tenjinzaki to the front of the TANABE Tourist Information Center next to Kii-Tanabe Station to take with them on the Kumano Kodo the first day!

No Meal Plans

A number of accommodations offer “no meal” plans. This allows the vegan guest to safely bring and prepare their own food.

Some guesthouses offer a microwave or shared kitchen with utensils to use. Rental houses usually have a kitchen.

There are some grocery stores and convenience stores in larger areas like Kii-Tanabe station area, Chikatsuyu, Shingu and Katsuura.

Near JR Kii-Tanabe Station, there are O-City supermarket, 7-11 and Family Mart convenience stores, and a couple of small greengrocers. There is an A-Coop supermarket in Chikatsuyu.

Vegetarian Meal Hybrid or Buffet Options

Vegetarian meals might provide a partial meal for vegan guests which they can supplement with their own food later.

Also, some larger accommodations may offer a buffet with a variety of choices.

Kawayu Midoriya and Hotel Urashima, for example, have buffets with lots of options.

※ Meal information is subject to change over time. Please double-check when making a reservation.

Vegan-friendly Accommodation Suggestions by Area

The following is an area-by-area list of suggestions for vegan guests to experience the Kumano Kodo.
Vegetarians might also find this useful.

Nakahechi Map
AreaAccommodationOptions
TanabeTanabe AccommodationMany “No Meal” options available.
TakaharaMinpaku AkatsukiVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Kiri-no-Sato Takahara LodgeVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Tenku-no-SatoyamaRental house with kitchen.
ChikatsuyuGuesthouse HOUSENVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Happiness ChikatsuyuRental house with kitchen.
Kodo-no-Yado KakidairaSome vegetarian options with advance request.
Kumano Kodo Inn Chikatsuyu BASEVegan meal and allergy-sensitive options possible with advance request.
Minshuku ChikatsuyuAble to cater to vegetarian and some food allergies on request.
Minshuku Momiji-no-SatoSome vegetarian options with advance request.
SEN.RETREAT CHIKATSUYUVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Chikatsuyu AccommodationMany “No Meal” options available.
NonakaMinshuku 3rd Place Kumano Kodo“No Meal” option, kitchen use available.
Fushiogamiguest house shitanoieVegan meal options possible with advance request.
HonguBlue Sky GuesthouseVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Rei Kumano Kodo Rental HouseRental house with kitchen.
Yunomine OnsenJ-Hoppers Kumano Yunomine GuesthouseNo meals, but rice available. Instant noodles for sale.
Ryokan YunominesoVegan meal options possible with advance request.
Kawayu OnsenKawayu Onsen Tabi-no-Yado ShibaNo meals, free use of kitchen.
Kawayu MidoriyaBuffet-style meals provide vegetarian options.
Kawayu AccommodationA variety of “No Meal” options available.
Wataze OnsenGuesthouse Modorizenoyado“No Meals,” free use of kitchen. Can pick-up ingredients in advance.
Guesthouse OkagesanRental house with kitchen.
KoguchiKoguchi Shizen-no-IeFlexible vegetarian options. “No Meals” option available.
Sansaro Cafe & GuesthouseVegetarian meal options possible with advance request.
KatsuuraHotel UrashimaBuffet-style meals provide vegetarian options.
Katsuura AccommodationMany “No Meal” options available.

Vegan/Vegetarian-friendly Restaurants

Tanabe

galette

French-style cuisine catering to vegetarian and vegan guests. Located about 10 minutes walk from Kii-Tanabe Station.

galette restaurant information

OpenLunch 11:30-14:00, Dinner 18:00-21:00
ClosedTuesdays
Location92-5 Shimoyashiki-cho, Tanabe-shi, Wakayama-ken 646-0032
Phone0739-26-3596 (call in Japanese)

Akihei

Japanese traditional-style restaurant able to cater to vegetarian and vegan requests. Located about 10 minutes walk from Kii-Tanabe Station.

Akihei restaurant information

Open10:30 to 22:00
ClosedTuesdays
Location68 Kitashinmachi, Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture, 646-0041
Phone0739-22-0234 (call in Japanese)

Shingu

Hayatama Oshokudo Poruto

Italian-style restaurant located conveniently close to Kumano Hayatama Taisha whose owners have walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain (the restaurant is named after the city of Porto which is along the Portuguese Camino section).

The menu features local fish and vegetables and offers vegetarian and vegan options for guests.

Depending on how busy the restaurant is, meals may take a little longer. For larger groups with vegetarian requests, contact in advance (same day morning is okay).

OpenLunch 11:30 to 13:30 (l.o.)
Dinner 18:00 to 20:30 (l.o.)
ClosedMonday, Tuesday.
Wednesday evenings.
Location2-1-2 Kamihonmachi, Shingu City,
Wakayama Prefecture, 647-0003
Phone0735-23-2333 (Japanese only)

Sohonke Mehariya

Mehari Sushi has been a local, traditional vegetarian cuisine for hundreds of years in the Kumano area. Mehari is a rice ball wrapped in pickled mustard leaf. This restaurant features this local food and other menu items in a bright, cozy atmosphere.

OpenLunch 11:00 to 21:00 (l.o.)
ClosedWednesdays
Location5-6 Yakushi-cho, Shingu City,
Wakayama Prefecture, 647-0006
Phone0735-21-1238 (Japanese only)

Nachi-Katsuura

kitchen nicori

Italian restaurant near Kii-Katsuura station in central Katsuura Village featuring vegetarian and vegan pizzas as well as gluten-free tacos (evenings only). English menu.

OpenDinner 18:00 to 22:00 (last order 21:30)
ClosedSundays, Mondays
Location5-2-33 Tsukiji, Nachi-Katsuura Town,
Higashimuro-gun, Wakayama Prefecture, 649-5335
Phone0735-30-4435 (Japanese only)

Areas with Convenience Stores or Shops

Stocking up on food at convenience and grocery stores provides options for vegetarian and vegan visitors.

Tanabe

While not as common in the middle of the peninsula, Tanabe has both convenience stores and grocery stores relatively close to Kii-Tanabe Station.

There is a 7-11 (open 6:30 to 22:00) inside the station and a Family Mart (open 24 hours) just 5 minutes away.

There are also 2 grocery stores within a kilometer of the station.

Visitors can ask for directions at the TANABE Tourist Information Center when they arrive.

Nakahechi

Some guests who are staying in the Greater Nakahechi area (near Kurisugawa not including Takahara Settlement) with a No Meals plan might consider the A-coop Grocery Store (open 9:00 to 19:00 every day) a couple hundred meters southwest of the Kurisugawa bus stop.

Chikatsuyu

The A-Coop Grocery Store located at the Aruki-no-Sato Chikatsuyu rest area has snacks, vegetables, maybe a few bento box lunch items, fruit, and more.

It is only a few hundred meters from Chikatsuyu-oji and the Kumano Kodo route. Open 8:30 to 18:00.

Hongu Area

Ono Grocery Store (Y-Shop Hongu) is located close to the Kumano Hongu Heritage Center (open 8:30 to 18:00).

Close to the Ukegawa trailhead, there is Shimoji Grocery Shop (Yamazaki Y-shop Shimoji Hongu Ten) open 7:30 to 18:00 but closed Wednesdays.

In Yunomine Onsen, there is a small convenience store, V-shop Yunomine Grocery, open generally from 9:00 to 17:00 with irregular holidays.

Shingu

Shingu has several convenience and grocery and produce stores within 30 minutes of Shingu Station.

Check at the Shingu Tourist Information Center just across the street from the station for more suggestions and an updated map of the Shingu area.

Nachi-Katsuura

There are 2 convenience stores and an Evergreen grocery store within 500 meters of the station.

Ask at the Nachi-Katsuura Tourist Information Center located next to the Kii-Katsuura Station for more suggestions.

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