Being vegan in Okinawa, Japan – where to shop

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Okinawa is amazing. Full of fresh food. And although many Americans come here and stick to the same routine (coco’s curry, fast food, four seasons, one sushi restaurant and one ramen house) you are wasting precious experiences by not getting out and exploring. Most people like to shop at the commissary (the Kadena commissary I’ve fondly named “hell on earth”), but where do the vegans go? Especially those that are not allowed to shop at the commissary because they’re not military affiliated? The options are surprisingly plentiful.

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1. Green Leaf Foods
Green leaf is a small grocery store in Araha beach that, while small in size, is a big resource for vegans. They have organic produce, soy milk, tofu, tempeh and carob soy milk. They also carry great pantry staples such as beans, rice, canned soups, spices, dried herbs, sauces, nuts, and hard to find items such as figs, hemp oil and acai powder. For vegans looking for some easy comfort food, they have vegan ice cream, vegan chocolate bars and chips, vegan faux meats made by Loving Hut, vegan cheeses by Sheese and even pre-made pasta with “meat” sauce.

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Green leaf also carries a variety of fresh drinks available for take out. Juices, smoothies, fresh coffee and tea. Also, if you are a fan of kombucha, they have bottles of that as well.

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Green leaf offers a vegan lunch box service every Wednesday for ¥900, which is about $9 USD. You need to reserve it at least 24 hours in advance, which you can do by either calling them at 098-923-0298, or emailing them at info@greenleafoods.com (no that is not a typo, it really is only one F). I love their lunch boxes! Theyre fresh and come in the cutest takeout boxes, which you can bring back to them for a ¥100 reimbursement. They’re perfect for when you have a day off. Green leaf is near enough to the beach to pick up a lunch box and a smoothie and head to the beach.

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Green leaf has a Facebook page that they post on frequently about new products. Stop by their store any day of the week except for Mondays, when they’re closed. The address for green leaf is 〒904-0116 沖縄県北谷町 1丁目8−8.

2. Karma Organics/Living Life Marketplace/Boo Boo the Kitchen
An organic store in Ginowan that boasts a great collection of superfoods, dried food staples, and more. They also have a small menu of smoothies, coffee, assorted other drinks and raw desserts. I love going here as a special treat once in a while. The prices are high but the drinks are delicious. This is the only place on the island that I know of that sells spirulina, lucuma powder, food dehydrators and spiralizers.

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Carola wrote a great review on Karma Organics that has all of their contact information included. To read it, click here.

3. Farmers markets. I tend to stick to Minami farmers market, which you can find directions to here at Okinawa Hai. I love this market! They have a large selection of produce. It’s also indoors which is great because okinawa’s weather can be very temperamental.

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Here at Minami when you check out, you can either bring your own bags or you can pay 5¥ to use one of their boxes to take your produce home.

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I could shop at a closer farmers market, but I love Minami. There’s a First coffee stand outside that boasts beans from all over the world. They have the best soy latte I’ve ever had in my life! They have a stamp rewards card which I highly recommend getting. Trust me, you’ll be back!

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There’s a few other options for farmers markets in Okinawa, you can find more information on them by clicking here. You can also join the farmers markets of Okinawa group on Facebook to ask any questions you might have.

4. Common Japanese chain grocery stores. There are a few of these all over the island. You can find a list and read about them here. For vegans, some of these grocery stores have a few options such as produce, soy milk in a variety if flavors (I’ve even found sweet potato and ice cream flavor), and sometimes almond milk in a variety of flavors. The soy milk I buy is in a carton with a little bird and sun pictured on the front (pictured below). You can sometimes find soy vanilla and green tea flavored ice cream at grocery stores, as well as veggie chips. There’s always options at the grocery stores if you know why you’re looking for.

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They do carry soy yogurt, but since it’s made with gelatin it is unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians. The only place you can find vegan soy yogurt in Okinawa that I’m aware of is the cafe Dechibica, and Kiwa is happy to sell it to you if you ask her for some. She makes it in house and will teach you how to make your own using the cup of yogurt she sells to you. It’s very easy.

5. Convenience stores – FamilyMart and Lawson’s.

There’s always options at the convenient stores. They carry fresh fruit like bananas and oranges, mini soy milk boxes, dehydrated vegetable chips, and some pre-packaged meals that are safe for vegans. My favorite is this buckwheat noodle bowl with soy sauce, onions, nori, wasabi and cucumbers. You can also find a vegan option in the way of the packaged seaweed covered rice triangles. They have lots of ones with meat in them, so make sure you grab the one that’s rice only. You’ll be able to tell by the packaging. My husband loves those. Convenience stores here are much better quality than in the states and are actually a very popular place for people to stop and get lunch. They’re a great choice for when you’re driving around and find yourself in desperate need of a snack. Or when you just feel like having a lazy convenience store picnic in the car with your husband, like me.

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6. Shopping on base. If you’re able to shop at the commissary, there are many options for vegans at the commissary. They have tubs of Natural Balance vegan butter, vegan meats from Gardein, boca burgers, vegan “ribs” by Morningstar, a few different products by Amy’s organics, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, organic sugar, vegan chocolate chips, vegan breads by Rudis Bakery, ground “beef” and vegan hot dogs by Light Life, and soy creamer.

I hope this has been informative! It can be overwhelming to make the change to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re doing so in Okinawa or moving here and wondering what your options are, please know that this is only what I have learned during my time here. Get out and explore to learn more about what Okinawa has to offer vegans!

Thanks for reading!
Xoxo

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