For those who cannot read Japanese, navigating the menus in some high-end restaurants can be a frustrating task, with many only written in kanji characters, potentially making choosing a meal there an expensive, slightly risky, experience. That said, staff can often provide rudimentary English explanations of the dishes on offer. Many restaurants and Japanese-style bars (izakaya) have English menus, or menus with photos to reassure visitors, though the literal translations can occasionally be bizarre and off-putting.
Being a vegetarian in Japan is tricky. Many bakeries, delis, and cafes take a vague approach to listing ingredients. As such, you may often be surprised with stealth bacon or other meat in a seemingly ‘vegetarian’ meal. That said, food service staff will be very helpful when they know what you want, even if they’re taken aback or puzzled by your requests. Learning a few expressions to explain your needs will come in useful. There are many delicious Japanese foods that vegetarians can enjoy, and whole restaurants dedicated to such delights as tofu, and vegan ramen. Be adventurous, and don’t be afraid of asking for help or more information about menus and meals. With a bit of online research, vegetarians can eat out very well in Japan. Family restaurants, tempura, soba and (if able to eat fish) sushi bars are great places to start while you find your way.
Japan doesn’t tip. In fact, tips would be flatly refused or just cause confusion, so enjoy the chance to not worry about offending the server or getting your maths wrong!