go vegan in tokyo, japan – sushi zanmai

words wtage

19th June 2019

name: sushi zanmai (すしざんまい)

type: sushi restaurant

sushi zanmai shinjyuku higashi-guchi-ten
3rd floor seno building
shinjuku 3-chome 18-4
shinjuku-ku, tokyo 160-0022

[google maps]

address in japanese:
セノビル 3F

nearest station: shinjuku station
(yamanote line jy17 / chūō line (rapid) jc05 / chūō sobu line jb10 / shōnan-shinjuku line js20 / saikyō line ja11 / odakyu odawara line oh01 / keio line ko01 / keio new line ko01 / toei shinjuku line s01 / toei marunouchi line m08 / toei ōedo line e27)

nearest exits: toei marunouchi line – shinjuku station m08 – b10 exit / jr shinjuku station (station codes: see above) – east exit

opening hours: open for 24 hours

seats: 84 (14 counter seats & 70 table seats)

telephone: 03 5357 7737

website: http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/shops/detail/70 [in japanese]

english menu: yes

english speaking staff: yes

how vegan?: limited vegan menu, see below review for recommendation

card accepted?: yes

[correct as of 20th october 2018]


tokyo never sleeps but the bustling ward shinjuku is an exception of exceptions.

the district never refuses anyone or anything – if i ever describe the inner capital in one word, it would certainly be ‘chaos’.

matsuko deluxe, a (controversially) beloved well-known japanese columnist (wikipedia), once said ‘there is no rubbish to throw in shinjuku (新宿に捨てるゴミはない)’  and they really mean it, as anything can happen in shinjuku and if you are bored of shinjuku, you are bored of life, so to say.

if you think shinjuku is a sophisticated modern area in tokyo, you are totally wrong.

shinjuku has always been chaotic and dark, though it might be better to leave it at that.


so, i said ‘shinjuku never sleeps’ and this is perfect for me as i worked remotely in uk time whilst i was in japan.

due to the time difference, i had an odd schedule and when i finished work, many restaurants were closed already and i had a little choice.

fortunately, i found a sushi restaurant chain, called ‘sushi zanmai’.

zanmai means indulgence and sushi-zanmai can mean ‘to eat nothing but sushi’.


there are 55 branches throughout the country and there is a branch next to shinjuku station.

as this branch opens 24 hours a day, it was a good (only) choice around midnight as i was feeling peckish.


when i entered the restaurant, i greeted a member of staff in japanese as they said ‘irasshaimase’ meaning welcome to the restaurant, and i was asked to choose either a counter seat or a table seat.

i chose the former, and was guided in front of a sushi chef. there were 2-3 chefs at that time.

surprisingly it was a bit crowded in the restaurant. oh this is shinjuku after all.

i spoke natural japanese, or so i thought.

the staff member was kind enough to bring me an english menu.

yes they were kind indeed and i appreciated that.

so i stopped speaking japanese and responded ‘oh that’s great. so kind of you!’ as i couldn’t refuse their hospitality.


i understand that my speaking japanese isn’t perfect, plus i have to mention that i use english (and japanese) for work and perhaps i didn’t particularly sound japanese after some calls in english, right before i went to the restaurant.


oh well.

it is good to know that they do have english menus and staff and chefs speak okay english at least.


order is easy: you order what you want.

there is an order sheet that you can write what you want, or you can order if a chef is available to take your order, either all at once or order as many times as you like.

you can choose with or without wasabi.


this is what i ordered.

maki rolls – cucumber (left), kampyo/kanpyo (dried gourd) (right) and pickled daikon with shiso leaves (top).

cucumber rolls have a cute name ‘kappa maki’ which was ¥220 + 8% sales tax (like vat).

kampyo maki was also ¥220 + 8% sales tax.

pickled daikon, or o-shinko maki was, once again, ¥220 + 8% sales tax.

burning hot green tea and pickled ginger ‘gari’ were complimentary, for your information.

so the total was ¥713 (£4.75 / £1 = ¥150) inclusive of sales tax at 8%.


it is your choice to dip sushi into soy sauce or not.

some people might prefer pour a little amount of soy sauce on sushi.

this is why the restaurant has two soy sauce containers.

it is labelled ‘both are the same soy sauce’ so you can use either one.

the left one is to press the top to get soy sauce drops as many as you desire.

the right one is an ordinary pot that you can pour soy sauce as much as you like in a small dish that comes with your order.


they have some vegan sushi but it is a bit tricky as they do handle fish.

if you are allergic to fish, sushi zanmai is not for you as food contamination cannot be fully avoided.

just to note, i absolutely hate fishy smell but this place smelt quite vinegary (not unpleasant) so it was okay for me to stay there and enjoy vegan sushi.


they have other vegan-looking sushi but i didn’t order okura/okra (オクラ), chive buds (芽ねぎ) and rock sea weed (青のり).

i was quite happy to have 3 types of above mentioned maki rolls.


i’m not a nori/sea weed lover but their nori sheets are good quality and i really enjoyed it.

a sushi chef made those rolls in front of me so they were really soft and warm.

nice experience overall, as a ‘foreigner’.


look at this gift i got when i paid at the till.


a sushi sweet! how sweet.

they had a nice selection of sushi sweets and i was asked to pick one.

i didn’t refuse their generous offer as they possibly think all visitors love sushi and like this kind of gifts.

there was no vegan sushi sweets so i picked up this pink one, whatever it is supposed to be.

i assume that this gift is only for non-japanese.


here is the list of ‘go vegan in tokyo, japan

who wrote this?

wtage, an english-japanese bilingual linguist based in london, uk.

i am curious about human communication in which language plays a crucial role.

i am an avid writer with a creative mind.