Despite Yakushima being the emerald island, lush green and dense in nature, I was severely worried about eating there as a vegetarian. My excitement to hike, onsen and wander around the subtropical island was displaced by the thought of my impending starvation. A small island with only 2 major towns and a population of around 13,000 people, in JAPAN the land of fish stock and meat had me a little worried. If there were no options and no konbinis to fall back on what would I do? Eat moss?
Instead, I’m happy to report that after arriving I found a plethora of veggie options, even more than are available in my own rural town in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Picking up our car at Miyanoura port, the lady from NAVI rent-a-car gave us a very useful map of the island- packed with hiking routes, supermarkets, distances between towns as well as places to eat. She even marked out the veggie options for me. This, as well as a restaurant handout and Google Maps, brought the realisation that there are a LOT of places to eat on this tiny little island.
Added bonus, every café or restaurant we visited provided veggie options (which is pretty rare experience for me in Japan). Some of my favourites are listed below: which one looks best to you?
Naa Yuu Cafe
Naa Yuu is a beautiful café, just off the main road sitting next to Anada Chillage / アナンダ チレッジ 屋久島 accommodation (they serve vegetarian breakfast here!). The food at Naa Yuu was lovely, with veggie options available. Plus, it was here that I had my first taste of Yakushima’s own citrus, tankan. I was hooked from the first taste.
Naa Yuu is quite small and ran by one very talented, busy lady so you might have a little wait on your hands when the café is busy. On my recent visit to Yakushima, there was a 30 minute wait which we were too hungry to stay for.
Luckily, the delay at Naa Yuu brought us to another great place, which was an unexpected surprise. The opening times at Nomado are pretty capacious (just like me after all this veggie food) which is pretty rare for Yakushima. The owners speak really good English too- so make sure to talk to them about their travels! Their Laus-inspired tofu curry was delicious, the consistency of the tofu reminded me of paneer back home.
I’d also recommend the hot ginger drink, made using the owners’ homemade ginger syrup. The soft warmth of the ginger works really well with the sweetness of the drink. It comes with a lotus biscuit, my all time favourite biscuit so brownie points for that. The ginger syrup is for sale and is packaged really well, I bought some for おみやげ. While it was amazing to taste in summer I know that it’d be my go-to Autumn drink!
This modern izakaya sat just across the river from our accomodation in Anbo. Looking out onto the river while browsing through the very diverse FULL vegetarian menu with vegan options, calmed those usual veggie-in-Japan stresses. The building itself was beautiful, furnished with the Yakushima classic, wood and the walls were dressed with greyscale paintings resembling famous locations on the island.
I ate mixed pizza and herb fries (warning you get a lot of fries and they’re delicious af) and I ate my friend’s leftover tankan cheesecake. I like tankan.
For non-veggies looking to try the local cuisine, they had a lot of dishes using flying fish.
I came to this Italian restaurant on my first visit to the island. Despite not having veggie food on the menu the chef was really lovely and made me something, which I think should have a spot on the menu long term- it was so good! The atmosphere was warm and he was friendly, chatty and welcoming.
This place was recommended by a guy we were speaking to at Yakushima Bless and I would definitely recommend. It’s just off the main road, nestled into a little wooded patch. They serve desserts, delicious thick toast and shaved ice. I got the cheese toast, plum and chocolate muffin and homemade lemon soda. The aesthetic and atmosphere of this place was on point too. I felt completely chilled here.
Other honourable mentions:
Hiro Bakery: Not strictly a cafe but definitely worth a shout out. This place is really cute and their products aredelicious. I tried the komepan (rice bread) and the warm, freshly-cooked, soft bread was too good for words. From now on I have a favourite bread.
Issou Cafe: Sitting conveniently in Miyanoura Port, humming out smooth jazz from a record player, it’s worth calling into Issou before you board your ferry home. I had the (can you guess?) tankan juice! It was really fresh and served with a big block of ice that kept hitting me in the face because I drink like a child. I don’t drink coffee but I heard it was pretty good, if you wanted to buy it’s for sale!
Panorama Café: This place was recommended to me by the lady from NAVI rent-a-car. She told me it has veggie options but I didn’t get around to trying it out!
Warang Kurang: Another place we didn’t get to try was this Indonesian place! They open for lunch and take reservations for dinner.
Hiyoriya: My trip’s biggest loss was being unable to visit Hiyoriya. A full veggie and vegan menu lies untried by my curious tastebuds. Everyone we mentioned this place to had really high reviews so, anyone travelling to Yakushima, try it out and let me know what it’s like!
Nina: I also heard some good things about this fisherman’s bar, where the fish is caught and served the same day. Not really my bag as a vegetarian but you non-veggie folks give it a go!
If you’re STILL looking for more, have a look at this list provided by YES, Yakushima’s English guide! This is a good site for everything Yakushima!
One word of warning would be to prepare your eating plans beforehand. The island’s eateries and shops can be unpredictable and close at unexpected times/ due to being pretty small/ having long waiting times.
That said the quality of eateries in Yakushima blew me away and are definitely worth the wait or planning involved to eat there. The aesthetic and quality of food at these tiny temporary homes had me gobsmacked at every narrow-street turn off.
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, which one’s yours?