One of the greatest pleasures of traveling is enjoying the local cuisine. But many might have noticed that Japan can be a pretty challenging place if you have some restrictions on what you can eat.
Sadly, Aso is no different, but we will try and give you a few recommendations on restaurants that at least are flexible when it comes to the food they present!
Here we will give some examples on where you can go if you’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten allergic, or eat halal food.
Let’s get down to business!
No.1 – Vegetarian paradise in a local setting!
This restaurant here is Mochitoko! This homely farmers restaurant is family-run, uses home-grown vegetables, and also offers a wide variety of sweets specializing in “mochi”, chewy rice-cakes.
The inside of the restaurant has a very warm and cozy feeling and they have truly managed to maintain the atmosphere of a family-run restaurant.
My favorite spot is the counter by the windows where you can enjoy a spectacular up-close view of Mount Aso’s five peaks!
This here is their vegetable set, the price is very affordable and offers home-grown vegetables prepared with lots of love and care. It might not look like much but the quality is top-class, and if you combine it with any of the mochi-based desserts, you will leave extremely satisfied!
Address: 869-2222 Kumamoto, Aso City, Nishi-machi 885
Open hours: 11:30 – 17:00
Fixed holidays: Sunday/Thursday
No.2 – Atmosphere and organic veggies in overload!
This small sign hung against a white wall displays the name of this lovely restaurant, Olmo coppia. This is mostly known as an organic restaurant but they also provide gluten-free food. Reservation in advance is required!
The high ceiling gives an open and spacious feeling in this renovated traditional housing that can boast with a history of 160 years.
Everything on the menu is organic and produced locally. This is truly a restaurant where you can feel the blessing of Aso straight through your taste buds.
They also sell their original jam which is warmly recommended to buy as a souvenir!
Olmo coppia’s food is the definition of healthiness which makes it very popular during lunch hours. If you want to avoid waiting, make a reservation in advance!
Address: 869-2224 Kumamoto, Aso City, Kurahara 627-1
E-mail: email@example.com (reservations for gluten free alternatives should be made 1 week in advance)
Open hours: 11:30 – 15:00
Fixed holidays: Monday/Tuesday
No.3 – Halal food right by the volcano!
Right at the heart of Aso’s tourism, next to the Aso Volcano Museum, looking out over Kusasenri.
This is Nan & Curry, a restaurant that specializes in Indian and Pakistani food. The entrance to the restaurant is on the 2nd floor!
There is lots of space in the restaurant making it perfect for larger groups!
And if you have a look at the menu, you can clearly see the Halal-mark.
The ingredients are provided through a store in Kumamoto City that specializes in Halal-food.
If you peek into the kitchen, you can also see chefs with Indian heritage preparing the food.
This time I went for a set of shrimp and butter chicken curry accompanied by tandoori chicken. The nan bread was huge, but as nan bread often has a tendency to do, it disappeared in a heartbeat.
Here we have Mutton Biriyani. Not spicy at all and made using long-grained rice, true to the original cuisine.
Restaurants that offer Halal-food are still few in Kumamoto which makes Nan & Curry a valuable asset to assure that Muslim visitors can enjoy a good meal in Aso! Nan & Curry has also gotten a lot of praise for staying true to the original taste of Indian and Pakistani food.
<Nan & Curry>
Address: 869-2231 Kumamoto, Aso City, Nagakusa 2391-15
Open hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Fixed holidays: None
No.4 – Animal-based food products = zero
The hub of tourism in Minami Aso is Asobo-no-Sato, and here you can find a shop that is greatly appreciated by anyone vegan. Minami Aso Shokudo, Sen.
In the restaurant, you can find a wide variety of ingredients for people who are vegan.
The owner of this shop is actually a doctor who started it to provide food alternatives for patients. If you visit on the weekend, you can enjoy it as the owner displays his vegan cooking skills.
During weekdays you will have to settle for light snacks or setting up your own meal from the wide assortment of products.
At the bench seats outside, I enjoyed cheddar cheese (no it’s not actual cheese!) and taco-meat (no it’s not actual meat!) and I think any skeptic will be surprised at how tasty it is!
The taste itself is flavorful and satisfies in every way, but the fact that it also is 100% plant-based makes it light and refreshing.
My light snack was also enjoyed with a wonderful cup of organic coffee!
Restaurants and shops specializing in vegan are still rare but I truly recommend anyone to visit Sen. It’s an eye-opener to experience the magic that these plant-based products bring to the table (pun intended)!
<Minami Aso Shokudo, Sen>
Address: 869-1412 Kumamoto, Aso, Minami Aso, Kugino
Open hours: 10:00 – 17:00
Fixed holidays: Wednesday/Thursday
No. BONUS! Hidden organic paradise with a hidden vegetarian menu!
This here is the path that will lead you to our bonus entry, Kakuresabou (=hidden teahouse) Sakura.
Go through the lovely garden until you find this extremely small door. You might doubt if it’s really the entrance to a restaurant but don’t worry, gather up your courage and step inside.
The inside of this traditional Japanese building retains all of its original atmosphere making it into a very cozy space!
The seats by the windows are great allowing you to enjoy the calming countryside landscapes outside.
This restaurant is mostly famous for Akaushi beef and organic vegetables and doesn’t actually have any vegetarian alternatives on the menu. But from my research, I had heard that they make a killer vegetarian pasta if you ask for it.
So, I tried!
And I wasn’t disappointed!
Since it’s not on the menu, I can’t guarantee anything, but it’s well worth a shot because it tasted amazing!
The dessert was delicious as well and to my surprise, Kumamoto’s mascot character, Kumamon, was hiding in my coffee as well!
Address: 869-2224 Kumamoto, Aso City, Kurahara 625-1
Open hours: 11:30 – 17:00
Fixed holidays: Wednesday
Japan is a country that can be hard to travel in for many because of special needs in regards to food. If you are in need of vegan, vegetarian, halal, or gluten-free alternatives, I hope this article will give you some indication of where to go when visiting Aso.
All the restaurants here offer quality food so I feel confident that you won’t leave disappointed!
Have a great stay in Aso!