What? A Vegan Izakaya in Tokyo?
Many Japanese like to drink alcohol and there are izakayas everywhere in Japan. However, vegans usually can get a salad at izakayas and often feel being left out. Masaka is a vegan izakaya where vegetarians can enjoy any food and can relax.

PhotoAnita Lin

TextAnita Lin

It is true that many officer workers go get drinks with their colleagues after work, as described in the Japanese soap operas and movies. Because the Japanese believe that they can talk about things and communicate effectively while drinking. They have even created an English letter, nominication – a combination of “nomu (drink)” and “communication”. At night, the office workers toast and talk in loud voices, treating the drinking place as a temporary paradise for escaping from the life of corporate slaves.

For many travelers, an izakaya is also an ideal place for food since it opens until late and there are many options for menu and drinks. It is one mind-blowing experience to have a drink after running around all day.

A Brand-New Food Culture From the Center of Fashion
Shibuya of Tokyo is the base of origin for trends and the new culture of Japan. This is also the key department store battleground that takes days to shop. In particular, there is one PARCO department store that was once the origin of fashion and trend leader for Shibuya in the early days. However, this “old” department store eventually became the one that young people refuse to go to. Hence, the department store went through a total renovation on the Shibuya store with 43 years of establishment. After the re-opening at the end of 2019, this department store again became one of the “trendiest” department stores in this area. 

The renovated PARCO introduces the boutiques and designer brands popular among young people, movies theaters, and the sky garden for overlooking the Shibuya views. Apart from shopping, food has also become a specialty here. The one special feature of PARCO is that there are many one-of-a-kind stores or franchise stores over decades of establishment, which have turned into fashion, and therefore, it becomes an instagrammable place for people to take photos. Since izakaya is one of the iconic food cultures of Japan, PARCO will not miss it. And what makes this izakaya special is that it is for vegan food. The store combines the traditional and new vegetarian concepts of Japan to develop a new food culture, which is then spread out from Shibuya –the origin of all signs.

Named After the Three Obstacles of Life

This izakaya is named “Masaka” (真さか), where “saka” (さか) in Japanese writing means hill. The addition of “Ma” to the “Masaka” (真さか) means “surprise”. The store owner named it Masaka since there are many hills in Shibuya while another meaning implies the three hills of life in Japanese slang, namely, uphill, downhill, and surprise (まさか). Perhaps the name implies that regardless of the type of hill in life one is on, the izakaya can also become the temporary place of company. 

In a close look at the store Logo, it is actually a human face, whose name is “Mr. Masaka (真さか君) ”, which even comes with a personality. The official website mentions that Mr. Masaka is working at an IT company in Shibuya and although he has not advanced much in his career, everyone recognizes him as a good person. His parents even ask him to inherit their family izakaya. The Japanese are creative by providing a story and a character to the LOGO. 

Drunk Food Made of Soybeans and Plants 

When you enter the izakaya in Japan, the first thing you do is not to study the menu but to order a drink. Masaka offers classic beer, sour, High Ball, alcohol-free lemon sour, and tangerine sour for non-alcoholic drinkers to have fun with the drinks.  

Since Masaka is operated in the department store, Masaka (真さか) offers the lunch set rarely offered by other izakayas. The lunch sets include the main course, soup, side dish, and rice. The lunch sets offer 4 options for the main course, including Mapo tofu, dumpling, fried chicken, and assorted set. To try all, I have ordered the assorted set with 3 pieces of fried chicken and 3 dumplings. If you order a dumpling set but find the company of a bowl of rice, do not be surprised because dumplings for Japanese are a dish to go with the rice. 

The dumpling may seem ordinary but it is full of juicy filling. You cannot tell if this dumpling contains meat but it tastes just like the average dumpling, without the special vegetable taste of a vegetarian dumpling. Although named fried chicken, it is not made of real chicken but soybeans. Fried chicken is an iconic dish of and there are many flavors of options. The crust differs from the average crust but the crunchiness is still there. You taste the texture of meat. I chose black vinegar with strong acidity. I could eat it with a bowl of rice very quickly. 

You will find all the tapas, great cuisine, rice balls, and desserts of izakaya here. Their items on the menu may not be as many as the regular izakaya but the vegans sure will find the options enough to enjoy the izakaya. 


Offical Website:https://www.masaka.ninja/

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Anita Lin

A contradictory person who is lazy in nature but always has a high level of action for what I like. The biggest action in my life is to come to my favorite country, Japan. In the third year of living in Tokyo, I go out with my camera to eat, walk, and travel whenever I want to record every bit of my life in this amazing country.

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