Ikea Harajuku Has Vegan Ice Cream in Time for Hot Summer Days in Tokyo

Tokyo Food Ice cream 2020.06.11
Ikea's strawberry plant-based soft serve, first sold in European stores, has made its way to Tokyo via their new city-center Harajuku location.

New Options for Vegans in Tokyo

Japan isn't known for its vegetarian or vegan food. While the country actually has a long history of food that fits the bill, "shojin ryori" (精進料理) vegetarian food eaten by Buddhist monks, totally meatless cuisine is still a niche market in Japan. Sure, you can ask them to leave the sliced pork out of a bowl of ramen, but that broth is probably made with meat anyway.

Fortunately, we've seen a slow increase in vegetarian and vegan options in recent years, especially in major urban areas like Tokyo. Japankuru writers have written about their favorite Tokyo vegetarian restaurants in the past, and we've taken note of shojin ryori in Kyoto that sits right on the edge between trendy and traditional. Now you can make your own vegan sushi in Roppongi, or pick up a vegan burger in Shinjuku. The plant-based Green Burger at Mos Burger, made with no meat or meaty additives, is available all around Japan these days.
And now, for that sweet tooth that craves a frosty cold dessert in the middle of Tokyo, but doesn't eat meat or animal products, Ikea has vegan soft serve ice cream in Harajuku! We recently wrote about our visit to the grand opening of With Harajuku, a huge new shopping facility, and one of the major tenants is Ikea's first ever city-center location. Taking into account the relatively small space (for an Ikea, that is, the space is still huge), Ikea Harajuku is focusing less on the model rooms the store is known for, and putting more emphasis on the cafe and food options.
The food options also cater to the trendy Harajuku crowd and their taste for the unique, too, by making the majority of the prepared food vegan. After a meal of vegan sausage tunnbröd flatbreads in the Ikea cafe, for dessert diners can try the "strawberry plant-based sundae."
After trying the soft serve, though, opinions were divided among the Japankuru team. We all agreed that texture-wise, it was great. Obviously it was no high-end gelato, but the mouthfeel was satisfyingly creamy and a perfectly acceptable stand-in for a dairy-based ice cream.

The flavor was what had us disagreeing. Immediately upon receiving our orders, we picked up the cups and noticed an almost perfume-y strawberry scent coming from the plant-based ice cream. Tasting it, well... according to our Taiwanese Editor L, it was a pleasantly nondescript berry flavor. I, however, had a different experience. Growing up in the United States I was subjected to fluoride dental treatments from a young age. As an adult I can now forgive those, but the flavor of the terrible fluoride goo has undeniably stuck with me. At the first mouthful, the flavor of the strawberry soft serve brought up strong memories of fluoride treatments past, and I just couldn't ignore it all enough to really enjoy the ice cream.

If you were fortunate enough to have skipped that unpleasant dental treatment as a child, you will probably have no problem with the flavor of Ikea's soft serve. And since it's available right inside the entrance, I have no doubt that Harajuku explorers vegan and dairy-eating alike will be lining up for the new sweet treat throughout the summer, and enjoying it while meandering in front of Harajuku Station. Plus, the same counter serves lattes made with almond and oat milk, which I had no objection to!

Let us know if you check out the new facilities at With Harajuku, including the Ikea and a brand new Harajuku Uniqlo, on the Japankuru twitter, instagram, and facebook. Or feel free to ask us any questions you might have about your next trip to Japan!
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