We interviewed Hasan, a Muslim who came to Japan at the age of 18, about being a Muslim and the food situation in Japan. He has been living in Japan for more than 15 years now.
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Assalamualaikum, Hasan. First of all, tell us something about yourself briefly.
Assalamualaikum. I am now 34 years old and have been in Japan for 16 years. I am a Muslim and I work for a Japanese company.
Being a Muslim in Japan
How is like being Muslim in Japan?
It’s comfy. Before coming to Japan, I thought Japan was a completely different country in terms of culture and way of thinking. However, I realized there were many similarities in the way of thinking.
Can you tell me more about the similarities?
There are many Japanese people who help the weak, are kind to others, keep their promises, and work hard. It is the same as the teachings of Islam. Japan has the custom of practicing it. So it is very comfortable to live here. Of course, there are many things you have to be careful about, like where you pray and what you eat, but other than that, it is very pleasant to live here.
Eating Out Problems in Japan
Can you tell me about the problems you have when eating out? In the case of my Muslimah friend, she said the only place she could eat in her neighborhood was Mcdonald’s.
That’s understandable. In my case, what I find particularly difficult is that I cannot tell from the Japanese menu names whether pork is used or not. When I first came to Japan, even the tuna mayo onigiri (rice balls) sold at convenience stores sometimes contained extracts of pork origin. Since then, I’ve learned the word 「豚 (ぶた/buta)」(pork) and started checking labels.
They use pork extract in tuna mayo, too!? Even though I’m Japanese (or is it because I’m Japanese?) I didn’t know that.
Japanese people don’t usually pay much attention to whether pork is included. So when I ask, “Does it contain pork?” they sometimes answer based on whether or not the visible pork meat is included. Sometimes people do not consider bacon and sausage as pork. Recently, however, more and more restaurants are listing detailed ingredients on their menus to prevent allergies and to be friendly to foreign customers.
Do you have any tips on how to ask Japanese people if pork is included?
Instead of asking,
(“Is there any pork in it?”),
(“I can’t eat anything made with pork because of my religion. Does this menu contain pork, bacon, pork extract, or something like that?”).
This way of asking will often help them understand my intentions.
What Kind of Restaurant Muslims Can Visit
What kind of restaurants do you usually choose?
As you said, there are many Indian curry restaurants in the Kanto area. Do you have any other kind of restaurant to choose?
What would you order at a Japanese restaurant?
Tips for newcomer Muslims in Japan
Do you have any tips or messages for Muslims who will be living in Japan?
The number of people who understand the concept of Halal is gradually increasing in Japan. Especially in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, Halal restaurants have been on the rise. There are also an increasing number of Muslim-friendly restaurants, even though they do not obtain Halal certification. Compared to 16 years ago when I first came to Japan, I feel that the country is becoming more comfortable for Muslims to live in. I am hoping that by the time everyone reading this interview comes to Japan, it will be an even better place to live.
I’m really glad to hear that! We hope that we can help Muslims living in and coming to Japan through Japan Dictionary. Thank you so much for your time, Hasan!