Interview “Being Muslim and Food Situation in Japan”

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. 

Table of Contents

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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.

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Being a Muslim in Japan

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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.

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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.

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Eating Out Problems in Japan

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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.

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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.

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Do you have any tips on how to ask Japanese people if pork is included?

Instead of asking,

豚肉ぶたにくはいっていますか?」
(“Is there any pork in it?”),

I’d ask,

宗教上しゅうきょうじょう豚肉ぶたにくべられません。このメニューめにゅーには豚肉ぶたにくベーコンべーこんぶたエキスえきすなどはいっていますか?」
(“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. 

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What Kind of Restaurant Muslims Can Visit

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What kind of restaurants do you usually choose?

I often choose Indian or Pakistani restaurants when I am not familiar with a place, such as a city I visit for work. I like butter chicken curry, and there are many good Indian and Pakistani restaurants, especially in Tokyo. My favorite restaurant is Mumbai Kudan, which is located near the Indian Embassy.
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As you said, there are many Indian curry restaurants in the Kanto area. Do you have any other kind of restaurant to choose?

I often go to Japanese restaurants because many of them serve fish.
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What would you order at a Japanese restaurant?

I order 「海鮮丼かいせんどん (kaisendon)」 (a seafood bowl) or 「サバさば味噌煮みそに(saba no misoni)」 (mackerel simmered with miso). Just to be sure, I ask if there is any pork or pork extract in it before ordering. Oh, by the way, I also recommend fast-food chains. Most fast-food chains provide an ingredient list and even have pictures to help you understand, so you don’t have to look for the Kanji characters.
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Tips for newcomer Muslims in Japan

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Do you have any tips or messages for Muslims who will be living in Japan?

Yes. There is definitely a lot to pay attention to in terms of food, but as long as you learn some keywords, life in Japan is clean, safe, and comfortable!
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.
 
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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!

Hasan taught us some keywords to learn in order to avoid pork! Check out the article below.

For Muslims | Japanese Phrases to Avoid Pork

Special thanks to Hasan!

1 thought on “Interview “Being Muslim and Food Situation in Japan””

  1. Pingback: For Muslims | Japanese Phrases to Avoid Pork│Japan Dictionary

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