I believe some of you might wonder how do I find halal food and perform my daily prayer in Japan right? Well,there are few tricks and know-how that you've got to learn not just in Japan, but in any other non-Muslim countries as well. It's kind of hard at first, but slowly you'll get the gist.
In Japan particularly, the food labels are written in Japanese kanji, so it's difficult to know what are the ingredients. Before I came to Japan, I thought it would be easy to find halal food here since I love seafood so much. But I didn't know that Japanese lurrrrve their "SAKE" or traditional alcoholic drink so much they would add it into everything. (sushi, desserts, sweets, etc). And when the menu says vegetable spaghetti or vegetable curry, you would easily find pieces of PORK in the dish as well. Even after living in Japan for 2 years this still traumatize me, like what the phish??!! I ordered vegetarian menu!! Haha, no they didn't do this on purpose. It's just that majority of the people in Japan don't really understand about vegetarian food let alone halal food.
You could always find halal stuff in the international grocery shop in Kyoto, but for shopping in the normal supermarket or 7-E, it is really advisable to memorize simple kanji characters such as below :
豚肉 (buta niku) : pork
牛肉 (gyu niku) : beef
鳥肉 (tori niku) : chicken
酒 (sake) : Japanese alcohol
味醂 (mirin) : Japanese sweet cooking wine (contain alcohol)
醤油 (syou yu) : soy sauce (most Japanese soy sauce contain alcohol)
乳化剤 (nyukazai) : food emulsifier (normally derives from animal unless stated as soy-based)
ショトニング : shortening (normally derives from animal)
ゼラチン : gelatin (normally derives from animal)
ラード (la-do) : lard
There are many more, but basically I will stay away from products with these kanji written on the package. I think the most difficult part is the 'nyukazai' thing, because they use it in almost everything especially in their bread and cookies. On the other hand, if you do not want to go through all those hassles, then you can just shop from below halal online markets. They will deliver everything to your door steps in just 2 days, and you can pay them by COD. The downside is, you need to shop more than JPY7000 to get free shipping cost.
If you are eating outside (other than halal restaurant), it would be impossible to confirm about these details. So what I normally do is I would just tell the restaurant please don't add any meat, animal oil and alcohol AT ALL inside the dish （肉、動物油やアルコールぬき）. Other than this, I will leave it to God (tawakkal), because Allah knows best. I have done what I could.
Fast food chain (vege and seafood menu)
Some of the menu at the fast food chain restaurant can also be consume by Muslim. You can find the shop almost everywhere in Kyoto.
http://www.akindo-sushiro.co.jp/en/ (kaiten sushi, super cheap! I personally won't take the soy sauce because the ingredient on the bottle shows it contained 'alcochol')
http://first-kitchen.co.jp/ (shrimp burger)
http://www.lotteria.jp/index.php (shrimp burger)
http://www.skylark.co.jp/gusto/menu/index.html (corn pizza)
(vege & seafood menu. But you have to ask carefully. They often added pieces of meat/ham in the dish)
http://viedefrance.co.jp/index.shtml (bread and pastries)
http://www.manneken.co.jp/ (delicious waffle!! but some contain alcohol so please ask)
Also, this website was shared by my Japanese colleague. List of Muslim Friendly Shop around Kyoto (NOT Halal certified) http://kyotomuslimfriend.jp/en/ I have yet to try it though.
But if you do have a choice, I suggest that you go to the halal restaurants where you can just eat heartily and peacefully. Below are very useful website with list of halal restaurant around Kyoto:
For those who know me, I am a coffee JUNKIE like big time! I could drink coffee for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But to know that most canned coffee in Japan contained 'nyukazai' is just mind boggling! What am I suppose to drink then? Well actually the 'nyukazai' comes from the dairy product,added into the coffee. So if it is black coffee or no milk coffee it's not a problem to drink. But I love my milk coffee so much I'll go crazy without them. Luckily there are some coffee brands which omit the use of 'nyukazai' or substitute it with fresh cow milk instead. There aren't many, but I've managed to survive my daily life thanks to them. Some of the choices are as below:
Coffee shops: Tullys, Doutor, Starbucks.
Canned coffee: DYDO, Blendy, Nescaffe, Wonda (caffe au lait), Kirin (Cafe latte), 7-E Hikitate (Esspresso and cafe latte).
It's pretty difficult to remember all these things so what we normally do is to download halal apps on our smart phones. There are also some volunteer group on Facebook surveying halal products in Japan to help those who can't read kanji. I normally refer to these two:
I believe nowadays most people would download prayer apps on their smart phones. I did that too when I first came to Japan (I never owned a smart phone in Malaysia!) and it is very helpful especially when I'm on the go. Some of the common apps is Athan and Muslim Pro. You can download it from below:
Where to pray?
Whenever I'm on the go (travelling or business trip), I would try to do jamak or qasar prayer as much as possible if I have the chance. However, when I'm out for shopping or hang out with friends on the weekend, normally I would use below tips.
1. Fitting room
Just find any shopping mall, grab a pair of shirt and go straight to the fitting room. Nobody will disturb you there unless you are taking too much time. Malls with Uniqlo or GU shop is much preferred. :D
2. Garden or park
When we go out for picnic of sight seeing, this is what we normally do. We would find a spot under the trees or near the resting area and perform our prayer here. It's a bit open, so there will be alot of curious Japanese lookers, but if you are with friends it's less awkward.
Whenever I couldn't find a fitting room at the mall, I would go to the stairs area, spread my praying mat and pray. Big space, less people (or no people at all).
4. Breast feeding room
Haha. I know!! It's not appropriate, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.
Actually there is one Masjid here in Kyoto, managed by the Kyoto Muslim Association. It is located in Koujinguchi and you can access it by taking bus no 7, 14 and 205 from Kyoto Station. I normally would go there like once a month. They have a masjid, halal shop and a halal restaurant (Kyoto Rose Cafe) just a few steps away from the masjid. Please drop by when you visit Kyoto later okay! Here is the website : http://kyotomuslim.net/access/index.html
This could be a problem too, because it can be a bit uncomfortable to take wudu' in public toilet in Japan. The sink will get wet with splashes of water here and there, so I need to dab a whole bunch of tissues for it. Washing my feet while everyone is watching is also, err..uncomfortable.
Nowadays, I will make sure to take my wudu' BEFORE I go out. So when I need to renew it later, if the situation doesn't permit me to take wudu' as per normal, I will not take off my shoes but just splash some water on it instead. This is called 'khuf', one of the 'rukhsah' for us which I read in this book 'Mengenai Solat' written by Ustaz Rohidzir Rais. This blog's explanation is also very helpful:
You don't have to splash gallons of water all over your body like we normally practice in Malaysia when taking wudu'. Just by spreading the water slowly & evenly onto the skin surface is enough. When I'm at work, I even fill up water into spray bottle to take my wudu'. Really useful and worry free! Then again, some of us could care less about Japanese people opinions, but being the only Muslim in the company with 2000 over employees, I am not that carefree. (Mayb Allah have mercy on me.)
That's it. Finished this post, finally! I hope my humbling experience could be a help to you too. Now I can go and enjoy my Doutor coffee. Mata kondo ne!
P/S: All of these info are based on my PERSONAL checking and information I got from senpai (senior) who lives in Japan for many years. If you are not satisfied, please contact the shops directly or do your own reconfirmation.
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