If you’re planning to move to Japan as a Muslim, there are some vital things you should know before you arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s a beautiful country with soothing landscapes and majestic mountains, and similar to its mountains, the people here will be largely indifferent towards you, even if you are visibly Muslim. Although the population is homogenous, with the majority being Japanese and the main religion being Shinto, Japanese people tend to be unbothered by other religions or nationalities most of the time and tend to keep busy with their own lives more than others’.
Even so, being a Muslim in Japan is not without its challenges. Whether it’s the elusive halal food or the lack of prayer spaces, one thing or the other is bound to make you frustrated about living in Japan as a Muslim. However, despite the difficulty, there are still plenty of tools you can use to make your life easy here.
Being Muslim Gets Easier with Technology
The internet will be your best friend in Japan. The good thing is that many places will have free WiFi, so you can conveniently search for your needs online. However, if you’re moving to Japan for the long-term and not simply visiting, it’s best to purchase a SIM and use your mobile data as that is faster and more reliable.
Here are a few basic apps to help you get started:
- Google Maps – You may be surprised to know that Google Maps can be used for more than directions and train schedules. Japan has quite a lot of mosques and prayer spaces available. You can easily find mosques with a simple Google search, but there are also prayer spaces available in hidden nooks and crannies. Sometimes, halal restaurants will have their prayer spaces listed on Google Maps, so you can easily figure it out from the app.
- Google Lens – A protip here is that Google Lens’ translation software is much better than the actual Google Translate’s Image Scanner. It’s more instantaneous and has a more user-friendly interface for translating images, so it’ll be easier for you to use on the go. This is especially handy for scanning ingredients lists at the back of food packaging to ensure all items are halal.
- Google Translate – Google Translate is also a great app for scanning images for translations. There’s also a real-time transcription option that can come in handy when you first arrive in Japan and are trying to communicate with servers or restaurant staff about your halal food needs.
- Halal Gourmet Japan – Apps and websites such as Halal Gourmet Japan can easily provide you with the listings for all the Halal restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels in your area. On this specific website, there are options to select “Halal Certified,” “Pork-Free,” “Halal Meat,” “Vegetarian Meal,” etc., so that you can search for specific places that are perfect for you.
- Compass App – It is extremely useful to already have a compass app on your phone before you arrive in Japan to help you determine the Qibla (direction in which Muslims pray). Any basic compass app will get the job done.
First of all, being a Muslim student in Japan means that you may be living on a budget, so getting the best bang for your buck is integral to a good experience in the country. But how do you do that?
When it comes to finding budget-friendly halal food, you’ll have better luck at a 7/11 convenience store compared to other convenience stores. Most of the products there are Muslim-friendly as they do not contain emulsifiers derived from pig fat. But how do you figure this out? Simply scanning the ingredients list at the back of the products with your handy Google Lens app will let you know what you can or cannot eat.
Groceries and Restaurants for Muslims
While a simple Google search online can provide you with a list of halal restaurants in your area, it’s more economical to cook your own food. For groceries, shops such as Gyomu Super or Bongo Bazar are Godsends. They have a wide variety of halal-certified food that can be verified with the halal logo on the packaging, so you don’t have to worry about the meat there. You can even find halal soy sauce in these stores. Alternatively, it’s best to search for smaller halal shops around your area that may be more convenient for you if the bigger Super Stores are not available nearby.
Also, be careful about trying out authentic Japanese food because most items such as sushi, ramen, or even bento boxes contain soy sauce that contains alcohol, mirin, or pork-based products.
Most major cities have mosques, and you can easily find them online. However, it should be noted that some rare places do not have separate prayer spaces available for women, so it’s always best to confirm that either online or by making a quick call using the number on the mosque’s website. If you are unable to contact them through their website, you may search up the mosque’s name on Facebook and contact them through their Facebook page.
As mentioned earlier, many restaurants also have prayer spaces available that you can look up on Google Maps or the Halal Gourmet app. You’ll also find prayer spaces in most of the airports in Japan. However, it is always best to carry your prayer rug around just in case you are unable to find a prayer space.
It is highly advisable to come prepared with your prayer rug because you will be hard-pressed to find one in Japan. Moreover, if you are someone who wears the hijab (headscarf), it is best to bring your hijabs from back home as they are not readily available in most clothing stores here.
Making the Most of Your Life as a Muslim in Japan
Since Japan is a non-Muslim country with a small Muslim population, it is quite a shock when you first start living here, especially if you’re coming from a Muslim-majority country or even a country where halal options are readily accessible and available. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot successfully navigate your life as a Muslim here with a little bit of tech-savviness and resourcefulness. It’s definitely doable, and there are thousands of Muslims in Japan who can testify just that.