When I first came to Japan, I was welcomed by few senpai (seniors in a school I came to study at) of mine and felt at home instantly. They were kind enough to take me around the town, and, we ended up in an Italian style restaurant to have our dinner. Obviously, we had to ask in detail what was in the menu as they were not a halal restaurant nor did they even grasp the concept of halal. But, as we mentioned the details of what we could and could not eat, I was absolutely taken by surprise and very amazed at how they were able to slightly modify some recipes to cater to our Halal needs.
It’s a well known fact, that, in Japan, customer service is amazing. But to think of the restaurant staff changing the menu so quickly within such a short span of time,was awesome to me. it meant finding halal food wasn’t as hard as I’d expected it to be before coming to Japan. However, the only catch is that you have to be able to speak the language, which fortunately, was no problem for me even in the begining.
Thinking of the positive experinece mentioned above, one day, I went to a nearby cafe and saw that they had a snack set which included a small pizza, cake and a drink. So I decided to order it and asked the staff to give me a pizza that had no meat at all. But when it was served to me, there was a piece of bacon on top of it. I was shocked. Oh my God!! Why had he brought that? He told me that bacon was not considered meat according to them.
It turns out, it was just a small mistake that happened because the staff had never been asked of such an usual request, thus unaware of what to do exactly. I quickly explained to the staff that I couldn’t eat it because of religious reasons and she gladly exchanged the pizza for a small waffle which I enjoyed very much. Although this bacon issue has actually happened to me and many of my other friends more than once, I assume it’s because I studied in a more remote place in Japan where awareness towards foreigners and other cultures is at the very primitive stages.
In contrast to that, in bigger places like Tokyo or Osaka, halal food is getting more and more popular. You just have to find the information online beforehand. People assume that Japan is not a very Muslim friendly country because of the language barrier, but to the contrary, more and more Muslims are studying and working in Japan nowadays and raising awareness of Japanese people towards what Islam really is.