[From June Issue 2015]
Not many Muslims (those who follow the Islamic faith) live in Japan. But the number of Muslim visitors – especially from South East Asia – to Japan for business or tourism has been on the rise in recent years. Demand for “Halal food” – food and drink prepared according to the precepts of the Islamic faith – is therefore increasing. Because of this tendency, there are increasing opportunities for non-Muslim Japanese to try Halal food.
Halal food contains no pork ingredients, nor any alcohol. Besides this, there are meticulous guidelines concerning, among other things, how meat should be treated. If an Islamic organization judges that the conditions are met, Halal certification is granted. Standards of Halal certification vary depending on the country and the organization. In Japan, most establishments get “local Halal” certification – which takes into consideration the fact that Japan isn’t a Muslim country – or “Muslim friendly” certification for not using the two taboo ingredients of pork and alcohol.
“Manekineko Yotsuya San-chome-ten” is a karaoke venue that opened in Yotsuya, Tokyo, in December 2014. It’s popular with Muslim tourists from abroad as they can not only enjoy karaoke, but also sample Halal Japanese food which is nevertheless prepared in the same way as typical Japanese food.
Halal food is different from non-Halal food only in that it’s prepared according to Islamic guidelines. Many non-Muslims, including Japanese, visit Yotsuya Sanchome-ten. It’s also possible to drink alcohol there if you want. Care is taken to follow to Islamic guidelines; for instance, tableware used for alcohol is washed in a different sink than tableware used for Halal food.
In Shin-Okubo, Tokyo, there’s a street called “Islam Yokocho.” Many Muslims gather there because a room in a nearby building is used as a mosque. Therefore, more and more shops and restaurants selling Halal food have appeared on this street. Although it’s mostly foreign Muslims who go there for Halal food, some Japanese also go to buy seasoning for ethnic cuisine – which is recently fashionable in Japan.
Some college cafeterias have introduced Halal dishes for the increasing number of Muslim students from abroad. Since these cafeterias are open to non-students, it’s possible to see tourists and local businessmen ordering Halal food out of curiosity.
There are also cases where Halal food is served out of a spirit of hospitality. Minokichi, a Kyoto restaurant whose history dates back to the Edo era, has created a “Muslim-friendly Set Menu” for customers who don’t want to drink alcohol. Since the restaurant has never used pork, all it had to do was avoid using alcohol in its food preparation.
Minokichi buys beef and other ingredients from Halal distributors and uses separate cutlery for Halal food. Japanese businessmen today eat the same food as the Muslim clients they entertain.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo