Ramadan Culture that Confuses Non Muslims

Hey, everyone!

It feels like years since the last time I posted on this blog, while actually it’s only been two weeks! As I mentioned on this post, it’s a little bit hard for me to keep my old schedule to write blog posts since I got a new job. It’s actually even worse now because a relative who stays in my house and helps me take care of my son while I’m working went to her hometown for Ramadan and Eid (biggest Muslim celebration in a year). So basically I will be a single fighter until after Eid. Thank goodness my mom lives in nearby city so she will come help me every couple days in a week. That’s why I took a break from writing for two weeks just to let my self ‘breathe’ a little bit amidst this whole situation.

Speaking about Ramadan and Eid, last week’s Sunday evening (May 5th, 2019) marked the start of Ramadan month this year according to Islamic calendar. If you don’t know what Ramadan is, I found this article from Google where you can read simple and short but clear explanation about Ramadan. Ramadan month lasts for 30 days, and after that, we, Muslims, will have Eid al-Fitr celebration that usually takes up to one week long. So when I said my relative who helps me take care of my son is in a long holiday for Ramadan and Eid, it means I have to juggle between my son, my teaching job, and this blog all alone for around 5 weeks. I actually don’t know how I can handle that so if you’re a busy mom like me, please give me some advice!

In today’s post, since we are in the topic already, I thought I want to share with you my Ramadan experience among many people from different nations and ethnicity during my stay in Japan for three years. As Japan is a Muslim-minority country, not many people (Japanese or other non-Muslim foreigners who live in Japan) are aware about Ramadan’s customs. So I thought it would be interesting to share what non-Muslims think about Ramadan according to my experience. I hope you don’t mind that I take you to a trip down my memory lane so that you will get to know me little by little!

Now, let’s get started!

No Eating and Drinking During The Day

While non-Muslims in Indonesia (as Muslim-majority country) are aware about what Muslims do during Ramadan, that’s not the case for my Japanese and foreigner friends in Japan. When they first heard about Ramadan and came to realize that I won’t be eating and drinking during the day for a WHOLE month, they were shook!

“Won’t you be dead if you aren’t drinking and eating for more than 10 hours?” was the most common question I got from my friends. The fact is, we won’t (in God’s will). Our body can hold up to three weeks without food and up to four days without water (according to this article). So don’t worry, 12 hour-ish without food and water is doable!

The fact is, we must not drink and eat (or simply called ‘fast’) from sunrise until sunset, so the time will be different around the globe. In Indonesia, since we are near equator, we are so lucky to have similar hour-long between day and night. But during my stay in Japan, Ramadan always occurred in summer, so the day was longer than the night. At that time, I had to fast for about 17 hours. But I know it wasn’t the hardest fast known. In other countries, they have to fast for nearly 20 hours.

The next common question I got was, “Why would you sacrifice yourself like that just because your religion told you to do so?” First thing first, ‘fasting’ not only about ‘not drinking and eating’ only, but also about ‘abstaining our self from humanity desire or pleasure, such as sex, swearing, arguing, or smoking’ because this month is a special month for worshiping and getting closer to God. The fact is, personally, because I’m used to do it since I was a kid, I don’t feel any pressure to do it, but i must admit that fasting 17 hours in Japan was much harder than 12 hours in Indonesia. And about the ‘sacrifice’ thing, I feel like by abstaining myself from pleasure activities, I can focus more on my spiritual dedication. I always feel like I became a better person by the end of Ramadan by not arguing with people or restraining my anger. So definitely I must say rather than sacrificing myself by being hungry all day long, I feel the significance of my personal growth is worth the struggle (I hope it makes sense!).

Eating before Dawn

So how do we survive fasting during the day? We actually eat before dawn, and by ‘dawn’ here is also on different times around the world. In Japan when Ramadan lasted on summer, the dawn was 02.30, while in Indonesia it is typically around 04.30.

You might think that we eat a lot during this time, but actually, it’s hard to eat a lot while we’re still half asleep >< In the end, we can only eat just enough to start our day without looking too miserable.

I personally tend to avoid too much carbo or fat. It’s better to take a lot of protein and fiber as it slows down the digestion process, hence makes us feel full a little bit longer. I also make sure I drink a lot water.

Getting Together and Eating after Sunset

One of our favorite time would be none other than the time when we can break our fast. It is around 19.00 in Japan during summer, and 17.30 in Indonesia.

During this time, we usually get together with our family and friends and break our fast together. In Japan, in the city where I lived in, we have huge Muslim community because my city has some universities and research centers, so I can safely say that my city was very foreigner friendly. We have one mosque that is actually not very big, but because of that, we feel very close to each other.

During Ramadan, we had break-fasting schedule almost everyday in the mosque, and in every schedule, we took turn to prepare the food according to our countries. We have Indonesian, Malaysian, Arab, Egypt, Indian, Bangladesh, and Pakistan community when I lived there, so I’m so grateful to be able to experience so many different Ramadan dishes from around the world. We sat together without distinguishing nations and ethnicity, and we just felt as one big Muslim brothers and sisters :’)

Break-fasting menu from Arab Community, photo by me
Break-fasting menu by Pakistan Community, photo by me
Break-fasting menu by Bangladesh Community, photo by me
Break-fasting menu by Indonesia & Malaysia Community, photo by me

So sorry for the low quality photos, guys. I retrieved those photos from my personal IG account. I took them around 2013-2015 when I was still living in Japan, at that time I didn’t know how to make objects look aesthetic on photos. I basically just took the photos for documentary purpose. But I’m sure you get the idea! XD

Praying until Late at Night

And after break-fasting, we had a special prayer that was longer than usual (and by ‘usual’ here I mean months other than Ramadan month). This prayer actually can be done alone in our own home or together in the mosque. But definitely it feels different when we pray together in the mosque and it feels more Ramadan.

This prayer usually started around 21.00 in Japan because of the summer time, while in Indonesia it started around 19.30. The length of the prayer is actually different according to each mosques’ custom. In our mosque in Japan, this prayer usually finished around 22.30. But this is not an obligatory prayer (like I’ve said before). There were several breaks in the middle of the prayer, so we can go home during those breaks if we want to. Or we can completely skip it from the beginning and do it alone in our home.

So after the prayer, me and my friends usually rode our bicycle together from the mosque to our apartment or dorm in Japan. Even though it’s almost midnight, it felt so nice to be with friends, riding our bicycle in the middle of the road. How I missed those time when I was young and free XD

So those are our Ramadan culture, especially when I was living among many Muslims from different countries in Japan. This is such a rare experience and I can’t thank Allah (God) enough for giving me the opportunity to meet my brothers and sisters from around the world and share Ramadan together for once in my lifetime. When I think that I might not be able to repeat this experience, I am a little bit sad. But at least, I have this memory to remember forever :’)

That’s all guys for today’s post. I hope you enjoyed reading it! If you’re not Muslims, do you find this culture interesting? Or maybe do you have some Muslim friends and know how their Ramadan culture is? Are they different than mine? If you’re Muslims, where are you from and how is your Ramadan culture? Share it on the comments below because I’m really interested to know about that, too!

See you on my next post!

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New Halal Restaurants in Japan – Review

Alhamdulillah, in only this month (February 2015), I had the opportunity to visit three new halal restaurants in Japan, due to accompany some of my guests who were on vacation here. I am really glad that the growth of Islam in Japan shows promising direction, despite some not-so-good news about Islam that are still airing sometimes in national television stations here. I’m also very grateful that public services in Japan always treat foreigners indiscriminately. However, I know that in some places out there, there are still some difficulties for us to do our religious obligations, but I myself couldn’t thank Allah more that I never be in such condition, and hopefully won’t ever be. Amen.

So far, actually, there were already a lot of halal restaurant in Japan. However, most of them are Indian, Pakistan, or Turkish Restaurants. There are also some Indonesian and Malaysian restaurants of course, but fortunately, recently, many more kinds of halal restaurants open, such as Italian, Chinese, and even Japanese. The more the merrier, right? 🙂

Ok, without further ado, here are my reviews about those restaurants.

Ippin

Japanese food – 15 minutes walk from Ebisu station, west exit

Fifteen minutes walk for me is not so close, and we also have to pass some small hills to reach this restaurant.

Nama Ippin sendiri berasal dari Upin-Ipin dengan mencari kanji yang bisa terbaca mirip dengan "ipin" :)

Name “Ippin” came from “Upin-Ipin” by finding Chinese character (kanji) that can be read similar to “Ipin” 🙂

Some of the menu. There are some more but I forgot to take the picture of them.

This is the menu that I ordered that time. It is called Japanese Genovese style chicken shiso flavor, price 900 yen. It includes the chicken, a small bowl of rice, salad, and miso soup.

IMG_0347[1]

Menu I ordered

The meal was actually delicious and has that authentic Japanese flavor. So for you who want to taste the real Japanese food and halal, this menu is recommended. However, the portion was a bit small, so I didn’t feel full enough after eating it.

There are also some wagyu meet menus and they were amazingly delicious. My friend ordered that, the price was over 1000 yen and the size was the same as the rice bowl of the picture above >_< I tried a teeny tiny small bite of the meat, and it did melt inside my mouth (drooling-red).

My other friend ordered a chicken ramen and fortunately this time, the portion was big!

The chicken ramen

The chicken ramen

I tasted it also and it was very tasty and authentic. So if you are very hungry at the time you come to this restaurant, I recommend you to try the ramen. Where else we could find halal ramen, right?

Good: the service is good, the waiters are nice, the foods are delicious, and the place is cozy.

Not-so-good: because the location is not so close from the station, and the portions are not so big, all of us already felt hungry again after we were back to the station 😛 Even some of my friends planned to eat again at another restaurant!

Tokyo Chinese Muslim Restaurant

Chinese food – 2 minutes walk from Kinshicho station, south exit

In front of the entrance

In front of the entrance

They have sooooo many variations of food you could imagine and most of them are under 1000 yen. I came here with my husband and we took so long to choose the meals. We finally decided to order a kind of chicken menu, a kind of vegetable menu (we chose stir-fried eggplant with their special sauce), a beef skewer, a lamb skewer, and aone portion of their famous vegetable dumpling.

Our orders before the dumplings came

Our orders before the dumplings came

The vegetable dumplings

The vegetable dumplings

You can spot the different of their rice portion and Ippin’s rice portion, can’t you? And for all of these, we only have to pay 3000 something yen!

We just love them too much

We just love them too much

Good: Very near to the station, the portion of the foods are big, taste yummy and satisfying, have many kinds of variations you can choose, and they even have a small praying space. This restaurant is absolutely my favorite and I want to go back since there are still so many foods I haven’t tried yet 🙂

IMG_0390

Praying space for one people

Not-so-good: While we were there, there were only two other guests beside us, and after they finished cooking our orders, the cooks slept on one empty table (when I said slept here means literally laying their body down on the chairs), and the waitress ate on another empty table. I understand that they must be really tired, but I think this was not a very good attitude in front of customers. This is forgivable but I hope they won’t do the same things in the future.

Sekai Cafe

International food – Asakusa station, 50 meters walk from Kaminarimon

This cafe was just open on November 11th, 2014 ago. It is very easy to reach and exactly inside the crowd of Asakusa and Sensoji Temple. Just as its name, (sekai means world in Japanese), this cafe provides not very specific kind of food, so let’s say it provides international foods.

Since its location is inside the main attraction of Asakusa, adding the fact that it provides halal foods, it is understandable that the price is rather expensive for just a cafe. And unfortunately, they don’t have many variations of menu.

I went here with my husband and one of his friend. So when we were contemplating thinking which menu we should choose (among those not so many options), we thought that because the price of yakisoba and grilled lamb is the same (1000 yen), the yakisoba must be in a giant portion, and there might be some chops of chicken or meat inside it. But, when it came, not only the portion is so-so, the taste was not exceptionally delicious, and there were only noodles, salt, and paprika inside it. I just wasted my 1000 yen for 250 yen raw noodles I could buy at the supermarket and I could cook by myself!! 😦 T_T

My husband and his friend ordered the grilled lamb with focaccia bread (1000 yen also). I can say that the price is acceptable since the meat portion is quite big and it didn’t smell bad as usual lamb. But acceptable here doesn’t mean that we want to order the same thing in the future (maybe).

We also ordered two kinds of smoothies, strawberry and apple pie, 500 yen each, inside 200 ml glass bottle. I still feel they were pricey for that size, but I did accept it since the smoothies tasted yummy and refreshing. But again, I might don’t want to order it for the second time.

Left: Apple pie smoothies, right: strawberry smoothies

Left: Apple pie smoothies, right: strawberry smoothies

Our orders

Our orders

Good: the location is easy to find, the place is cozy and youthful, the service is good, and we thought we met the owner at that time, and the owner was very nice, and he even informed us another halal restaurant around Asakusa. Another good thing is, when we were there, there was a Muslim waitress (she wore hijab). I guessed she’s from Malaysia, and I was right when I talked to her. On her apron, there was a sign with “Sorry, I can’t touch beer” written on it! I really appreciate this detail and I do hope other Halal restaurants will do the same thing from now on 🙂

Not-so-good:

Still about the waitress, at the first time I talked to her, I tried to speak in Malay language, since I felt we are neighbor, no need to talk in other languages. But she couldn’t reply with Malay, too. Maybe she was surprised or nervous, she looked confuse and in the end only answering with one or two words and very soft voice. On the second attempt, I tried to ask her in Japanese, because I think she must be good in Japanese since she’s working there, right? I was only asking what inside their pizza menu is, but she couldn’t explain in Japanese, too. In the end she answered with English. When she brought our dishes to our table, she looked very confuse where to put the plate, fork, and knife. I can see that she must be a trainee, and I accept her nervousness. I just want to say good luck for her and don’t be afraid of costumer’s questions 🙂

Another not-so-good point of this cafe, there is no detail explanation of what’s inside every menu, and not all menu have picture of them. When I was there, there was a sign of “today’s special pizza”, and “vegetable pizza”, but when I asked the waitress what’s inside the “today’s special pizza”, she said that they only have one kind of pizza. So I find that pizza sign is confusing and they’d better not to write two kinds of pizza if they only have one kind.

However, I want to give my sincere appreciation to this cafe, since they respect the fact that Muslim not only can’t drink beer, but we also can’t touch it. I hope they can improve their services, add some more menu, and add the specialty or their signature to every menu so that even if we have to pay a bit more expensive, we will still feel very satisfy after eating them. I do hope the best for Sekai Cafe in the future! 🙂

*****

So that’s gonna be all for this review. I hope you find this helpful to know more options of halal restaurants in Japan, and I somehow hope the management of the restaurants I mentioned here read this review by accident, so that they can improve their services to the customers 🙂