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My Experience with Ramadan in Japan

Let's explore the unique experience of Ramadan in Japan through my eyes, as a Muslim resident from Indonesia.

By 4 min read

Ramadan is the most sacred Islamic month. It’s when millions of Muslims fast, pray, and reflect. In Japan, observing Ramadan can be difficult, considering the Islamic status as a minority. As a Muslim from Indonesia now living in Japan, abiding by Ramadan has become a mixture of looking inward and having to discern a new cultural context.

Between Ramadan in Indonesia, with the calls of the mosque echoing at sunset, and my current life in Japan, I am on a trip of spiritual and personal development. In this article, I share my personal experience celebrating Ramadan in Japan.

Preparing for Ramadan in Japan

I made karaage (Japanese fried chicken) with halal chicken and flour paired with sambal.

My biggest challenge while preparing for Ramadan was finding halal food. This made me look into local businesses, which later served as a good way of blending with Japanese culture. I’ve come to realize that Japanese people are particular about the sourcing and preparation of their food, and in doing so, I discovered a chance to explore halal-certified edibles and halal-confirmed ingredients like Kikkoman’s soy sauce.

I even prepared Japanese dishes that could be refashioned into iftar (breaking the fast) and suhoor (morning meal before fasting) menus. I made sushi and karaage (Japanese fried chicken) with halal chicken and flour paired with sambal (Indonesian chili sauce). It was fun to fuse Indonesian flavors with Japanese delicacies.

Fasting in Japan During Ramadan

Experiencing iftar underneath a blooming cherry blossom was a uniquely Japanese experience.

Unlike Indonesia, where fasting hours remain relatively consistent yearly, fasting hours in Japan vary significantly with the seasons. For instance, if Ramadan falls in summer, the fasting time will be longer. However, I have yet to truly experience a substantial difference in fasting hours, as my observance of Ramadan in Japan has thus far only occurred in early spring when the fasting hours are not markedly different from those in Indonesia, for approximately 13 hours.

Ramadan in Japan is just like another day. There is no Ramadhan holiday and no reduction in working hours like in Indonesia, where some companies might have shortened work hours. Our Japanese friends will continue to eat and drink in front of us as usual. However, I have found that these moments have strengthened my affinity and sense of belonging to my faith.

Experiencing iftar underneath a blooming sakura tree was an experience that was uniquely Japanese to me. It added a layer of serenity and beauty to my Ramadan reflections, by fusing in the spiritual contemplation with sakura (cherry blossom) season aesthetic pleasure.

Additional Ramadan Worship in Japan

The quiet evenings in Japan are the perfect setting for the prayer.

There are other ways of worship during Ramadan besides fasting and five-time prayers. One of them is the Tarawih prayers, performed during the evenings of Ramadan. The quiet evenings in Japan are the perfect setting for prayer, making it a practice of real reflection and deep peace.

In Indonesia, I usually complete Tarawih every night in the mosque. Nevertheless, I do it alone in Japan since my apartment is too far from the nearest mosque. Now, Tarawih appears to be more like an intimate spiritual experience for me.

Tadarus (the recitation of the Quran) is another practice I include in my Ramadan routine. The recitation and reflection on Quranic verses in this non-Muslim majority country strengthens the message of the Quran’s universal nature. It is a source of strength to me and a tool to associate myself with the other Muslims in Japan.

Becoming Part of the Culture

The Muslim community in Japan has made me feel welcome in this foreign land.

The Muslim community in Japan, which is a mix of cultures and traditions, has made me feel welcome in this foreign land. Such meetings epitomize the unity of faith and our heritage. Every iftar session is our time to learn from each other, share stories of our homeland and strengthen this bond by sharing meals, through which Ramadan’s spirit becomes real.

Outside the Muslim community, my Japanese friends and co-workers ask questions and try to understand fasting during the day. It shows great respect and offers more channels of cultural exchange.

Looking back at my Ramadan experiences in Japan, I realize that Islam could spread beyond the norms and apply to all sorts of settings. My journey has broadened my horizons on the particularities of religious faith, the significance of being in a community, and the usefulness of cultural diversity.

For my Muslim fellow celebrating Ramadan in Japan, it’s possible to enjoy this experience if your heart and mind are open. Try to find Muslims within your local community, immerse yourself in Japanese culture and introduce the rapture of Ramadan to others.

Have you experienced Ramadan in Japan? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below!

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