Dear Tech Companies or Start-ups,
The day I arrived in Tokyo, it was Ramadan. Ramadan is a religious month in Islam when all the Muslims startfasting. The fasting starts from before sunrise and finishes at sunset. During this time, eating, drinking and some other activities are prohibited. However I was also fasting on that day and when I arrived in Haneda International Airport, it was 2 p.m.
As I am a medical doctor and came here to take part in a fellowship program, a senior Japanese doctor came to receive me. He had barely any idea about Islam and Halal. After reaching my residence, he was instructed to offer me dinner. Actually, after day long fasting, taking Iftar (the dinner that is taken after fasting is over) is also considered as a prayer. But the condition is that, the food must be Halal. I was not fortunate enough to find a Halal restaurant at that moment, though later I came to know that the Halal Italian restaurant “Pran Pone” was located within 200 meters of that place. At that time I was hungry and thirsty also. The dinner we took was very tasty, satisfying for my tongue, but not for my heart. It was a yakiniku restaurant and off course not Halal. I don’t know whether my dinner was accepted as a prayer to Allah or not. Just due to lack of information I had to eat non-Halal food.
As the days passed by, I tried to find a mosque to do my daily prayers, but, that also appeared very difficult as the doctors in my hospital had no any idea about any mosque nor its location near my residence or workplace.
I could find some mosques using Google Maps, but, I did not have enough information as to which would be more convenient to reach. Even, when I contacted some Muslim people over the phone, they too could not suggest ti me which mosque would be nearer and more convenient to my place due to the complex transportation system in Tokyo.
It took about twelve days for me to reach a mosque for the first time in Tokyo. I really felt the need for a Muslim friendly map or software which can guide a newcomer in Tokyo easily reach in a mosque.
Even then, fasting (Danjiki) was going on and I had to live on eating bread, rice and eggs (though later I knew that even breads were not always Halal). After a week passed by, I decided to take on the mission to find a Halal food shop on my first weekend. As one Bangladeshi friend told me about Ikebukuro, I went to search for a halal food shop in Ikebukuro. It was a tough nut to crack. The weather was very hot, and I walked around Ikebukuro for about three hours to find a halal food shop from where I could buy chicken. Later, I discovered many shops selling halal foods, but still I cannot forget the day.
Finding a Halal shop in a distant place practically appeared not to be a good idea. Every time I need something Halal, I don’t have enough time, stamina or opportunity for different reasons. I think, if the convenient stores in Japan start to keep at least two or three Halal food items, it could dramatically change the life of Muslims living in Japan. I really do not expect that newcomers in Japan will continue to face the difficulty like me to maintain their lifestyle living as a Muslim.
You could eat the food you’ve prepared at home, with the ingredients you bought from Halal shops, but this cannot be enough. Sometimes eating in different restaurants adds recreation and pleasures to life when it becomes uneventful and monotonous. For that reason, restaurant serving Halal foods should make themselves more aware to become a stress-reliever for Muslims working or visiting Tokyo.
As the number of Halal shops or Mosques in Tokyo cannot be made abundant overnight, what is urgently needed is an excellent, integrated information system. I find that, the reason for my suffering is also the lack of information. It is time for an app that would enable me to search for halal food and mosques easily.
We don’t expects for the help from some person who will come and show some Halal shop. Moreover, it is difficult for anyone (Japanese or Foreign people) to tell the name of the train station or direction of a Halal shop or mosque from anywhere in Tokyo.
I feel the need of more Muslim friendly software, which can help them locating their own position using GPS and guide them accordingly. It’s not that there are none, but we don’t know how to get tot them. Many Japanese people have been adopted themselves in Muslim friendly business in Tokyo so far.
I hope anyone working in IT sector can take this Idea to develop a software or mobile application for providing different Muslim friendly information in Japan.
Sk. Nishat Abdullah
Originally published in Halal Media Japan.