Japan has become a popular travel destination for people from all over the world, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries with a large Muslim population. In response to the diversity of travelers coming to Japan, many restaurants and other facilities have started to cater to their respective needs. In recent years, Japan has become more aware of requirements relating to halal food and the availability of proper prayer spaces for Muslims, but where can you find these places? Here are some handy resources and tips for Muslim travelers in Japan!
Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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Halal Restaurants in Tokyo
The most obvious places to go for halal food in Tokyo would be Mediterranean eateries or restaurants from certain Asian countries like Pakistan or Indonesia. There are some amazing restaurants in these categories such as Topkapi near Tokyo Station, Hisar in Shinjuku and Cinta Jawa Cafe in Akihabara. You can also go to vegan restaurants as you can be certain they won’t be using any animal products, and all you’d need to ask is whether they use any alcohol when preparing the food. Try Sasaya Cafe in Kinshicho or Izakaya Masaka in Harajuku . The latter is especially good if you’d like to try typical Japanese food while being sure it’s halal-friendly. A Japanese dish that you should definitely try is ramen, and the vegan options at T’s Tantan Tokyo Station Keiyo Street contain zero traces of animal products – just make sure to order a dish that isn’t made with mirin since it contains alcohol.
Mosques in Tokyo and Kyoto
If you want to visit the mosque at prayer times, or if you are simply interested in visiting an Islamic place of worship in Japan, there are multiple options in large cities. In Tokyo, there are around 80 mosques which are, for the most part, rather small. If you want to visit the largest mosque in Tokyo, you should head to Tokyo Camii in Setagaya where they regularly organize iftar dinners for visitors who make a reservation on their website in advance. Much smaller, but also very traveler-friendly, is the Okachimachi mosque Assalam where you can use the gender-separated prayer rooms. A visit to this mosque is easy to combine with a walk around Ueno Park and Ameya Yokocho, two popular tourist hotspots in Tokyo. There are also several Muslim-friendly restaurants in this area as it’s a neighborhood with a large immigrant population.
In Kyoto, Muslim travelers like to stop by the Kyoto Islamic Culture Center near the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The people working here are very friendly and always happy to help with any questions about Muslim-friendly travel in Japan, and they provide safe, clean prayer spaces for anyone who needs it. A visit to this mosque can be combined with the nearby Imperial Palace, Gyoen Garden and Heian Shrine. The very popular Nishiki Market is also nearby and worth a stop.
Prayer Rooms in Japan
Of course, the aforementioned mosques have prayer rooms available, but these are not the only places where you can find a room to pray. Some larger shopping malls, tourist information centers and main train stations also have prayer rooms available for Muslim travelers in Japan. Especially newer malls and those catering to international shoppers tend to have a dedicated prayer room available.
In central Tokyo, the Matsuya Ginza shopping mall has a prayer room, and in the youthful fashion paradise Harajuku you can find a prayer room in the Harajuku Tourist Information Center. Tokyo Station also has a room available which is open from 8:30 am until at least 5 pm every day. You can find it at the JR East Travel Service Center at the Marunouchi North Gate.
In Kyoto, there are also several prayer rooms scattered around the city and near the most popular tourist attractions. Kyoto Tower has an on-site prayer room on the 3rd floor. You can ask the Kansai Tourist Information Center on the same floor for access. The M’s Hotel in front of Kyoto Station also has a prayer room that is even available to non-guests.
Muslim-friendly Hotels in Japan
While there are no hotels in Japan that are specifically catering to Muslims, there are many hotels that are more convenient for Muslims because they either offer halal food at one of their restaurants or have halal-friendly restaurants nearby. Some hotels also offer prayer rooms. Here are some Muslim-friendly hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto:
- Sakura Hotel Hatagaya (Tokyo, 3*): halal food available at the hotel restaurant and in the neighborhood, prayer room available.
- Hotel Chinzanso (Tokyo, 5*): halal food available at the hotel restaurant and in the neighborhood, items required for prayer available.
- Park Hyatt Tokyo (Tokyo, 5*): halal food available at the hotel restaurant and in the neighborhood, items required for prayer available.
- Kyoto Century Hotel (Kyoto, 4*): halal food available at the hotel restaurant and in the neighborhood, prayer room available.
- Hotel Granvia Kyoto (Kyoto, 5*): halal food available at the hotel restaurant and in the neighborhood, prayer room available.
Things to Keep in Mind as a Muslim Traveler in Japan
When it comes to food, it’s important to be aware that some basic ingredients often used in sauces and marinades are not halal even though they may seem so at a quick glance. For example, one of Japan’s staple cooking condiments is mirin which contains alcohol. Some sauces are pork-based, and miso can also have some alcohol content in its base ingredients. In order to avoid these issues, and because there is no official halal-accreditation for restaurants in Japan, you can consider hiring a private guide who speaks Japanese and can do proper research about certain restaurants and their halal-friendliness.
Traveling in Japan
At the end of the day, it is good to know that Japan is a very safe place to travel for both men and women, and that modern-day Japan tends to be tolerant towards people who have a religion different from its own official beliefs. In large cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, people are very used to seeing all kinds of international travelers, so you don’t have to worry about standing out as a foreigner who might dress differently from what Japanese people tend to wear. In fact, if you look like you’re from abroad and seem to be lost, chances are that a friendly passer-by will happily offer their help. Everybody can travel in Japan with peace of mind and a feeling of safety wherever they go.
No matter what your travel requirements or restrictions are, Japan is a versatile destination that can accommodate all types of diverse needs. If you have certain requirements that can make travel more challenging, hiring a private guide for one or multiple days can help you make the most of your time. A local guide knows their city inside and out, and they can do the necessary research to adjust the itinerary to accommodate your requirements and special requests. They are likely to have good ideas and suggestions that you wouldn’t think of if you’ve never been to Japan before.
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