How Muslims in Japan are living like, including their religious activities, is always become a lesson for everyone, especially to know that Muslims in Japan are the minority in the population.
Today we interview Irna Dewi, a famous beauty blogger from Indonesia who is now living in Sendai City (Miyagi Prefecture) with her family and celebrating their second Ramadhan in Japan away from the home country.
Second Ramadhan in Japan, and the Pandemic
Irna experienced Ramadhan in the pandemic after she came to Japan at the end of 2019. Masjids, Islamic Centers, and Muslim Communities usually hold iftar parties and Taraweeh during Ramadhan while directly interacting with Muslims from all over the world, but she can’t experience it this time.
Even so, she mentions that she feels blissful to be able to share the feeling with Muslim communities she joins even mostly are connected with the internet. She feels the togetherness and kindship from them which encourage her to be more focused on ibadah to God and cheers each other.
BitterSweet Experience as a Muslims in Japan
First but not least is the Indonesian food! Living abroad makes her missing the home country’s cuisine, especially when Ramadhan comes, there are a lot of stalls selling Ramadhan snacks which everyone is waiting for.
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Besides pandemic that stops most of the activities we usually do together like iftar party, Taraweeh, or reading Al-Qur’an together, Muslims in Japan do not hear adzan as common as in Muslim-majority country, that makes them hear the adzan only from online.
Even so, being connected with Muslims in Japan that come from various countries is the best thing to enlighten her Ramadan far away from family and relatives. The same feeling as a comer encourages them to help and cheer each other up.
A Day of Ramadan
The day before Ramadan, Irna and her family prepare foods for suhoor together, which can be easily heated with the microwave. In this Ramadan, Irna made an Indonesian delight (which is known as one of the most delicious foods in the world in 2017 according to CNN Travel!), rendang for 1-2 kilos, stores it in one meal size, and put it in the freezer. Besides rendang, she prepared other freeze-able foods such as bakso (Indonesian meatball), seasoned chicken that is ready to fry anytime, and many more. Anyway, simple foods (and quick) for suhoor!
Ramadhan is the chance to get closer to God to maintain our deen and increase our knowledge about Islam. During Ramadhan, Irna’s daughter learns how to read and remember Al-Qur’an by joining a lesson provided by Taman Pendidikan Al-Qur’an (or TPA, a conformal education body to learn Al-Qur’an for kids) online that lasts up until near iftar time. While Irna and her husband join online Islamic lessons, Islamic seminars organized by Muslim communities in Japan, Al-Qur’an recitation, and many more.
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For iftar, Irna and her family enjoy a wide variety of iftar meals. Starts with some dates, then followed by egg martabak (Indonesian egg pancake), fried foods, fruit salad, jellies, and many more, varies each day. One of the enjoyment is receiving some iftar meals from her Muslim friends!
For dinner, Irna and her family enjoy Indonesian delights such as semur (Indonesian meat stew that is braised in thick brown gravy), bakso, fried fish with Indonesian chili paste, and many more. Enjoying Indonesian delights while living abroad makes it tastes way more delicious!
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Some masjids in Japan have Taraweeh with a limited number of people. So only Irna’s husband goes to Masjid to Taraweeh while Irna and kids Taraweeh at home.
Islamic Activities During Ramadhan
Sendai Muslim communities and Muslimah communities are organizing Islamic lessons once a week via zoom during Ramadhan. Even though they can only meet online, thanks to digital technology, they can still interact and share stories.
According to Irna, the Muslim communities she joins have an activity where a member provides a dozen of iftar meals to be distributed to other members voluntarily. It helps a lot for those who don’t have something to have for iftar and feel the togetherness, tolerance, and the warmth of helping each other.
“Berlomba dalam kebaikan di bulan Ramadhan (racing to good deeds in Ramadhan)”, she says.
How Does it Like to Live as a Muslim in Japan?
When Irna joined a project with a Japanese agency, she was touched on how wonderful their treatment is, from making time for Irna to pray, prepare halal foods, and arranging a Muslim-friendly hotel for her. The agency isn’t that familiar with Muslims, but they were gathering information about Muslims and how to interact with Muslims by themselves. Besides, they often ask and confirm Irna so they don’t miss anything out.
When walking on the street, Japanese aunties often praise Irna’s hijab. How beautiful the flower pattern is to how to wear the hijab. It seems like they are having an interest in hijab.
Irna’s daughter who is now going to a Japanese school is treated very well by everyone. Alhamdulillah, some other kids also do fasting as she does, so when lunchtime comes, fasting kids move to a room so that they can play as they like with teachers.
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On the other hand, the school prepares a special room for Muslim kids to change clothes before sports lesson so that each kid can protect their aurat (parts of the human body which must be covered by clothing according to Islam), offers halal meals for lunch, and prepares clean room for Muslim kids to pray.
During Ramadhan, the school exempts fasting kids to join sports so that they can do fast with ease.
Lessons She Got in Ramadhan
Being a minority celebrating Ramadhan in Japan leads Irna to be more tolerant in many aspects and more thankful for the time she can spend with family. Ramadhan with family is the most joyful experience for her, makes her enjoy quality time with them to the fullest that lets everything goes easier, comfortable.
Living in a Muslim minority country makes her wants to learn Islam deeper than ever so that she can explain the religion to her non-Muslim friends in an easy-to-understand manner. She believes that this is the way Allah guides her and her family to be closer to Him.
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