Anxious and terrified. To be honest, on my first trip to Japan I was terrified of Japanese people’s opinion of me and how will they react around me, a Muslim traveler who’s wearing a Hijab. While this sounds like an exaggeration, I was very skeptical.
Attitude towards Muslim Traveler
On my first trip to Japan back in 2016, only one or two Hijabis were spotted even at the most popular spots. Not many Hijabis, however, maybe there were several non-Hijabi Muslims scattered everywhere in Japan.
I had only one common experience of being a foreigner in Japan, getting stared at, maybe mainly because I was wearing a headscarf. I guess at that time, they weren’t used to see a person wearing a headscarf, maybe they were just intrigued by my appearance. But apart from just being stared at from head to toe by only two strangers, locals didn’t treat me differently. Based on my experience, Japanese people are friendly and considerate.
Although generally Japanese food doesn’t contain that much alcohol, pork is widely used in many Japanese foods, either as the main ingredient or as the base for soup. That being said, in recent years Japan has been more accommodating to the needs of Muslim travelers and residents. So, Muslim-friendly and Vegetarian restaurants and shops are easily found everywhere in Japan.
Now if I may recommend a great app, Halal Gourmet Japan is an app that provides lots of information on Halal and Muslim needs. No more worries when you’re going to explore Japan, your time in Japan will be easier and enjoyable especially when it’s time to find a place to eat and pray.
Islam is a minority religion in Japan, so it’s understandable that Japan doesn’t have as many prayer spaces as Muslims hoped for. Apart from the mosque, there are limited number of prayer spaces in the restaurant, hotel, mall, tourist information center, and station.
In most cases, you might need to ask the staff’s permission first to use the room. The staff will show and help you open the room. But if you worry about the language or too shy to ask, then you can use the Halal Gourmet Japan app and find the closest mosque.
When you’re not in a place that provides a proper ablution facility, please be extra careful when you’re doing ablution. A sink may not be the best option for ablution, but if you have no other option, I suggest you wet your feet in a more private area with a watered toilet paper (as sponges). That way you won’t wet the toilet floor and you can avoid making a scene in a public place.
When you’re on a packed itinerary and couldn’t find a sheltered place to pray, you may also pray at a quiet park or parking lot. A little warning tho, locals might stare at you, they’re maybe just curious.
Japan is more accommodating to Muslims’ needs and trying hard on perfecting their services towards Muslim visitors, this is great news and brings hope to many Muslim travelers. Nobody is bothered whether you’re wearing a Hijab, or you’re Muslim or not. Just being foreigner in general, you might receive a slightly different treatment, and it is what it is. As long as we obey and respect their rules, culture, and habit, if we respect them, they’ll respect you.