While Japan has made progress in making Japanese food halal accessible to Muslim travellers, there's still more to do. For instance, it's hard for us to buy products off-the-shelf as the Japanese production line may have been in facilities unsuitable for us (i.e. contamination with non-halal products) ?
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Don't we wish that we had a little handy guide to help us ascertain what we can consume? Well, now we do: meet Yoshito Arima, a Japanese man currently working in Malaysia! ? He's breaking down the ingredients of all your favourite Japanese goodies to help you decide if it's safe to consume. And he's not a Muslim! ? We spoke to Yoshito and asked why he decided to do such content for Muslims! ?
Credit: Courtesy of Yoshito Arima
Growing up in Kobe, his knowledge of anything related to Islam was next to nothing. It’s hard to blame him - he said he’s never met one in his childhood days ? It was only during his year aboard in London as a 16-year-old student that he met Muslims from all over the world. “I spent a year at a boarding house with many Muslims from Brunei, Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi and other Muslim counties. We had a good time together, and I picked up many things - what they can or can’t eat, and what their obligations are as a Muslim”, he shared ?
Credit: Arima's Official Shoppee page
Little did he know, though, that this experience was to stick with him for life. He realised the growing demand by Muslims, particularly in Southeast Asian countries, who love all things Japanese (particularly snacks ?) but are unable to consume them due to dietary restrictions. Fast forward to today, the 39-year-old now manages not one but TWO companies that produce halal-certified Japanese snacks: Arima Hokodo Co. Ltd, a family-owned nuts confectionary company established in 1921 by his great grandfather, in which he applied for the Japanese halal certification in October 2020, and Arima Food Lab Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian-based company that does wholesale for halal Japanese foods and provide consults on halal products to Japanese food manufacturers ?
He has been based in Kuala Lumpur since 2019, however, he still feels there’s more that can be done to help Muslim communities when they travel to Japan. That’s when the idea was born - Japan Halal Foodie, which started only this year in January! ?
His content is exactly what he’s been doing all this while - he breaks down if all your favourite Japanese snacks like Tokyo Banana, Meiji Ice Cream, Shiroi Koibito and more are halal or not, and you’ll be surprised to find out that many might be haram ? He ascertains such from the point of the manufacturing line in Japan. “The environment of Japan is completely difficult to fulfil demands for Muslims, as many ingredients contain sake, mirin and animal derivatives. So I only share products with the halal logo”, he explains.
He also shares halal Japanese food in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and even in Japan - halal Kobe beef, here we come! ?
Ultimately he adds that the onus is on the audience to decide what they wish to consume. "My contents are based on replies from these Japanese manufacturer, however they don’t guarantee that their products are 100% halal-certified because they are not familiar with such. There may be possibilities of them changing ingredients without notice," he asserts.
The next time you visit Japan and want to bring souvenirs home, check out his Instagram page to check the halal status (side note: Tokyo Banana is haram, but there's a Muslim-friendly option!). Or let’s make it easier for you: just buy Yoshito’s halal-certified Japanese snacks instead; doubt-free, and your belly will be fully satisfied! ?
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