If you have ever been to any convenience store in Japan, you'll know that it is a little tough for us Muslim travellers to buy products off-the-shelf as the Japanese production line may have been in facilities unsuitable for Muslim consumers. But the manager of this Lawson outlet in Toyama has specifically come up with a string of halal products just for Muslims! ?
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According to The Asahi Shimbun, Ms Takako Kadoshima noticed a group of customers' behaviour whenever they entered the store: they always checked the instant noodle products’ labelling. She soon found out that they were looking for ingredients prohibited from consumption, such as alcohol, pork, and others contained in many of the food items offered. As a result, the customers could only purchase a limited number of products at the store.
That was 5 years ago. Today, if you enter Lawson’s Shinminato-Tsubatae store along a national road, you'll be able to find a sign reading “halal foodstuffs are available” and shelves lined with packaged biryani rice meal, cumin-flavoured cookies, spicy curry and an instant noodle product featuring chicken soup ?
As mentioned, the idea did take a while to materialise. The store is located in Imizu prefecture, home to a sizeable number of Pakistani Muslims. There are a couple of restaurants serving Pakistani dishes; there's even a mosque across the convenience store! Kadoshima did consider pursuing the idea of having a section specifically suited to their needs, however, she dropped the plan after facing growing difficulties in finding suppliers. But everything changed in February last year when a young Pakistani Akram joined as a part-time staff. Watching him painstakingly check through the ingredient list of each food item, just like any other Muslim customer, reignited her idea to make the store more Muslim-friendly ?Credit: @toyamamosque for Instagram
She expanded her search and soon learned that a Lawson outlet in Tokyo handles halal products and considered whether it was possible to procure those items for a store far from Tokyo. With the help of her eldest daughter, who's studying in Tokyo, Kadoshima held talks with a supplier of halal goods.
At first, many doubts were raised about the sellability of such products, but Kadoshima's worries were laid to rest: the customers' responses were superb! Many praised her for making her store more inclusive to Muslims, and others even asked if she could bring in more products. The number of halal products has reached as many as 51 ?
Through Akram, Kadoshima even learned to differentiate between permitted items for Muslims and forbidden ones. She is always careful to share all specifications of those items, including the fact that their nutrient information is unclear, with customers.
In a statement to The Asahi Shimbun, Lawson said that two outlets in Osaka and Gifu prefectures procure halal products through the company’s goods supply network. Some 10 stores nationwide prepare Muslim-friendly items by themselves, like Kadoshima's Shinminato-Tsubatae shop.
We love hearing stories like this, and we hope one day, this could be the case for many stores over Japan! ?