Life in Tokyo

Food restrictions

It’s not the first time for me to be a “minority”. Throughout my years at Monash, I was the minority. However, it’s the first time I’ve had to explain to people about my restrictions, especially when it concerns going out for meals and drinking.

So anyway. Before the class of 2015 ever met, the Japanese students initiated and arranged for dinner for all of us at an izakaya at Jimbocho. It was our own meet and greet session without the involvement of the school. In the email, the initiator asked for everyone’s food preference to accommodate to restrictions, if there were any. From there my belief was reinforced, on how welcoming the Japanese were and how sensitive they were to people’s needs. That night, I sat at a corner and had sashimi and tea with people with the same preferences, while the rest had nabe and alcoholic drinks on the other tables.

Anyway. In the first few weeks, I’ve had people asking me why I don’t eat certain things or why I don’t drink. The concept of Halal isn’t known to most people here, probs because there’s not as many Muslims here as there are in, let’s say, Melbourne. Also, when I explained that I can’t eat or drink things because I’m a Muslim, some went:

“… but I know Muslims who eat meat here?”

“… but I know Muslims who drink?”

I’m not good at explaining the restrictions and why I abide by it because I’m just not used to explaining it to anyone, but my Malaysian friends who were at the scene were always helping me with it.

So far, I think most of the circles I spend time with already know, so when I’m with them when we’re planning to eat out, they’ll take my restrictions into account. Especially the Japanese. They’ll be the first to come up to me and say:

“Mia, if there’s sashimi, you’re okay, right?”

There was a time when the restaurant could not provide any salad for me, that some of my mates offered to change restaurants instead although we’re seated, which was not very necessary (since I’m completely okay with going somewhere else and eating alone), nevertheless, it’s a nice gesture and something I really appreciate. They have no idea.

Sometimes I don’t join them on purpose because I don’t want to stop people from having what they want, but I look at who’s the initiator first.

Anyway, reflecting on this reminds me to think about accommodating to other people’s needs in the future, too.

For the record, I’ve had no issues having meals at the school as they consistently take each of the student’s restrictions into account, so when there are any events happening, I know my bento box (including those with restrictions or preferences) will be located at one corner.

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  • Avatar
    Ami Hidayad
    December 12, 2015 at 11:59 PM

    Hi Mia, while travelling, esp. to Japan, i find myself holding back from eating the sushi since i am not sure if they added alcohol in it. How do you pick your sushi place? i’ve been to Japan and gosh, i was starving there (had indian food every other day). Found a halal ramen place tho but never sushi. Any specific recomendation? My travelling partner is very picky when it comes to halal food.

    • Avatar
      December 23, 2015 at 1:43 AM

      Think it really depends on how strict you are. I look at the offerings of the restaurants, kalau ada yang nampak nampak sangat cannot eat tu I avoid. Tapi generally, sushi I makan je 😐

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