2016 New Year in Japan

First Japanese New Year as Muslimah.

“Akemashite Omedetou!”
This phrase means “Happy New Year! in Japanese.

In Japan, we follow the normal calendar. As school holiday starts around the 4th week of December till 2nd week of January, the end of the year towards new year bring us special holiday occasion to reflect the previous year and wish for a great new year coming with friends and families.

This year was my second new year after I came back from Malaysia, I feel conformable with Japanese new year atmosphere which I used to it since childhood. ( I was surprised for Malaysian people the new year according to normal calendar is not special thing as each race has their own calendar and day for new year celebration) I was having a relaxing time with family, TV showed people were cueing for new year prayer towards shrine or temple when we were about to welcome the new year and it made me wonder about the prayer.

“Japanese people pay a visit to shrine or temple for a special prayer. Yeah, I used to do sometimes. Then I know some go for pray only this occasion but I can pray five times a day.  Oh they seems so cold outside and yeah even I go to the mosque but basically, I can pray anywhere I am! Plus I do not have to pay when I pray. Every time I went to shrine or temple I was always worried about how much I should pay for the offertory box.”

I was totally feeling lucky this year. Because for me as grow up non-religious family, when I had tried the new year prayer previously I didn’t feel the existence of god it rather cultural event for me. But now as Muslim, I feel secured that I reverted to Islam belief in one only God without any doubt. After that, I did pray before I sleep and wishes as I do in the daily prayer, I felt the beauty of Islam again.

After welcomed the new year, my friend visited and brought Japanese traditional new year dishes called “Osechi” which is with different kind of delicacies in the beautiful boxes wishes prosperity and health for a family. The surprising thing for me was her hospitality to care about my food restriction. She said, “I was not sure about your religious food restrictions so that I wrote the list of ingredients for every menu for you.”

“Osechi” Japanese traditional new year food with handwriting ingredients list by my friend

Alhamdulillah! I was so touched she gave me a small piece of paper listed up all the name of the delicacies and what she used to cook for those. It was very easy for me to pick up what I can eat, because of her kindness I was able to enjoy the traditional Japanese food.

It can not make me happier when I feel Japanese and Muslim identity at the same time. It was totally Alhamdulillah! And I noticed that there are always ways to develop my identity as Japanese and Muslim and I will find the beauty on my way. This new year experience brought me a believe that Allah will provide chances for me to be better Japanese Muslimah, Inshallah.

How do I tell my revert to Japanese friends?

For three weeks as Muslimah, I got an occasion to catch up with my close non-Muslim Japanese friends in Tokyo. Surprisingly I found difficulties to talk about my revert to them in our native language which I never felt when I talk with my family or with Muslim friends after the revert.

Recently I had an occasion to meet up with my close friends, the batch mate from SSEAYP, to have lunch together. It was usual catch up by talking about work, boyfriend or girlfriend sort of stuff. When we go back home I was with one of the closest friends in the train then finally I got a chance to tell her that I became to be a Muslim as I was not able to touch the topic in front of everyone. Fortunately, she said, “That is very good for you” since she knows me from where I touched Islam. Alhamdulillah. I do appreciate her attitude to who I am now meanwhile I found myself difficult to talk about Islam in my native language to non-Muslim Japanese.

I notice that I tried not to give her negative image on my revert or Islam by saying “I am who I am even after I become to be a Muslim.” Although I strongly believe that I will be a better person as Japanese Muslim revert, it seems somehow I am afraid people judge me with the misconception of Islam.

After I got back to home I thought harder why I felt difficult to talk about Islam and myself as Muslim in Japanese since I never feel that way when I talked with my family or Muslim brothers and sisters. Then I found out as Japanese identity, we might think “religious” is sensitive talk in public, probably too private to share with friends. (In Japan sometimes what religion to belong reveals their political view or other social position.) It turns out this is unconscious mind roots deeply inside me as I raised and grown up in Japan.

Another reason I realized is my knowledge on Islam in the Japanese language is less. In most of the opportunities, I learned Islam in English through experiences in Islamic countries and interaction with Muslim friends from abroad. Also, it was only recently I started to go to classes to learn Islam held in Japanese and reading Japanese translated Quran more often for better understanding so talking about Islam in English is much easier for me now.

I became to wonder how do I tell my Japanese friends the fact that I became to be a Muslim then? Do I post on Facebook say “Hey guys, I am Muslim now”? It sounds wired. Or when I meet them, should I say “Hey! I become to be a Muslim!” That looks even weirder.

Then I realized that rather than I explain them with words it would be great if I explain Islam by showing who I am through lifestyle, practices, deeds and cultures based on my believe as I have been showing them how I stop drinking and avoid eating non-halal food etc… Who knows in near future I will meet them with wearing hijab or meeting up to enjoy dinner together at Halal restaurant? Only Allah knows.

Of course, if they ask questions why I follow the practices and cultures I will try all my best to provide explanations or examples for better and correct understanding of Islam to my beloved Japanese friends in proper Japanese. Inshallah. This thought encourages me to learn Islam continuously, it is for Allah and indirectly for myself and benefit others too.