Japan is becoming more Muslim-friendly with the increasing number of halal eateries and prayer spaces available. Being a member of the ‘Muslim Friendly Information in Japan’ (on facebook) helps me get updates on the latest halal eateries and reviews of the existing ones. Here’s a list of some of the halal eateries I have visited.
Sekai Cafe, Asakusa
Sekai Cafe is located in an alley, a short distance from the Nakamise shopping street in Asakusa. The cafe is open from 8 am to 8 pm. The first time we visited it, we had just arrived in Asakusa from Narita Airport. As we weren’t that hungry, Sarah ordered a cup of matcha latte while I got myself something interesting from the chiller – a sakura pudding. The bottom layer of the pudding was made of soy milk while the upper pink layer was agar agar flavoured with preserved sakura. I thoroughly enjoyed the pudding and could have eaten 2 of them at one go easily. The pudding had just the right amount of sweetness and the pink layer had a hint of saltiness from the preserved sakura.
We visited the cafe again the day after for lunch and ordered a pizza. The girl at the counter asked if I would like cheese on the pizza but I didn’t quite understand her at first. She said, “Chee-zu?” and only after pointing out to a picture of cheese did I get what she was asking me. You see, at that time Sarah wasn’t a vegan yet and I hadn’t grasped the concept of pizza without cheese so the question baffled me for a while though I already knew then that the Japanese word for pizza was ‘chee-zu’. BTW, the Japanese word for map is ‘chizu’ and it sounds similar to cheese but with a shorter ‘chi’. If you’re asking for cheese, do stress on the first syllable or else you’ll get a map. 🙂
I like the ambience in this cafe. It’s bright but cosy and could probably seat about 30 customers. I’ve seen the locals in this cafe too. The cafe aims to be able to serve anyone who walks in regardless of their diet thus the name, I think. Sekai means world in Japanese. The pictures above are the only foods we had here but they also have salads, steak, noodles, curry and the usual cafe fare. You can read a more comprehensive review from ‘Have Halal will Travel’ here.
So this place has had good reviews from many who have patronised it but my experience here was a rather disappointing one. I don’t know if it’s because I had come with high expectations. Sarah and I ordered a bowl of ramen each (hers was a vegetarian one while mine came with chicken char siew) and I also ordered a side of chicken karaage. We both agreed that the ramen was salty and the chicken was overfried, in my opinion. I came here another time in July this year with hubby and ordered the chicken karaage again hoping that it would be better this time but it was overfried too. The rice that I had with the chicken was nothing like the usual Japanese rice I had in Japan and that means it wasn’t good. The only reason why we came here again was because the restaurant that we wanted to go to was closed and hubby was hungry so we needed to get to the closest halal eatery quickly. What I liked about this eatery was the variety of foods offered and their prices were very reasonable (about 700 yen for a bowl of ramen). The staff were friendly too. I don’t quite like the interior (dark and gloomy) and the fact that the odour of fried foods lingered in my hair and clothes long after I left the eatery. I really wished I had better reviews of the restaurant here because I’m all out to support the halal eateries in Japan. You can read a better review of this restaurant here.
Address: 2-7-13; Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0032
Ippin restaurant was located along the main road so it was very easy to locate it. We walked into the restaurant and was greeted by an unsmiling male staff. He was the only staff in the restaurant at that time. Perhaps that explained the lack of warmth because not only did he have to take our orders, he had to prepare the food and serve us too. There was no other customers in the restaurant because it was still early for dinner, I think.
I ordered a bowl of hot and spicy ramen because the picture on the menu looked promising. It surely didn’t disappoint when it came. The broth was rich and had the right level of saltiness. After finishing the bowl of ramen, I ordered chicken karaage. It came as I had expected it – crispy and juicy. Sarah had vegetable curry with rice which she quite enjoyed. The restaurant was clean and could seat about 30 people.
I was disappointed to find it closed at another time I came with hubby. There was no indication on the website or even on their door that they were closed on that day. We had come a long way just to have dinner here. 😦
The information on this website shows a different address. I’m not sure if they have opened another branch or they have moved to a new location.
Address: 3-16-11, Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Sojibo has 5 outlets in Japan altogether and I have visited the ones in Kansai Airport and Diver City in Odaiba. The main item sold here is soba noodles but served in varying styles.
At the outlet in Kansai Airport, I ordered the set that comprised of a katsu-don (fried chicken over a bowl of rice) and soba noodles. I only wanted the katsu-don but the menu only showed it as part of a set. I only found out later that I could have ordered it a la carte. I could only eat a quarter of the soba noodles after finishing the kat-su don. Don’t buy the set unless you’re famished!
I can’t remember what I had at the outlet in Diver City but I remember having a satisfying lunch with hubby there. Service was friendly and prompt. The other customers there, at both times, were mainly Japanese. I can’t say that the foods at both outlets were spectacular (maybe because I don’t fancy soba noodles) but if they are well-received by the Japanese, they must be good for most people, right? 😉
Kineyamugimaru, Narita Airport
Kineyamugimaru is located in the food court on the 5th floor of the Terminal 2 main building. To get there, take the escalator from the departure lounge to the 5th floor and head towards the Observation Deck where you will end up at the Sky Food Court. This self-service casual eatery mainly serves udon and fried stuffs. You can order your udon either hot or cold. The fried stuffs are optional and you can pick what you like from the trays. I ordered a hot bowl of udon with onsen tamago and picked a fried chicken cutlet to go with it. There are condiments on the table such as chili powder and chili oil. Check out their menu here. The foods were nothing to shout about but I liked them. They were simple but satisfying. I wished for more broth in that bowl of udon though.
Disclaimer: this is not a halal-certified cafe but it came up when I googled for halal foods in Japan at that time but now I can no longer find that website. This cafe has also never been endorsed by Halal Media Japan which seems to be now the source to go to when one looks for halal eateries in Japan. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t have included this cafe here. Anyway, it’s located on the third floor of Isetan, Shinjuku. It’s a very pretty cafe that offers a good range of baked products, soups and salads. The cakes lean more towards the simple, homemade types than the typical light-as-air Japanese ones. Most of the baked products are made from unrefined flour and are not cloyingly sweet. We ordered a salad, a vegetarian quiche and a scone. For the drinks, Sarah had a matcha banana smoothie and I had a mocha, both with soya milk. I didn’t quite enjoy the drink I had ordered. It tasted like like one of those meal-replacement drinks, you know, chalky.
Address: Isetan Shinjuku Main Building 3F, 3-14-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0022
We ended up here because Ain Soph was full and were told that we had to wait at least an hour for the next available table. Chaya was nearby, above Isetan department store, and one of the restaurants on Sarah’s list. I remember this was one of the recommended restaurants when I googled for halal foods in Tokyo but do take note this is not halal-certified. Chaya is a restaurant that serves macrobiotic foods – no meats, eggs, dairy products, white sugar or chemical condiments, and mainly brown rice. Soy milk and beet sugar are served with coffee or tea. The main I ordered included a slice of cod fish though (see picture below). I think fish is the only non-vegetarian item they offer. The restaurant is quite big but with a relaxed atmosphere and has a nice outdoor seating area too.
Sarah ordered the vegetarian set meal which included a plate of appetisers, veggie steak, a drink and a dessert.
The foods here were wholesome but a tad too pricey. The bill came up to about 5000 yen. The vegan tiramisu here was the best vegan dessert I ever had. It tasted like the real deal although it did not contain any dairy or eggs in it. The raspberry coulis added a nice touch to the already scrumptious dessert. A definite must-try this dessert! To know what else is available on their menu, check out this blog.
Address: Isetan Department Store, Main Building 7F, 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Tokyo 106-0022
I was excited to eat at this restaurant because I love washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine). Washoku is usually based on rice with miso soup and other dishes using mostly seasonal ingredients. Side dishes often consist of fish (raw or grilled), pickled vegetables, vegetables cooked in broth or grilled and tofu.The restaurant serves both halal and non-halal menu but the halal foods are prepared in a separate kitchen. Ask for the halal menu if it’s not already available on the table. The restaurant has a big dining area and is able to serve big groups. It has to be because it’s located in a very touristy area in Kyoto – Arashiyama. Though it was a weekend when we visited it, we could still manage to get a table immediately. The halal menu is not extensive but each set comes with a variety of item so that makes up for the lack of variety. The prices are reasonable. Check out the menu here. I ordered the Shokado Lunch Set A that comes with a tofu hot pot (yudofu). The first dish served was the yudofu accompanied by a small dish of soya sauce for dipping. The tofu was immersed in just hot water (not stock) and sprinkled with sliced spring onions. I could not comprehend how a dish this simple could taste so good. The tofu just tasted clean and fresh but also divine. I don’t know if it’s just my biasness or that Japanese tofu really tastes better than what we get here in Singapore.
The main dish was a delight for the senses. I enjoyed everything in the box. I didn’t know what I was expected to do with the salt served on that small dish. I decided to dip the tempura with it and it totally elevated the taste. The tempura tasted much better this way than dipped in sauce. The only complaint I have about this set is the small serving size of the warabi mochi. If you’ve never had warabi mochi or know how it looks like, it’s that powdery thing to the left of the lady fingers. Warabi mochi is my favorite Japanese wagashi. It’s a jelly-like confection made of bracken starch and usually coated with kinako (soyabean) flour. You can make this at home easily but the warabi flour is not so commonly found back home in Singapore. Only the Japanese supermarkets stock them. If your meal comes with a slimy white stuff, it is grated mountain yam. It’s almost flavourless. I have yet to acquire the taste for it.
If I were to rank all the halal and muslim-friendly eateries I’ve visited in Japan, Yoshiya would be on the top spot mainly because I love washoku. I hope that they’ll open a branch in Tokyo soon. And with a more extensive menu. Please.
Naritaya Halal Yakiniku, Kyoto
I thought both yakiniku and ramen were available in this restaurant but only discovered after getting a table that they only served yakiniku. I only found out from the ‘Have Halal will Travel’ website (like 10 minutes ago) that the yakiniku and ramen restaurants (managed by the same company and have the same name) were located side-by-side. The first restaurant we came by was the one that served yakiniku so we just walked in not knowing the one that served ramen was next to it. Anyway, I had thought that hubby would love to have beef that day so didn’t question the service staff about the absence of ramen on their menu. We opted for the Kyoto Wagyu BBQ Set that cost 5000 yen. The price didn’t surprise me because I knew wagyu beef was of a high grade. This set came with 5 assorted parts of wagyu beef, two bowls of rice, some assorted vegetables (mushroom, brinjal, sweet potato, carrot, shishito pepper and onion), wakame (seaweed) soup and a bowl of salad. If I could recall correctly, it did come with a dipping sauce. I could do with a bigger serving of the beef slices though. I thought the meat was succulent and juicy but hubby wasn’t impressed. He expected better with that kind of price tag. What I was most displeased about when it came to the service was no iced water was served. I thought it was a standard practice in Japanese restaurants to serve iced water free of charge. This was the first restaurant in Japan I had been to that did not serve iced water. Our meal also came much later than expected. The restaurant is small – it could probably seat less than 20 people. I don’t have any pictures to show you (I can’t remember why I hadn’t taken any) so do click the link above for pictures and better reviews of this restaurant or here for a picture of the restaurant front and some other details that I have not provided. 🙂
Address: 1F, 422-2, Rinkacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 605-0062
Rasa Malaysia, Ginza
As the name implies, this restaurant serves Malay foods. Now, you will be wondering why go to Japan and eat Malay foods, right? Well, at that time, 2 years ago, we didn’t come across any halal Japanese restaurants in the city. Jib went to the restaurant alone to have the foods takeaway while the rest of us stayed in the comfort of the hotel. Because two years had passed since then, I cannot remember exactly what we had ordered but I remember clearly that the Ayam Percik I had was the best one I had ever had! If I’m not wrong, Jib also got the fried rice but it wasn’t memorable. More details about this restaurant can be found on this website.
Tentei, Narita Airport
This restaurant, located on the 4th floor of Narita Airport Terminal 2, serves mainly tempura but you can have either a bowl of noodles or rice to go with the tempura. Just like Rasa Malaysia, it’s been 2 years since we last visited it and I can’t find any pictures of the food we had there or maybe I hadn’t taken any. What I remember was how delighted we were to have found this place because back then halal Japanese restaurants were a rarity. Everything here is served with a dish of tempura so if you are avoiding anything deep-fried, this is not a good place to go to. Food quality was pretty standard. You can peruse their menu here.