Since the number of Moslem travelers visiting Tohoku is increasing every year, in this article I want to highlight the atmosphere of a special event for Moslems called Ramadhan as I have experienced it in Sendai, the capital of Japan’s Tohoku region.
Ramadhan is a holy month for the Moslem religion. June 2017 was a Ramadhan month, a special month during which Moslems are required to fast (not eat or drink from around 2 a.m. till 7 p.m. in Japan) which we call ‘Shaum’.
Usually the purpose of Shaum is to draw ourselves closer to God and also society. There are also some health benefits of Fasting, which are :
- It provides tranquility of the heart and mind
- Your body feels lighter because of the drop in blood glucose levels
- It may help to overcome addiction.
- It promotes fat breakdown and weight loss.
So although it might seem like a heavy task, fasting is actually fun and has more benefits for your body than you might think! Not only that, Ramadhan is also a happy time because fellow Moslems will come together to prepare food for those who take part in shaum, for free. For example, my Indonesian friend kindly gave free food once a week to those who were participating in shaum. Most of the menu was Indonesian Rendang and Ayam kecap, or Malaysian food, Nasi Hujan Panas.
Rendang – Beef
Ayam masak hitam (or ayam kecap in Indonesian) – Chicken in sweet soy sauce
Nasi hujan panas – Malaysian fried rice
Here in Sendai, we also had the chance to break our fast together with Moslems from different nationalities at the ‘Kitayama-shimin Centre’. For an appetizer we were served fruits like dates, watermelon, bananas and traditional fried food. The main dish was varied, depending on the particular country the cooks were from. For example, food from Pakistan included goat curry and naan bread. The dishes from Malaysia were Ayam masak hitam and Nasi hujan panas. Bangladesh provided goat curry. Indonesian food on offer was Nasi ayam kecap which is almost the same as Nasi masak hitam, made by Malaysians. The Pakistani dessert was sweet Kheer. The Indonesia dessert was jelly.
Curry and naan
The ‘Indonesian Sendai Family Islamic Student Association’ also held breaking of fast together. Usually the preparation is done in the afternoon. We cooked around 200 portions of appetizers, main dishes and dessert. This event is held once a week during the Ramadhan period in the Kaikan hall (International House 1).
Preparation of 200 portions of food!
Breaking fast – Indonesian Sendai Family Islamic Student Association
Not only that, the mosque of Sendai also held breaking fast events!
Breaking fast at the mosque Sendai
The sacred place for Moslems to pray is called a Mosque and there is one mosque in Sendai called Islamic Cultural Centre of Sendai (see access details below). Usually this mosque is crowded during Friday prayers, and also the Ied party held at the end of Ramadhan. The people who visit this mosque come from many areas all around Tohoku, for example Yamagata and Ishinomaki.
Mosque in Sendai (ICCS)
During Ramadhan, we have a tradition of praying together every night called Tarawih. In Sendai, Tarawih is held in the mosque or in Lobby of International House 1 in Sanjo. Usually Moslem men will stay in the mosque overnight during the last 10 days of Ramadhan to worship during the ‘glory night’, which is said to be more precious than worshiping for 1000 months.
Inside the Sendai mosque after praying
The committee of the Islamic Curtural Centre of Sendai also held a competition of memorizing the holy Qur’an, the holy book of Islam religion. The winner of the competition was announced on the feast day, Ied Fitri. The winner also received a certificate.
Sermon at Ied Fitri in Sendai
After Ramadhan is over, Moslems celebrate the feast day called ‘Ied Fitri’. It means a return to the holy state. On this day, we pray together in the morning and listen to a sermon afterwards. After that, the Indonesian family hold an open house to invite Indonesian students to eat together in their house. Just like in Indonesia, we gather and eat together in our grandmother’s house as per tradition.
Inside the mosque at Ied Fitri, very crowded!
Usually Islamic students will buy their raw ingredients for cooking at Halal supermarkets in Sendai called ‘Gyomu-supa’ in the Kokubancho area or ‘Majumder’ near Sanjo machi. Because we can only eat Halal beef and chicken, we usually stock up on 1 kg of halal beef or chicken! Usually the traditions of Moslems during Ied Fitri are to visit the house of their brothers and sisters, cook and eat together, and give some money or things to younger generations. Because the Indonesian students have no families with them in Japan, some students invite the others to eat together in their house.
Indonesian people gathered at Ied Fitri
This year there was also an event held by a TV channel in Sendai making a documentary about Ied Celebration day. There were many foods served like Halal beef and chicken sausage. Fried chicken, Halal ramen, Halal cow tongue (gyutan) – a very special experience for us since we are prohibited to eat non halal food and there is a lack of Halal beef sausage and gyutan in Sendai!
Islamic Culture Centre of Sendai (Mosque)
Address: 7 Chome-7-24 Hachiman, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture 980-0871.