A Cafeteria for All: Halal Café @Sophia University

A day in the life of Tokyo college student

Sophia University, where I attend, has a halal cafeteria certified by the Japan Islamic Cultural Center, a religious organization.

Halal means “permitted” in Islamic teachings and indicates whether “things” are permitted by God.  Thus, in terms of food, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and meat from animals processed according to Islamic precepts are halal, which Muslims can eat, and food items that contain prohibited pork or alcohol should be avoided.

Founded by the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, Sophia University has a rich international flavor and is active in the exchange of cultures and ideas.  The halal cafeteria was also established so that Muslim students can enjoy the school cafeteria.

All the dishes served in the halal cafeteria are made with halal-certified ingredients, including soy sauce and other seasonings.  It is a school cafeteria that even strict Muslims can use with peace of mind.

The most popular item is the curry and naan set.  We can choose the type of curry, and the price is an amazing 500 yen for a freshly baked huge naan, two deli items, and even a drink.  The spicy curry with slightly sweet naan will accelerate our appetite.  While Sophia University’s cafeteria is well known for its unappetizing food, the existence of the halal café, which serves delicious food at a reasonable price, is less well known.  It is located in the tower furthest from the main gate of the campus, and I did not know about it until a senior student told me about it.  The common belief that the better the restaurant, the less famous, may be true.  The terrace seating is another reason why I like it here.

My favorite is the cheese naan.  Baked in the tandoori oven in the cafeteria kitchen, the naan is very large and very filling.  It can even get me through a 100-minute afternoon class!  The size of the dish makes me full every time, and it’s a good/bad excuse for falling asleep in the afternoon class.

The campus also has a “prayer room,” a prayer space for Muslims near the cafeteria, where they can pray before and after meals.  As per Islamic teachings, men and women can pray separately, which is also a great point for Muslims. I love the deliciousness of this halal café, of course, but I am also proud of Sophia University’s attempt.  In the United States, acceptance of religious differences and cultural differences manifested in food is the norm.  However, in Japan, the majority of people feel themselves to be non-religious, and the lifestyle of the minority is often ignored.  Meals are to be enjoyed and can literally be a source of learning and living.  A campus where all can enjoy meals and study comfortably is highly desirable.

Kotoka:Writer & interviewer living in Japan / Sophia University student / Love cats
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