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How to find halal food & items by ingredients in Japan

When travelling in Japan, finding Muslim-friendly/halal drinks or snacks at the local 7Eleven, supermarkets and such can be hard since all the labels are in Japanese with unfamiliar kanjis.
Today, let’s focus on what you should pay attention to in such situations with some useful tools for your trip.

If you live in a Muslim-majority country, finding halal food is easy as ABC. Having the halal mark on most products is considered something very natural. In fact, you can even spot “Non-halal” labels at non-halal restaurants or supermarket corners in countries like Malaysia (where I’m from). 

On the other hand, Japan is a country with very few Muslims. Naturally, you will see products with pork or other forbidden ingredients sold in the local stores. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no Muslim-friendly products.
You just have to be more careful than most Muslim-majority countries when buying things at stores like the local konbini (convenience store), supermarkets, pharmacies and more.

So here’s what you can do to find products that are Muslim-friendly, especially in stores that doesn’t sell halal-certified or international products.

Ingredient-checking is the Key

What you should do when shopping in Japan—— read the ingredients. This has become a habit for many Muslims living in Japan, including me. Reading the ingredients will help you to determine whether you can consume/use that product or not.

These are HARAM (must avoid) and DOUBTFUL (unsure until source confirmation) ingredients we, Muslims living in Japan, often find in an item. I only compiled the list as a reference to help you buy items at your own discretion
To easily access this guide during your trip, you can also download our complete ingredient guide for free at the end of this article. The free-to-download guide also include common words to look out for (which I didn’t write in this blog).

HARAM Ingredient ListMeat & Fat/Oil

NoKanjiKatakanaRomajiMeaningMemo
1豚肉ポークButa-niku/PookuPork豚 (buta): pig
2牛肉*ビーフGyuu-niku/BiifuBeef牛 refers to cow
3鶏肉*チキンTori-niku/ChikinChicken鶏 refers to chicken
4肉エキスNiku-ekisuMeat Extract・肉 (niku): meat
・エキス (ekisu): extract
5(No. 1–3) + エキス(No. 1–3) +
エキス
・Buta/Pooku
・Gyuu/Biifu
・Tori/Chikin
  +
 Ekisu
(Pork / Beef / Chicken)
 + Extract
6羊肉*ラム/マトンYou-niku/Ramu/
Maton
Lamb/Mutton羊 refers to sheep
7ハムHamuHam
8ベーコンBeekonBacon
9動物性油脂Doubutsu-sei-yushiAnimal Fat・動物 (doubutsu): animal
・油脂 (yushi): fat
10獣脂Juu-shiTallow (animal fat)
11豚脂ラードTon-shi/RaadoPork Fat/Lard
12牛脂Gyuu-shiBeef Fat
13動物脂Doubutsu-aburaAnimal Fat脂 (abura): fat
14混合油脂Kongou-yushiMixed Fat
15加工油脂Kakou-yushiProcessed Fat
16コンソメ/コンソメパウダーKonsome/Konsome paudaaConsommé (soup)/ Consommé PowderUsually made of chicken
17ブイヨンBuiyonBouillon (broth)
18ゼラチンZerachinGelatine
19胎盤エキスプラセンタエキスTaiban-ekisu/
Purasenta-ekisu
Placenta ExtractUsually in cosmetics or supplements. Most placentas are animal-derived
*These meats are halal if slaughtered in the Islamic way, marked with “halal” logo

HARAM Ingredient ListAlcohol Additive & Alcoholic Beverage

NoKanjiKatakana/ HiraganaRomajiMeaningMemo
1酒 /
清酒
さけ Sake /
Sei-shu
Sake (alcohol beverage)酒 refers to alcohol (especially alcoholic beverages)
2アルコールArukooruAlcohol
3洋酒You-shuWestern Liquor
4酒精エタノールShu-seiEthyl AlcoholDepending on the concentration and source, some ulama and fatwa says it is permissible.
You would have to contact manufacturer to confirm.
5
ビールBiiruBeer
6味醂みりんMirinMirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
7リカーRikaaLiquor
8リキュールRikyuuruLiqueur
9ワインWainWine
10ブランディBurandiBrandy
11ウイスキーUisukiiWhiskey
12ラム酒Ramu-shuRum
13料理酒Ryouri-shuCooking sake

DOUBTFUL / SYUBHAH Ingredient List
DOUBTFUL ingredients refers to an ingredient that can be halal or non-halal depending on what it is made of (source), either it’s animal- or plant-based. Sometimes the label on an item may actually wrote the source.

Let’s take 乳化剤 (emulsifier) as an example, which can be derived from animal or vegetable.
In the photo, the ingredient label has “乳化剤” followed by, in a bracket, (大豆由来), which means soybean-based. That means it’s permissible since “soybean” is plant-based. If there’s no bracket after “乳化剤”, you can confirm the source by contacting the manufacturer directly.

原材料名 = Ingredient Name (*this product is also included in the Halal Japan app)

NoKanjiKatakana/HiraganaRomajiMeaningMemo
1ショートニングShootoningguShorteningCan be derived from animal or vegetable oil.
If it is written that the source is 大豆由来 (Daizu Yurai = soybean-based) or 植物由来 (Shokubutsu Yurai = plant-derived), then it’s OK for Muslims.
2乳化剤NyuukazaiEmulsifierCan be derived from animal or vegetable oil.
Same as No.1
3マーガリンMaagarinMargerineCan be derived from animal or vegetable oil.
Same as No.1
4醬油しょうゆShooyuSoy sauceSome may contain alcohol
5味噌
みそMisoMiso (Japanese fermented soybean paste)Some may contain alcohol
6SuVinegarSome may contain alcohol
7発酵調味料Hakkou-choumiryouFermented seasoning
8アミノ酸Amino-sanAmino Acid
9生クリームNama-kuriimuFresh Cream/Heavy Cream
10醸造酢JouzouzuBrewed Vinegar
11コラーゲンペプチド/コラーゲンKoragen pepuchido/ KoragenCollagen Peptide /CollagenCan be derived from marine (fish) or animal (pork, beef, chicken)​
12ファットスプレッドFatto SupureddoFat SpreadCan be derived from animal or plant. Same as No.1
13油脂YushiFatIf it is vegetable fat, then it’s OK.
・植物 (shokubutsu): plant, vegetable
14レシチンReshichinLechitinCan be derived from animal or vegetable.
Same as No.1
15たんぱく加水分解物Tanpaku Kasui-bunkai-butsuHydrolyzed proteinCan be derived from animal or vegetable.
Same as No.1

Manufacturers may change the source used in the ingredients, so what you can eat/use NOW may turned out not okay in 3-4 years LATER. This is also why reading and re-checking the ingredients are crucial. Let’s check out some helpful tools you can use in Japan.

Helpful Page & Tools for Your Purchase

If you don’t feel confident reading the Japanese labels, these can be handy for your food/item search in Japan. Please note that the ones I’m introducing here is more for searching products in the local konbini, supermarkets, pharmacies and the like that don’t usually handle halal items.

◆ Facebook Page: Halal Japan

screenshot of Halal Japan Facebook page

This page has helped me A LOT since I first came to Japan in 2015. It is a page run by a group of Muslims since 2013 that checks all kinds of products (canned coffee, bread, ice cream, baby powder, etc.) whether they are safe for Muslims or not.
What I like about this page is the admin also does regular updates. As I mentioned above, manufacturers may change the materials, so this is very helpful.  

FYI, the page was hacked in 2021, so this is its new page. That is why the products seem fewer than before. But GREAT NEWS—the page has an app now!

◆Smartphone App: Halal Japan (Beta)

screenshot of Halal Japan app

You can easily search for products you can and cannot use/consume with the Halal Japan app. It currently has over 16,000 products with ingredients already checked with the manufacturers. You can either check through its product list or by scanning the barcode on products.

Each item includes information such as its halal-ness, the date updated and which stores you can get it (the right one on the photo above). It categorizes the halal-ness into different levels.

HALAL LV1Halal-certified
HALAL LV2Free from ethanol, 100% free from pig derivatives
HALAL LV3Has less than 0.5% ethanol / Production line shared with pig derivative products but has no risk of cross-contamination
DOUBTFULManufacturer doesn’t disclose the basis of the doubtful ingredients, or doesn’t know the alcohol base/ethanol percentage
HARAM LV1Has pig-based, non-halal animal or alcohol-based ingredients
HARAM LV2Production line is contaminated with pig derivatives

It currently runs on subscription as the app is still in the beta phase, but it has a “free trial for 7 days”. The subscription could be a temporary thing since it’s the beta version (this is just my guess). Nonetheless, I am satisfied with this app; There’s definitely room for improvement.

You can download the Halal Japan (Beta) app on the App Store (iOS) and PlayStore (Android).
・iOS: https://apps.apple.com/jp/app/halal-japan/id1548302210
・Android: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=halal%20japan&c=apps&hl=en&gl=US

Another suggestion is using Google Lens to read and automatically translate the Japanese ingredients for you. Since its Google Translate, there may be some mistranslation here and there. But it still can be helpful in recognizing those kanjis (lol).

If I ever find other useful tools similar as this, I will definitely introduce them. Happy shopping!!

Download Complete Ingredient Guide for Muslims


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