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James Farrer is a professor of Sociology and Director of the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Sophia University. His research focuses on urban sociology, including studies of foodways, sexuality and expatriate communities.
‘What should you do according to Islam, if you come across an alien?’1 Nakata Ko (1960—), a noted and controversial scholar of Islamic law,  answered: ‘You should judge whether it is edible or inedible.’ Nakata’s way of thinking is clearly based on Islamic law, as the usage of word
‘judge’ already suggests, and this view reflects the Islamic perception of the world. Moreover, it can be assumed that for Nakata ‘being Islamic’ is founded in law, referring to the recognition of the world or the relation between Self and Other in the world. Lately, the word ‘halal’, which means ‘legally allowed’ (Qur’an 5:3;90, 16:114), seems to be omnipresent in the national and international public discourse as the ample media coverage on this topic shows. The matter of halal food is without doubt connected to the issue of modernity and _globalization: food products were traditionally produced and sold inside the Muslim community or world (al-umma al-islamiya; dar al-islam), and accordingly, there was no necessity to ask whether food was halal or not. Muslims could buy halal foods in Jewish or Christian shops. However, Muslim minorities l_iving in countries where halal food is not part of tradition and where shop owners would neither know or even consider offering and clearly label halal food, as in Japan, have to judge themselves whether or not food is halal.
It is only in the past decade that the halal market in Japan has evolved to target Muslim travellers, Muslim business people, workers, and students coming to Japan for short stays, as well as Muslims living in Japan (whether native Japanese or not). Although already in the 1980s the number of foreign Muslim workers steadily increased in Japan, the halal matter never came up among non-Muslim Japanese. Certainly, one reason for the lack of attention is the small number of ethnic Japanese Muslims at that time, but the main reason can be found in the commercialization of halal food within the context of a neoliberal global economy.
Regarding halal foods, two dimensions are deeply connected, namely the civilization-discourse (framework of Islamic law) and individual daily life; Muslim identity is constructed within this frame. In Japan, ethnic Japanese Muslims not only eat ‘traditional Arabian foods’, but rather consume ‘Japanese foods’, while being conscious of halal. In this chapter, I will discuss how Japanese Muslims consciously create their Muslim identity, and how they define their Muslim-ness in regard to food.
In general, one would not expect to encounter extraterrestrial aliens, but encountering terrestrial Others is - in our globalized world - a daily occurrence. One could argue that life itself revolves around constantly encountering and experiencing someone or something Other and different and it is this very experience that makes us aware of the ‘Self. The experience of the Other(s) consciously or unconsciously conceptually forms the ‘self-foundation’ and the conceptualization of the ‘Self. The above-mentioned quote by the Japanese Muslim thinker Nakata suggests that the problem of food is closely related to self-identification in the sense of ‘knowledge or understanding of the world’, or to the primordial level of the articulation of human experience in which Self and Other appear.
I will examine Nakata’s view as a case in point for the Muslim interpretation of food in Japan, as he represents the Muslim Japanese or Islamic Japanese intellectuals. Moreover, I will look at the issue of Muslim identity in Japan while referring to Nakata’s concept of ‘embodiment (of ideals)’ (shintaika) as the core of identity.
-  Tanaka, ‘Kaisetsu’, 223.
-  Nakata Ko grew up and was educated as a non-Muslim Japanese. While studying Islamic studies,he converted to Islam. In his Ph.D. thesis he focused on Islamic theology (kalam) and law(sharfa). He received licences of Qur’an interpretation (tafsir) and the Hanafi school (SunniIslamic school of jurisprudence). Thus, he is one of the ‘ulama’, specialists in Islamic jurisprudence. He published the first Japanese comprehensive study on the Hanbali school of jurisprudence and the latest Japanese translation of the Qur’an. At the moment:, he is the most influential,representative, but also controversial figure among native Japanese Muslims, attracting significantattention from the general public and media. Nakata is the only intellectual in Japan discussingthe halal food topic from the perspective of a Japanese Muslim trained in Islamic law.
-  1 use the following text from the Qur’an and translations: The Koran Interpreted, translated byArberry (1955); The Qur’an: English Translation and Parallel Arabic Text, translated by AbdelHaleem (2004). The Qur’an: Interpreted in Japanese, translated by Nakata and et al. (2011).
-  Cf. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/tag/halal-food/.
-  According to the statistic of the Immigration Bureau, temporary visitors from Malaysia were lessthan 80,000 in 1985, with over 40,000 from Indonesia, and over 20,000 from Iran. In 2012,almost 120,000 temporary visitors came from Malaysia, and over 100,000 from Indonesia. Cf.Komura, Nihon to isuramu, 71.
-  In the first half of the 1980s there were 5,000—6,000 foreign Muslim residents in Japan (0.004%of the total population), rising to 100,000 foreign Muslim residents since the 1990s. In addition,there are around 10,000 Japanese Muslims (Japanese born, and converted to Islam includingspouses of foreign Muslims). According to the latest population statistics, there were ca. 110,000Muslims in Japan (0.08% of the total population) in 2014. Cf. Tanada, Nihon no mosuku, 1—3.According to the statistics for 2012 from the Immigration Bureau, ca. 33,000 foreign residentscame from Indonesia, ca. 12,000 from Malaysia, over 10,000 from Pakistan, and ca. 8,000 fromBangladesh. Cf. Komura, Nihon to isuramu, 72.
-  At the end of the 1960s there were ca. 3,500 Muslims in Japan: ca. 1,500 of them were foreignMuslim residents, ca. 2,000 Japanese converted to Islam and ca. 100 of these converted Muslimswere spouses of the aforementioned foreign Muslim residents. Between the 1980s and 2010, it isestimated that there were ca. 2,000 Japanese Muslims who had converted to Islam not because ofmarriage but belief. Cf. Tanada, Nihon no mosuku, 11-16.
-  As we see in the statistics mentioned in the above footnotes, the majority of the current foreignMuslim residents in Japan come from Southeast Asia and South Asia. Since the publication ofEdward Said's Orientalism (especially in postcolonial studies), the typical confusion betweenMuslims and Arabs, or the stereotypical image of Muslims as Arab has been addressed. Recently,the French philosopher E. Balibar described the Muslim stereotype as Arab as a new anti-Semitismbased on Said. Cf. Balibar, ‘Un nouvel antisemitisme?’, 89-96.