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Becoming Muslim in Japan: The Story of a Japanese Muslimah


Today we have a special interview with Nur Arisa Maryam, a Japanese Muslimah (a Japanese woman of the Muslim faith).

When I first learned about Arisa through a Muslim friend in Tokyo, I felt compelled to contact her and share her story. There are so many stereotypes about what it means to be Muslim in Japan, as well as around the world, and just like my other strong and intelligent female Muslim friends, here was Arisa breaking them all down.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Arisa and have her share her journey from a Shinto upbringing in Tokyo to a self-dedicated woman of the Muslim faith.

Take it away, Arisa.

本日ご紹介するのは、日本人ムスリマ(日本人の女性イスラーム教徒)であるNur Arisa Maryamとの特別インタビューです。




1. Please introduce yourself. 自己紹介をお願い致します。

My name is Nur Arisa Maryam. I’m a Japanese Muslimah. I was not born a Muslim but I reverted to Islam when I was in university after studying it and being moved by the Noble Quran. I was born and raised in Tokyo, but I currently live in the 2nd biggest city of the UK, Birmingham.

私の名前はNur Arisa Maryamです。日本人ムスリマ(イスラム教徒)です。

2. What was life like growing up in your hometown? What kind of religion/beliefs/culture did you grow up in? 


I was raised in an ordinary Japanese family in a quiet suburb in Tokyo. Although my family didn’t adhere to a certain religion, they were not atheists. They said to me, “Don’t leave rice. There is a God in it.” When we have something to celebrate such as Shichi Go San, which is a festival for children of three, five and seven years of age, we went to shrines. I also went to a private Shinto school during my junior high school and high school years.


: ﷽ 【 My Revert story : Episode ⑦ 】 I was working in the shrine when I was a university student. My mum found the recruitment and I also felt to be a shrine maiden. It’s really interesting that the shrine maiden is now a Muslimah. . 【 改宗ストーリー : ⑦ 】 実は大学生のとき、巫女をやってました。 あのとき母が求人を見つけて 私もそれをやりたいと思い、続けた私が まさかムスリムになってると思うと 本当に運命って興味深いですね。 . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ #イスラム #イスラム教 #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #手書き #手書きツイート #イラストエッセイ #絵日記 #イラスト #komik #komikislam #komikmuslim #muslimmanga #manga #revert #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #islamicsisterhood_japan #japanesemuslimahinuk #????? #??reverttoIslam #???

A post shared by Japanese Muslimah Manga ???? (@japanesemuslimahmanga) on

3. What first sparked your interest in Islam? 


I majored in Malaysian at my university and the teacher of the Malaysian class was a Muslimah – the first one I met in my life. Through the study of Malaysia, I met many Muslim people. At the time, I realised that Muslim’s way of thinking is very different from us Japanese and was shocked by it; no matter what happens, they live for the sake of the God and have dedicated their worship exclusively to God.


4. When did you decide you wanted to commit to Islam? 


When I was in university, I visited a mosque in Tokyo with my Muslimah friends, I was surprised that I saw Islam in Japan. It was the first time for me to see people praying in Japan. Since I had studied Islam for a while in my university, I felt that I knew everything about Islam. But in fact, I didn’t know how to pray in Islam and why Muslims even want to pray. I realised that I had prejudice in my heart which I didn’t have for other religions: Islam is a religion of foreign countries. I thought I had nothing to do with Islam. So I started to wear hijabs and pray with Muslims together to understand Islam.

The more I studied Islam, the more I was impressed by it. One day, when reading the Quran with Japanese translation, I came to know the meaning behind the words for the first time. I suddenly realised that there had always been answers to the questions I had in life. I got to know, through the beauty and rhythm of the Quran and Allah’s mercy, that He knows everything. God, who I always looked for, was always there for me. I couldn’t stop crying at this realisation, and I decided to recite shahaada that same day.


: ﷽ Japanese friends told me that I became a strict muslimah compared with 2 years ago. I also feel my imaan is getting stronger. It was not easy to change my life style after my syahadah. No one forced me to change myself but the longer I live as a muslimah, the more I feel I want by myself. Actually these days I make much account of Ibadah better than before. I am not a perfect Muslimah but I am trying to be inside out. I already quit doing many things of dunya. They might be worried about me because they think I am getting into Islam too much and I will become a “non-Japanese”. People who don’t have any religions may think like this. But what they said to me made me happy and become more confident as a Muslimah because it means I am getting close to Allah SWT and I’ve been walking to the right way. I won’t miss my old life. My life is now better than before. . 友達から「どうしたの?前そんなに厳格だったっけ?」と言われるようになった。多分みんなは心配の意味でいってるかもしれない。でも私にとっては褒め言葉に思える。ムスリマになってシャハーダしたとはいえ、急に前の生活から変えられるわけじゃなかった。自分を変えることを誰かに強制されたわけじゃなく、ムスリマとしての期間が長くなればなるほど変わりたい気持ちが強くなった。2年前の私に比べてかなり変われたとおもう、完璧じゃないけど。「本気ですか?」というイマームに問いに「はい、本気です」と答えてアッラーの前で信仰告白したことに責任をもっと感じるようになった。アルハムドリッラー。前の生活は恋しくない。前よりもっと幸せに感じてる☺️? . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ ※ This IG is only for ladies ? I’m married ?? #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim

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5. You refer to yourself as a Muslim revert. Can you explain a little about the meaning of revert vs. convert? 


In Islam, we consider everyone to be born Muslim. All people are born with a natural faith in God. According to Islam, children are born with an innate sense of submission to God, which is called the fitrah. Because of the family or a particular environment, they grow up to have different faith or become atheists. So a Muslim “reverting” shows the embrace of Islam as a return back to this pure faith in our Creator.


6. What was the reaction of those around you (family, friends) when you reverted to Islam? 


My mother got shocked when I told her I became a Muslimah. She didn’t have any bad images of Islam and Muslims but she couldn’t accept the fact that her daughter became a Muslimah without telling her. As I also took time to understand Islam, she also got confused by my sudden news and she couldn’t understand me. She said to me that I am not her daughter anymore and she didn’t talk to me at all for a while. But I knew this was a normal reaction, so I did my best to make her accept me and think that I became a better person because of Islam. In Islam, it’s very important to have patience and forgive others even though they deny us. I decided to live as a Muslimah, so I tried to have a relationship with my mother in a good way.

My younger sister studied Islam in university and told me that she was happy for me. She explained to her that I didn’t change at all and I just tried to be a better person with Islam. After my mother listened to her, she apologised to me crying.

Regarding my friends, there were some friends who were wondering about my new life as a Muslimah but they didn’t say bad things about Islam in front of me. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God). Thank you Allah for giving me such wonderful friends.

: ﷽ My grandparents are already around 80 years old but still with my family. Alhamdulillah. They are from the countryside in Japan and they are not educated people because of the war in Japan when they were young. But their love for family is perfectly amazing. I was raised with their full love. When I recited syahadah 2 years ago, I was afraid of telling them I became a Muslimah. I didn’t know whether they could accept or not because I thought it was difficult for them to understand Islam. But until now, they have never said to me “No”, but have been supporting me no matter what. Even though I couldn’t tell them I believed in Allah as a Muslimah soon after my shahadah, they accepted me without any troubles. They always have my pictures wearing hijabs and make special Halal meal only for me every weekend. When I told them about the marriage with my husband, they welcomed him with love. When I told them I will start a new life and I explained what I want to do in the future, they seemed to be sad but they have never said no. Today they gave me 20,000 yen and my grandmother said to me “This is for you to realise your dream. I am sorry because I know it is not enough for you. We are not rich. We can’t do anything for your dream so please use this money for your future.” They made me feel like crying. Thank you for always supporting me even though I chose a life as a Muslimah. Please forgive me if I did things that made them feel down but InshaAllah I will do my best to be a better person and make you all happy. May Allah guide them the right way and protect them always. . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ ※ This IG is only for ladies ? I’m married ?? #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim

A post shared by ありさ ???? اريسا (@nurarisamaryam) on





7. What is life like for Muslim people in Japan? Is there understanding of the unique needs you may have as a Muslim person in Japan? For example, are there many places to pray or to shop for and eat halal food? 


: ﷽ 【 Japan & UK : Food 】 In Japan, we have to check the ingredients for any animal products. A lot of the time, even simple foods such as bread can contain lard! On the other hand, in the UK I can just check the suitable for vegetarians or Halal mark – no need to read the ingredients! . 【 日本とイギリス : 食べ物 】 日本では、なにを買うにも後ろを確認してムスリムでも安心して食べられるかどうかを確認しています。 パンでさえ、豚由来のラードが入っていることがあるので気が抜けません? (ムスリムは豚由来のものを口にしません??) 一方、イギリスではベジタリアンフードマーク、ハラールマークが浸透しており、スーパーでは安心して買い物ができます。もちろんパンは基本的にベジタリアン用になってます??? . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ #イスラム #イスラム教 #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #イギリス #イギリス生活 #海外生活 #国際恋愛 #国際結婚 #手書き #手書きツイート #イラストエッセイ #絵日記 #イラスト #komik #komikislam #komikmuslim #muslimmanga #manga #UK #UKlife #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #islamicsisterhood_japan #japanesemuslimahinuk #?????

A post shared by Japanese Muslimah Manga ???? (@japanesemuslimahmanga) on

It was such a good experience to live in Japan as a Muslimah. We have some difficulties in terms of prayer spaces and Halal foods, however, and thankfully, Japan is becoming a country more accepting of diversity and they are welcoming Muslims as well.

These days, many prayer spaces and halal food have been increasing in Japan. If I have the chance, I would like to live in Japan in the future. In Sha Allah (If God wills).



: Islam in ?? 2016.2.29 【 How to apply for a passort with hijab in Japan ( ヒジャーブでパスポートを申請する方法 ) 】 Japanese passport centre allows me to issue a passport with hijab! Alhamdulillah!!✨✨✨ At first i couldn’t apply for a passort with hijab but alhamdulillah they allowed me after i showed my muslim revert certification from masjid and wrote down on paper why i have to wear it ! They told me my hijab picture looked so cute ? hehe Thank you Allah!! ?We shouldn’t be worried a lot before we try. InsyaAllah Allah will make our problems easy even if it looks hard somethimes. Be strong Muslims! ?❤️✌? . ヒジャーブをかぶってパスポートの申請ができました〜!✨❤️ アルハムドリッラー!! 受付で必要だったものを書きます at 新宿センター ? 入信証明書 ? 事情証明書 ( なぜヒジャーブを被らないといけないかという説明を受付で都知事宛に書きます ) → 私は「〜(場所)で〜日(入信日)にイスラム教に入信致しました。イスラームの教えのもと、ヒジャーブを被っています。」と書きました。 まだまだ日本人ムスリムにとっては日本で手続き等で苦労することが多いと思いますが、笑顔であきらめずにやっていきましょう!✨???インシャアッラー! ⑅⁺˖- – – – – ⑅˚ – – – – -˖⁺⑅ * Please give me comments here. No DM :) #東京 #日本 #日本人 #イスラーム #ムスリム #무슬림 #이슬람 #tokyo #japan #japanese #jepun #jepang #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #muslem #muslimah #hijabi #hijab #hijabista #thenewmuslim

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8. What were your favorite places to pray, shop, and connect with your faith and the Muslim community in general in Tokyo/Japan? 


My favourite place in Japan is Tokyo Camii, which is located in Yoyogi-Uehara, Shibuya, Tokyo.

This mosque is very beautiful and the place where I started my journey to Islam. I can meet many amazing Muslim sisters there and feel a strong sense of sisterhood.


: Islam in ?? 6th June 2016 Ramadan Kareem for all Muslim sisters and brothers! May Allah protect you all during the holy month of Ramadan and may this Ramadan be one of change for all. Amiin . Selamat bersahur berpuasa kepada umat Islam. Saya minta maaf kat semua zahir dan batin kalau ada buat silap dan salah baik disengajakan atau yang tidak baik. Moga Allah permudahkan urusan kita InsyaAllah! . ラマダーン・カリーム!1ヶ月間の断食は簡単じゃないけど去年よりももっと頑張れそう!インシャアッラー。この1ヶ月間、世界中のムスリムにとってアッラーへの信仰を深めて、それぞれが成長できる素晴らしい月になりますように!私もこの1ヶ月間で成長できますように。 みんなの成功を願ってます、アーミン! . ⑅⁺˖- – – – – ⑅˚ – – – – -˖⁺⑅ #東京 #日本 #日本人 #イスラーム #ムスリム #tokyo #japan #japanese #jepun #jepang #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #muslimah #hijabi #hijab #thenewmuslim #ramadan #ラマダーン #tokyocamii #masjid #東京ジャーミー

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9. How does Tokyo/Japan’s Muslim community differ to the one you find yourself in now in Birmingham/the UK? 


Japan’s Muslim community is very small compared to the UK’s. It’s normal to live with Muslims in the UK. There are far more mosques and halal restaurants here. It’s much easier to find halal food too, to the extent that you can even find them in normal supermarkets.

Japan doesn’t have many Muslims and there are still very few Islamic events and places. But I always look at this situation positively when I am in Japan. I feel that Muslims quite often greet each other much more – even if they don’t know each other. I think It’s also a lot easier to become friends because we’re such a minority in Japan.



: ﷽ Assalamualaikum everyone. I hope you enjoyed Eid with your family. After I left Japan, many sisters sent me messages asking me where I am. I’m sorry I couldn’t check them all. I’ve just started to live in UK. I have many reasons why I decided to live here. As I’ve mentioned in my last post, I wanted to improve myself more in many aspects. UK is still a Muslim minority country, but they have already become accustomed to various ethnic people and religions living together. Japan is still trying to do it. So I want to see how the life in another Islamic minority country is going. As you know, the UK is also facing many Fitnah at the same time. I really want to be a part of supporters as a Muslim who came from Muslim minority country. In terms of language, I want to speak English like a native, but also want to study Arabic. I studied Malay language in Japan, so I can talk about Islam in Malay easier than in English. But most people can’t speak it, so I can’t talk about what Islam as well as I’d like. I need to study English first and InsyaAllah I will study Arabic later. My husband also wants to take one step further in realising his dream in the UK. Although he and I had to wait a long time for the visa, we can finally live together here in UK. Alhamdulillah. When I was thinking of moving here, I cried because I will miss everything about Japan, especially family and friends. I loved being a Japanese Muslim there. But if I lived there my entire life and in this dunya, It would be very fun and happy but I wouldn’t be able to improve myself more. I need to open my mind and see the world. I’ll do as many things in UK as I can InsyaAllah. Only Allah knows how long I am here, but I believe in Allah’s plan. May Allah ease my new life and Ibadah whenever I am. Amiin. . メッセージ、コメントをくださった方、ありがとうございました? 人生初の海外生活をイギリスでスタートさせました。イギリスへの引っ越しには多くの理由がありますが、ここでまず自分を様々な点で成長させたいと思ったからです。アッラーの計画を信じて、沢山のことを学んでいきたいと思います。 . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ ※ This IG is only for ladies ? I’m married ?? #イスラム #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #ヒジャーブ #ヒジャブ #ムスリムファッション #イギリス #イギリス生活 #海外生活 #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #uk #islam #muslim #islamicsisterhood_japan #japanesemuslimahinuk #?????

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10. Would you like to see anything change in regards to how Islam is perceived in Japan? What advice would you like to give to those interacting with Muslim people in Japan? 


For me, I think Muslims themselves should do their best to help break the negative image in the media. By understanding each other better we can create a much more positive dialogue and interaction between us all.


: ﷽ I love fashion because it’s one of the ways to show my identity. You can see my identity on the picture. I am wearing Kimono dress and pink long hijab. You will know I’m a Japanese Muslimah only from it ?? I’m not a fashion blogger but I want to tell people what the Muslimah fashion looks like and how we enjoy our fashion covering our body and wearing hijabs and of course, to share information about where you can buy them on my Instagram ? . ファションはアイデンティティをみせる1つの方法だから好き。私はこういう人だと伝えることができる。 私はファッションブロガーではないけど、ムスリマのファッションはどんな感じだろうと思ってる人に、どのように私たちが体を隠してヒジャーブをしておしゃれを楽しんでるか知って欲しい。私が改宗したとき、どこでヒジャーブとか買えるか知りたかったのもあるし、そのような興味とか疑問をもってる人に私のインスタが何かのヒントになれば嬉しいな? – ? Ai dress from @muslimah_sakura ? Shawl Hurul Ain from @khadeeja_towardsmodesty – ⑅⁺˖- – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ ※ This IG is only for ladies ? I’m married ?? #日本 #日本人 #イスラーム #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #ヒジャーブ #일본 #무슬림 #이슬람 #히잡 #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #hijab #hijabi #tudung #sakura #yukata #kimono

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Follow Arisa’s story on Instagram 


Thank you very much to Arisa for taking the time to share her story with us. You can continue to follow Arisa’s journey on Instagram at @nurarisamaryam and also @japanesemuslimahinuk where she is sharing her revert story in the form of manga.


: ﷽ アッサラームアライクム!初めまして? ムスリム夫婦のイギリス生活を趣味の絵や写真で紹介していこうと思います。別のアカウントはイスラームの話を中心にアップしているのでこちらでは基本的にそれ以外のことが中心になります✍️? 海外生活、国際恋愛、国際結婚してる方々と どんどん繋がりたいです!よろしくお願いします❤️ . Assalamualaikum everyone! Nice to meet you. I’ve been sharing my Islamic stories on my main Instagram @nurarisamaryam. This time I made a new account to share an International Muslim couple’s UK life with my drawing and photos. Don’t forget to follow this account @japanesemuslimahinuk ????? . – – – – ⑅˚ᵗᑋᵃᐢᵏ ᵞᵒᵘ♡⃝⃜* – – – – -˖⁺⑅ #イスラム #イスラーム #イスラム教徒 #イスラム教 #ムスリム #日本人ムスリム #イギリス #イギリス生活 #海外生活 #国際恋愛 #国際結婚 #手書き #手書きツイート #イラストエッセイ #絵日記 #イラスト #UK #UKlife #japan #japanese #japanesemuslim #islam #muslim #islamicsisterhood_japan #internationalmarriage #japanesemuslimahinuk #?????

A post shared by Japanese Muslimah Manga ???? (@japanesemuslimahmanga) on

Please share your thoughts on today’s interview in the comments section below. Was this your first time to read about a Japanese person becoming Muslim? Did it change your thinking about Islam in Japan? What is the Islamic community like where you live?


Japanese and English answers provided by Nur Arisa Maryam. 日本語及び英語の回答はNur Arisa Maryamにて提供。Images/画像:©Nur Arisa Maryam

Other Japanese translations by Kaori @kkkkkkkaori. その他はKaoriにて日本語訳。

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Mimo Mango

Tuesday 10th of July 2018

This interview was very beautiful. I am a Muslima too, but living in an Islamic Arab country. I was very interested in Nur Amrisa Maryam's story. I wanted to know what it's like being a Muslim in different societies and cultures. I wish her luck and may Allah bless and continue to guide you, sister <3

Les Petits Pas de Juls

Monday 27th of November 2017

Fantastic piece! Thanks for always taking us one step further in understanding and discovering each other! May Arisa's life be bountiful and her dreams come true!

Stefanie What

Sunday 26th of November 2017

This was a really fascinating read! I wish her well as she continues this spiritual journey.

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