When you think about studying abroad, what kinds of destinations or schools do you picture?
With some 50 universities, around 60 vocational schools and around 20 Japanese language schools, Kyoto is a City of Universities, and a City of Students.
If you're going to study abroad, you'd probably like to choose a location that's easy to live in.
To help Muslim students feel more secure as you go about making these decisions, we've put together a collection of useful information about Kyoto, and the many charms of the city.
You might be wondering if there aren't any inconveniences for Muslim students living in Kyoto.
We asked two Muslim students currently studying abroad in Kyoto about their experiences.
I was a designer myself, and I started to become interested in Japanese design, so I decided to further my design knowledge by coming to Japan, a country I love, to study my favorite topic. I found the website of the teacher I'm learning from now, and when I looked at the Kyoto Institute of Technology design exhibition that was posted there, and the different student pieces and projects that were displayed there, I wanted to become one of those students myself.
I buy Halal ingredients at the Muslim Co-op at Kyoto's Islam Culture Center. Some of my friends buy Halal ingredients at Gyomu Supermarket(A wholesale supermarket), too. More and more Halal restaurants are appearing in Kyoto, too. I had a part time job at one, Yoshiya "Okunoniwa" in Arashiyama. It's a restaurant where you can enjoy Kyoto cuisine at a popular sightseeing location. You can also find Halal food from around the world in Kyoto, like Indian, Turkish, Malaysian, and Egyptian food, and more. There are even yakiniku(grilled meat) and ramen shops. There are lots of vegan restaurants, too, with tasty vegetables you can feel comfortable eating. In Japan, fish- and rice-based dishes are common, so I'm happy to be able to enjoy these kinds of Japanese foods, too.
At school, I'm able to pray as I like by laying out a mat in the graduate students' room at prayer time. My other classmates are understanding. When the graduate students' room is being used by a lot of people, I move to the prayer space that's been made available in the International Room by the school's International Department, where I can pray in peace. When I'm out shopping, I use the prayer room on the 5th floor of the Marui Department Store, which is really convenient. I also use the prayer rooms in Halal restaurants.
For me, Kyoto is a really comfortable city to live in. I'm surrounded by nature and kind people; there are lots of opportunities for exchange students to interact with the Japanese students; there are lots of cultural exchange events with middle and high school students, and places to learn traditional crafts. There's a mosque in the city, too. During Ramadan, other Muslims gather there to pray together at night, lighting up the city with a different kind of culture. On Eid and other Islamic holidays the Muslim community gathers to pray at places like the Kyoto International Conference Center. At school, during events like the end-of-term parties with my graduate seminar group, they always look for a restaurant that can serve something that we Muslim students can eat. When I go out with my friends, too, it's fun to look for new shops, because Kyoto is a city where new spots are popping up all the time.
Kyoto is a wonderful place. I think there are a lot of people around the world who would love to study abroad in Kyoto. If you take the chance to study abroad here, you may just be able to discover the best version of yourself, with the help of someone who doesn't know anything about your country or your religion. When you come to study abroad, you should think of yourself as a representative or ambassador. Also, to really get the most out of your study abroad experience, Japanese language skills are very important. I think you'd still be able to live here even if you couldn't speak Japanese, but you'll be able to experience so much more if you can get past that language barrier. I hope you'll have a wonderful experience.
I honestly just wanted to study at a Japanese university. Another reason was the study abroad experience I could have at a Kyoto University as opposed to universities elsewhere in Japan. I used to live in Tokyo, but one day I came to visit Kyoto because of my dad's research, and I realized the city was really calm and was a great learning environment. I decided to study abroad in Kyoto when I found that the school I'm studying at now, Ritsumeikan University, offered the subject I wanted to study, International Affairs. There aren't many International Affairs departments in Japan, and it's still a relatively new field of study here. Of the schools that offered it, Ritsumeikan University had the longest history, so I decided to study here.
You can buy Halal food at lots of places! The closest one is Gyomu Supermarket, where they sell a variety of Halal ingredients. They sell Halal-friendly foods like chicken, chicken nuggets, and kara-age(deep-fried chicken), so I feel like I can shop there with ease. When I don't have enough, or I need Indonesian seasonings, I go to the Kyoto Mosque in Kojin-guchi to buy some. The Mosque has seasoning and food from a number of Islamic countries, so most Muslims in Kyoto go to buy their food at the mosque. There are also lots of Halal restaurants in the center of Kyoto or in places where there are a lot of tourists.
There are a lot of prayer spaces available in Kyoto, so it's fair to say that the city has given consideration to create an environment for Muslim students and tourists. There's also a prayer space set up at school, so I'm really grateful for that. Even downtown in Kyoto's Shijo Kawaramachi district, there are several prayer spaces, so it's convenient.
Kyoto is a comfortable place to live. There are lots of places to pray, and it's easy to find Halal food and restaurants, too. Kyoto is an important tourist attraction, and because more Muslim tourists are visiting the city, it means changes for us Muslim international students, too, and the city has become a really easy place to live.
Muslims students who want to study in Kyoto in the future, Kyoto has recently taken more steps to become more Muslim-friendly, and there are more places to find Halal food or places to pray. Everyone is kind, too, so people will help one another when someone has a problem, and listen to your thoughts. I think that's the reason Kyoto is able to present the solutions it does now to Muslims' needs.
When you study abroad, you'll be spending most of your time at school, so you want to find food and an environment with as little discomfort as possible.
Some schools in Kyoto offer Halal school meals, and more schools are becoming more Muslim-friendly. There are many schools considering individual responses to Muslims' needs.
See here for an introduction to just some of Kyoto's Muslim-friendly schools.
Kyoto Institute of Technology offers Halal-certified Retort Curry and other foods at the university co-op. A prayer space is also available on campus, and is open for use on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There's a prayer room at school open from 9 to 5, and I can focus on prayer there much better than in the lab, so I'm glad to have it. The cafeteria always offers fish dishes, so there are things I can eat. In the Co-op, there's Halal curry that you can warm up in a microwave. Halal food is always made available at international exchange parties, so it's really nice that I can enjoy the parties just the same as everyone else.
Ritsumeikan University is home to a total of 130 students from Muslim-majority nations, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and more. In April 2018, a special prayer room with facilities for wudu was opened on the Biwako Kusatsu Campus.
Kyoto Career College of Foreign Languages employs a Muslim teacher. Students are encouraged to consult with this teacher should they have any difficulties.
When food is provided at school events, we are careful about the kinds of food we offer. We do not prevent students from leaving class to participate in Friday prayers.(These instances are treated as early leave or tardiness)
Our Center has enrolled many students throughout its existence. Classes are filled with not only Muslim students, but a mix of(Buddhist) monks from other countries, Christian missionaries, Hindu students, and more, so you can study without the need to worry too much about religion. When it comes to eating habits, we try to accomodate our Muslim students as much as we can, as well as vegetarian students and those with allergies.
A locked prayer room is available within the school building, and Halal food is available in the school café, so students can go about their studies with ease.
There is a praying place and it is clean. The staff also understand if we wanted to go to prey. The food at the cafe also offer meat free food.
Prayer room is available for me to use. Some of the foods served at the cafe are meat - free which is muslim friendly.
There are a lot of question marks when it comes to living abroad... In that situation, if there are people to spend time with and ask questions of, your study abroad experience in Kyoto will become much more comfortable and enjoyable!
Kyoto is home to several Muslim(international student) communities to help Muslim exchange students feel more at home as they study abroad.
Kyoto is a top-class sightseeing location in Japan. Because of this, the city has many spaces to pray even outside of school campuses. The following information includes prayer spaces outside of schools.