Photo/Illutration Halal bread products are prepared at the student cafeteria of the University of Miyazaki. (Masahiko Ishikawa)

MIYAZAKI--The University of Miyazaki now offers five halal meals prepared according to Islamic traditions, irrespective of whether students are Muslims.

The food offerings at the campus cater to those from Indonesia, Malaysia and other Muslim countries, as well as Japanese students eager to learn about Islamic culture through the cafeteria’s menu.

“Not only students from Islamic states but curious Japanese students can enjoy the delicacies,” said Yoichiro Yoshinaga, who manages the student restaurant. “Through the cafeteria, I want them to become interested in each other’s cuisine cultures.”

Among the halal specialties are chicken rendang, a curry dish featuring coconut milk, and an azuki bean paste roll and two types of leavened bread. The remaining one, chicken curry, quickly ran out of stock but is now back on the menu.

The dishes were certified by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, also known as JAKIM. Tools to cook and dish up the food, along with materials, have been recognized as halal.

Under Islamic law, pork and foodstuffs marked by pork-derived constituents are banned from consumption. Having dishes treated with cookware or tableware that have come into contact with pork is also prohibited.

Muslims were not permitted to drink alcohol. Chicken and beef for human consumption must be processed in accordance with Islamic standards.

Novia Lusiana, 23, an Indonesian studying forestry at the university’s graduate school, said she examines food products at stores for halal certifications when she cooks at home. Lusiana even checks the ingredient labeling of food she purchases.

She said she pays special attention when eating out with Japanese students and usually opts for vegetable salads and orange juice on such occasions.

“Being able to consume certified halal food at the students’ cafeteria is a great source of comfort,” Lusiana said. “That enables me to use spare time otherwise spent cooking for studying.”

The University of Miyazaki aggressively accepts foreign students. However, student numbers from overseas dropped significantly to 141 as of May this year from around 200 at its peak due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of that figure, 30 or so come from Muslim nations.

“We are creating a better life environment for students while respecting various cultures all over the world. In this way, we expect to attract excellent individuals from overseas,” said Makiko Hamasaki, a sectional chief at the college’s Global Support Office.

Aside from the cafeteria, the university has opened an Islamic Center on its campus to allow Muslims to pray and do other things there.