Article by : Amalina Tajudin
I am sure all of us know that Hari Raya Aidilfitri marks the end of Ramadhan and is an important religious day celebrated by Muslims worldwide. During Hari Raya in Malaysia, many Muslims and even non-Muslims return to their hometown or “balik kampung” to be with their families and loved ones. Also, during Hari Raya, Malaysians always break the record for hours of traffic jams on the highway every year. For me, going through the hassle is worth it because after braving the congested roads, not only that you are able to meet your long-time-no-see family members, but you can also feed your stomach with a myriad of traditional Malay delicacies such as ketupat, rendang and satay.
Those are some of the common situations in Malaysia. How about in Japan? I had collected some surveys from my friends who study in Japan about their experiences celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Japan for the first time. Let’s take a look…
I consider myself immensely lucky because I got the chance to celebrate my first Hari Raya in Japan with my friends at the Embassy of Malaysia in Shibuya. In countries outside Malaysia, the Embassy is the only place where you can get a variety of Malaysian food and feast like in the heaven with other Malaysians. Based on the surveys that I conducted on my friends, 60% of them got classes/exams while only 40% of them had the chance to celebrate their first Hari Raya in Japan. The 40% of them went to either the nearest mosque or their seniors’ houses. There were also students who enveloped themselves in the futon (Japanese blanket), choosing not to go anywhere. These are common situations for students as there is no special holiday to commemorate Hari Raya in Japan.
In Japan, you will not find people selling Kuih Raya, Lemang or Rendang by the street. So here, we have to prepare the dishes by ourselves. It is actually a good experience to try cooking traditional Malay delicacies for the first time in our lives. Rendang, Nasi Minyak and Nasi Briyani are some of the famous food that Malaysian students in Japan usually cook either by using Brahim’s instant food, or herbs that can be purchased online via Baticrom shop. However, there are also students who simply eat Japanese food like Onigiri (Japanese rice ball) or buy bento from the convenience store during Hari Raya. This is due to the lack of time to make traditional food, and the need to rush to class during Hari Raya. I know it sounds pathetic but that is the reality when you live overseas far away from your family.
Homemade traditional Malay food
Japan has been the site of some of the 10 worst natural disasters of the 21st century – tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, among others. Japan suffers from 1500 earthquakes every year, but thus far, I have never experienced (God forbid!) any natural disasters during Hari Raya in Japan. But there was this one year when some of my friends who live outside Tokyo could not go anywhere – even to class – during Hari Raya because of the typhoon at their place. In Japan, when it comes to typhoon, usually, class will be cancelled as the trains and other public transportations cannot be operated.
Japan is a giant in the eyes of the world. Japanese trains are among the world’s most punctual with an average delay of just 18 seconds! Japan is also the largest automobile producer in the world. To top it off, Japan has also produced 18 Nobel Prize winners. With such sterling records, Japan is indeed an appealing place that all of us are supposed to love, but still, all we can think about during Hari Raya is home, right? Celebrating Hari Raya, albeit in a seemingly perfect country, is not comparable to celebrating it in our hometown. Away from my hometown, there is no Hari Raya holiday and there is nowhere to go to collect “duit raya” – money given by the elderlies to the young ones during Hari Raya. Yes, I am still eligible to collect “duit raya” as I am single and a student. Aside from that, it is only in my home country that donning “Baju Kurung” is viewed perfectly normal. I still remember on the way to the Embassy, there were too many eyes staring at us as we walked in our “Baju Kurung” – the Malay traditional garment commonly seen worn during Hari Raya. It was, not to mention, awkward that we felt as if we were walking ads promoting Hari Raya in Japan. But the awkwardness subsided as soon as we caught the sight of our friends; the sheer happiness of gathering with friends made us forget about the unusual looks received. Besides, usually in Malaysia, after going to one house, we will hop to other houses before going back home by night. But here, after going to the Embassy, you only have two choices: first is to go somewhere with your friends to have fun to make up for the celebration, or second, to go back home and skype with family in Malaysia while wiping your tears away when they are not looking.
Talk about miles…….
And we are far apart…….
But talk about the heart…….
And we are close together.
SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI MAAF ZAHIR DAN BATIN