We love uncovering stories of Muslims in Japan. It's a country which we are completely in love with! Besides the delicious halal Japanese food and breathtaking attractions, we're always fascinated by these amazing stories too ? They fuel our wanderlust for Japan especially in a time like this when we can't travel there.
That's why we were super excited when we found out about Nadia Jasni - a Malaysian Muslim home baker in Japan. She started Kantan Bakery (@kantan.jp) back in 2017 and she recently opened a franchise in Malaysia too (@kantan.my). Most of us are familiar with home bakers back home but a halal home baker in Japan? That's something we've never heard of before!
Kantan specialises in homemade cakes, cookies and brownies. Some of the best-sellers are the Ondeh-Ondeh cake and cookies, mango cheesecake, brownies and Red Velvet cake!
Kantan's Instagram page is an absolute delight to look at ? We love how much thought that Nadia puts into decorating her bakes. One thing that really stands out for us is the Malaysian-inspired cakes like pulut hitam, apam balik, bandung and pisang goreng cupcake! She even has the viral Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake. We'd be lying if we said that we aren't craving some of these decadent cakes now ?
She also set up a stall at the Malaysian Fair 2019 in Tokyo and got a visit by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong too! Other than baking at home, Nadia used to sell her cakes at one halal restaurant in Chiba, Bengal Tiger. But due to COVID-19, it was hard for the business so they decided to stop it.
But don't worry, if you're in Japan, you can get her bakes delivered to you no matter where you are (postage rates apply). Those of you in KL can order from @kantan.my ! They are opening a branch in Penang too so do keep a lookout.
We had a little chat with Nadia and found out more about her business and life in Japan ?
1. How long have you been living in Japan?
This is my 5th year in Japan. When I first came to Japan, I lived in Gifu for two years to complete my Master's Degree at Gifu University. Then I moved to Osaka to start my career as a cosmetic researcher and head of international marketing and stayed there for two years. I moved to Chiba about 9 months ago and started working in a different company. Now I am working as a Quality Control Specialist in a Salmon company.
2. Why did you move to Japan?
I moved to Japan because I got a scholarship from the Japanese government to continue my Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering.
3. What inspired you to start the home bakery business? We saw that you used to sell Malaysian food, do you still sell that too?
I started my home-based bakery after being given the idea by my husband (who has always been my backbone) to act as a stress relief therapy back in 2017. That's when I first started to work in Japan. In the beginning, I just baked for my friends and husband, and after some time they suggested that I open Kantan.
As for the Malaysian food (under @kantan.food), it was one of my very best friends who cooked it, and the reason for starting it was the same - to release stress ? But now he is back for good in Malaysia. InsyaAllah, we will soon (very soon!) be selling Wagyu in Malaysia through @kantan.food!
4. Where are most of your customers from?
When I first started Kantan, my customers were mainly Malaysians living in Japan. But now, thanks to my husband and my friend who has always been supporting and helping me to boost and promote Kantan's Instagram page, I have more customers from the Philippines, Indonesia and even a few from Europe and the US! I do have some local customers too, but not so much as compared to the others. But, we are getting more of them now ?
5. How do the Japanese locals feel about your bakes?
From the feedback that I received, they like it because for them this is something new and they have always wanted to try something new from another country. On the other hand, knowing that the Japanese don't really like sweet things, I try to do everything less sweet; actually I prefer it to be that way too!?
6. How is life like as a Muslim in Chiba? Is there a huge Malaysian Muslim community there?
Nowadays, the Muslim community is growing in Japan. Thanks to the Olympics (which has been postponed ☹️), the awareness about Halal food and the number of Muslims in Japan is increasing in Japan.
7. Do you have any tips for Muslims visiting Chiba?
Well, I would suggest visiting Tokyo generally (it's just about an hour away!) as there are a lot of places to visit. Nowadays, there are also more and more prayer rooms and halal restaurants (but not bakeries). Unlike back then, it isn't so hard to find a halal restaurant. Two things that you have to try if you visit Japan would be the Halal Ramen and Halal Yakiniku ?
We wish Nadia's business all the best and we certainly wish to try her yummy bakes when we visit Japan in the future! Meanwhile, if you know any Muslims living in Japan with a unique story, feel free to let us know ?
Check out Kantan Bakery on their Instagram pages:
Note: All photos are credited to Nadia Jasni.