Have you ever thought about fasting during Ramadan as a non-Muslim? For many non-Muslims, fasting during Ramadan may seem daunting or difficult to understand, but for one business owner in Japan, the experience has been eye-opening. Meet Yoshito Arima, who owns two halal-certified Japanese snacks companies based in Japan and Malaysia.
As a non-Muslim business owner selling halal snacks to Southeast Asia, Yoshito wanted to better understand his Muslim customers' religious practices. "Fasting is one of the ways that I can do to understand the Muslim community," he explained. "Last year I started to be more active on social media where now I've reached 66k followers, and this social media also makes me feel that I need to understand the Muslim people, more than just being a business."
Yoshito found the experience of fasting during Ramadan challenging but exciting. "The first day was challenging but exciting," he said. "But the second and third day of Ramadan was quite tough and I was quite irritated too. I found myself walking around my house because I didn't feel calm. But after five or six days I was feeling much better."
To prepare for the day of fasting, Yoshito did his research on social media on what to eat especially for sahur and breaking fast. "A lot of my followers suggest eating dates as they are sunnah," he said.
When asked what he typically ate during sahur, Yoshito replied, "Leftovers and easy breakfast like bread and peanut butter. I also think carbs are important and I'd eat dates for sahur." He also shared that he learned to appreciate dates but can only take one or two dates because any more than that it's too sweet for him.
Despite hearing people say that fasting helps with weight loss, Yoshito didn't notice a significant change in his weight. "Hmm, not really. Because I think I eat quite a lot during iftar!" he joked. However, he did feel a bit sleepy and got sick around days 5 and 6 of Ramadan, which led him to break his fast. "I think the lack of nutrients and hydration led to getting sick because I'm not used to it," he said.
One of the biggest challenges Yoshito faced while fasting during Ramadan was travelling for work. "It's easier at home when you can cook your own food for sahur and iftar, but I need to plan in advance when I'm travelling," he said. Despite the challenges, Yoshito found ways to stay hydrated during the day. "I drink at least two glasses of water and pineapple as it contains a lot of water," he shared.
To break his fast at sunset, Yoshito tried to have more vegetables and healthier options during iftar. "Because Ramadan bazaars in Malaysia don't really offer healthy food," he said. He also shared his plans for breaking his fast that evening. "Tonight, I'm going to have Japanese nabe, like a steamboat with a lot of vegetables and chicken," he said.
Reflecting on his experience of fasting during Ramadan, Yoshito gained a new appreciation for food and the experience of hunger. "Now I understand how Muslims feel when they're fasting. Hungry, sometimes irritable and may be feeling a lot of things," he said. "I also realised that eating food makes me happy and many people do not have the same experience. So I'm grateful that I'm able to eat whatever and whenever I like."
Learn more about Yoshito: This Japanese Man Wants To Help Muslims Find Out Which Snacks Are Halal