I am a Muslim, a copywriter at McCann Malaysia, a millennial and an all-time Japan lover.
Like most kids living in Malaysia, I was exposed to Japan via its cartoons with Malay dubbing (which can be quite annoying). Shows such as Doraemon, Space Cop Gavan, Kamen Rider Black, Kamen Rider Black RX, Ultraman, Kurenai Sanshiro, Cybercop, Flashman, Grandizer and Moero Attack, just to name a few, were enough to sow the seeds of me liking the country.
I was wrong.
My love for the country blossomed when I finally went there for the first time in 2007. And the following years just made my love grow even stronger. Without sounding like an Otaku, here are some of the things that Japan seized my soul with.
If there is a country that truly thrives on discipline, it’s Japan. Based on my understanding, this value is taught at a very young age. By teaching this value to the young ones, they learn to be independent, understanding and kind (perhaps this is why you’ll see really young Japanese kids getting on trains and buses on their own). For a Muslim, discipline is important. The two main things my parents taught me when I was young were to learn to pray correctly and read the Quran. These two are the foundations to becoming a good Muslim. Because by praying and understanding the Quran, you will approach life in the right way, or the way that is acceptable in the eyes of God.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. For the Japanese, they have truly nailed it. Everywhere I go, the toilets are pristine. For a Muslim, keeping ourselves clean is vital. Before we perform our prayers, we have to perform ablution and this act removes all the dirt and impurities from our body. For Muslims, our body should never be harmed or filled with impurities. So perhaps when it comes to cleanliness, Japan has a special place in my heart.
My wife once fell asleep in a KFC around Harajuku. She slept for almost an hour and when she woke up, she realised that her wallet and smartphone were left unattended on the table. To her surprise, no one took advantage of her situation. In fact, everyone just minded their own business. This is another beautiful thing about Japan: people are honest and trustworthy. And they will do anything not to jeopardise that. Not many places can live up to this, so I find this trait very endearing. For a Muslim, to take things that are not yours is frowned upon, because if you do, you jeopardize your relationship with God. As Muslims, we must strive to do the right thing. It is hard, but it matters.
When it comes to making your life a bit more convenient, Japan does it best. From the stair railings, to the cups, to the cutlery and everything else, Japan makes sure that everything works. Even the snacks have proper instructions to make my meal a good one. That’s how understanding the Japanese are when it comes to making your life more pleasant. And I can’t stress enough how important this is. As a Muslim, we must understand where people are coming from. We must understand their creeds and their beliefs; whatever it may be. It is a Muslim’s duty to not condemn that. To have empathy is to be a good Muslim. It is not up to us to judge people. As Muslims we are to understand and respect others. That’s how we create harmony.
Again, my love for Japan goes beyond the physical attributes that it has to offer—it is the culture and values they hold. As a Muslim copywriter, I honestly can see that there are opportunities for Japan to promote halal products and services on a bigger platform. The possibilities are endless. And as long as Japan produces creative work that pushes the limits of creativity, it will keep on inspiring me to do the same.
Azraai Azmi is a copywriter at McCann Worldgroup Malaysia.
This is part of a series of personal perspectives relating to Muslim Millennials and their relationship with Japan. See the first instalment: "Why Japan should pay attention to Muslim millennials".