The Current Muslim Presence in Japan:
in Japan, Japanese and residents, cover more or less the entire of Japan, form
the northernmost island in the country (Hokkaido) to the smallest island in the
south of the country (Okinawa Island) neighboring Taiwan; and from the
easternmost part of the country (Tokyo) to the westernmost part of it
(Kanazawa, Shimane and Tottori). We can classify Muslims in Japan into the
1. Japanese Muslims:
They are distributed as follows:
a. Their Own Societies, which may include the
Japan Muslim Association:
Association is the first major Islamic association founded in 1953 by
Pre-Second World War, Muslims who returned after their conversion in Indonesia,
Malaysia and China, in addition to those early Muslims who were alive at that
time. Graduates from Al Azhar University, Islamic University, Al Madeenah Al
Munawwarah and Ummul Qura University, Makkah Al Mukarramah play an active role
in the association, and its current president is Mr. Ameen Tukumatsu, a
graduate from Al Azhar University. Mr. Yahya Endo, a graduate of the
Islamic University in Al Madeenah Al Munawwarah, is also one of its active
members, and so is Mr. Nooruddeen Mori, a graduate of Ummul Qura University in
Makkah Al Mukarramah.
The Islamic Association in Hokkaido (Mr.
Japan Islamic Friendship Association in Kyoto
(Mr. Ali Kobayashi).
Association of Islamic Da'wah in Osaka
(Mr. Abdur Raheem Yamaguchi).
The Islamic Association in Nara (Mr. Muhammad
Muslim Women Association in Osaka and Kyoto
(Sister Zeba Kume).
Arabic Culture Association in Tokyo (Sister
b. Incorporated Groups which include Muslim
student as well as Japanese and non-Japanese Muslims in general:
type is somewhat widespread in all parts of Japan and in huge numbers. To give
a few examples, Mr. Khalid Kiba who runs his own association in Tokushima
southwestern Japan, he is also a member of Islamic Center-Japan, Professor
Abdul Jabbar Maeda with the Islamic Association in Miyazaki in southeastern
Kyushu Island, Brother Muhammad Sato is active with Muslim Student Association
and Islamic Association in Sendai and member of Islamic Center-Japan, and
Professor Murtada Kurasawa who is one of the directors of Islamic Center-Japan
and at the same time a professor in Nagoya University.
Each one of these can be equaled to a number of
people in terms of his Islamic activities. These represent the majority of
Japanese Muslims. They run more than fifteen websites in Japanese in which they
invite the Japanese people to Islam. The following are but a few examples:
Sulaiman Hamanaka in Shikoku (He has a website
and a Mosque).
Professor Kosugi (Kyoto University). He has
made many contributions in the major television network. Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai
(NHK), as well as in conferences and lectures.
Professor Onami (Kyoto University, Engineering
Department). He has set up the translation of the meanings of Holy Qur'an in
Japanese on his website.
Late professor Shiro Tanaka who used to work in
the College of Foreign language. He knows Holy Qur'an by heart.
Professor Hisham Kuroda (The International
University of Nigata) who has authored numerous books and was at one point one
of the students of the late Ja'faar Izutsu.
Ashraf Yasui (Professor of Arabic in Japanese
fact, the situation of Muslims in Japan is relatively similar to that of
Muslims during Makkah Al Mukarramah period, when new Muslim individuals were
scattered in the various cities, villages and oases of the Arabian Peninsula.
Some of them were hiding their beliefs, while others publicly declared them,
inviting torture and harm upon themselves until they migrated to Al Madinah Al
A question arises here: What is the number of
Muslims in Japan? The answer is that there is no reliable census of Muslims in
the country. In fact, there are more than one hundred Islamic societies and
scores or even hundreds of Mosques and prayer halls through which many Japanese
people embrace Islam almost every day.
addition, seventeen millions Japanese leave the country as tourists every year.
Some of them embrace Islam in Muslim countries while others do so in Europe and
America. They contact us online to provide them with Islamic books and their
requests are promptly granted. A Japanese Muslim woman once sent us an e-mail
from Kula Lumpur saying that about fifty Japanese men and women were interested
in Islam and requested us to send her Islamic books in Japanese.
Japanese Muslims are estimated at about 100,000
or even more, while non-Japanese Muslims are estimated at 300,000 or more. However,
this remains a rough estimate which observers look at from different
perspectives and accordingly give various estimates. It is worth noting,
however, that the number of Muslims in Japan is on the increase and that the
Japanese people are much closer to Islam than are any other nations in the
world. In fact, Japanese people revere this religion and believe that it
confirms their long standing ideals and traditions.
2. Muslim Emigrants:
The early Muslims who came to Japan were from
Indian Sub Continent before independence. They came to Japan towards the end of
the nineteenth century, settled in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe where they engaged
in trade. They founded the first permanent Mosque in Kobe in 1935. This Mosque
has stood the test of time in that it survived the Second World War which
demolished a nearby church and the 1995 earthquake which also demolished the
same church for the second time.
The second generation of Muslim emigrants
consisted of Tatars, or Kazan Turks, who came to Japan to escape Communist rule
during the early twenties of the twentieth century. They lived along with
Indian Muslims in Kobe and built a Mosque in Nagoya, which was demolished
during the Second World War. They also founded Tokyo Mosque in 1938, and were
led in their Islamic activities by the late Abdul Hay Qurban Ali. We can say
that these emigrants represent the first Muslim community to settle in Japan.
Some of their youth had migrated to Turkey, Europe, and America and very few of
them are still in Japan.
Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims represent the
third group of Muslim emigrants to set foot in Japan. In fact, a doctrinal
controversy arose between these and Tatar Muslims (Indonesians and Malaysians
follow Shaf'i School of Jurisprudence, while Tatars follow Hanafi School of
Jurisprudence). This controversy prompted the late Abdul Hay Qurban Ali, Tatar
Muslim leader to write to Al Masumi, the Imam of Holy Mosque in Makkah
Al Mukarramah, regarding this controversy, and the latter wrote a treatise in
response. The treatise was titled Hadiyah Al-Sultan Ila Bilad Al-Yaban (The
Gift of The Sultan to the land of Japan). This book published during the
thirties of the twentieth century. This treatise has been reprinted many times
and is still in circulation. Indonesian community remains the largest Muslim
community in Japan. Its members have a school and a Mosque in Tokyo that played
a major role when Muslims missed Tokyo Mosque.
The largest immigration is the one that has
been going on since the eighties of the past century. This migration consists
of a number of nationalities and many of these emigrants settled in Japan after
they got married to Japanese Muslim women. The new trend in this regard is
Japanese men's marriage after their conversion to Muslim women who come mainly
from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Arab world. One of the latest
marriages includes a Japanese man after his conversion to a Russian Muslim
3. Muslim Students Coming from Muslim
The first Muslim students to come to Japan were
Chinese. These students about forty studied at Waseda University in 1909,
published Islamic Awakening, an Islamic magazine in Chinese which bears
the title in Arabic. Three Ottoman students, including Ahmad Muneer son of
Abdur Rasheed Ibrahim, a seasoned first class traveler and noted caller to
Islam, joined Waseda University in 1911. During the Second World War large
numbers of Indonesian and Malaysian students came to Japan, some of whom were
martyred as a result of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, while
some others survived. In fact, I met these victims a few years ago. Tatar
migrant’s children attended Japanese schools and studied at Japanese
universities. These include Dr. AlTinbai, Al hajj Tamimdar Muhit and his wife,
Mr. Ramadan Safa, and Asad Qurban Ali. They established an Islamic association
in the forties of the past century.
The largest numbers of Muslim students started
coming to the country following World War II, precisely towards the end of the
fifties, and are still on the increase. Most of these students come from
Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Arab world, Turkey, Iran and Africa.
They established, along with Japanese Muslims and other Muslims who are
permanently settled in the country, Islamic gatherings in every city where they
hired halls which included a library and a meat shop for selling halal
meat in addition to areas reserved for prayers and meetings.
a matter of fact, I had always lamented the fact that practically all Muslim
ethnic groups had built their Mosques with the exception of the Arabs, in whose
midst the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was raised.
Finally, Arab Muslims, mostly from Egypt, set up a Mosque in their quarters on
the outskirts of Tokyo (Shin Misato). Twenty five of them as well as other
students performed the pilgrimage in 2000. Many students from other
nationalities also performed pilgrimage this year.
4. Professionals from Islamic Countries:
Large number of professionals from Islamic
countries visited Japan and stayed here from several weeks to a year. These
professionals need to know about where to get halal food from as well as
the prayer times. Many of them are also asked questions about Islam, and they
request us online as well as by post and fax to provide them with books and to
answer some of their queries, which we immediately granted. These professionals
played a big role in introducing Islam to Japanese people and their very
existence in the country paves the way for Japanese people to know something
about Islam, especially if they are practicing and seek to live by the dictates
5. Muslim Businessmen and Tourists:
The commercial relationship between Japan and
Muslim world is very old indeed and still ongoing, and a large number of businessmen
and tourists who play a major role in introducing Islam to Japanese people
visit the country every year. Our Islamic Center-Japan is specialized in
Islamic books and booklets in Japanese and provides the required Islamic
material for all Islamic societies in Japan as well as for students,
professionals, businessmen, tourists, and others. It also provides newly
arrived professionals with the necessary information about Mosques, prayer
times, halal foods, and Islamic gatherings.