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New Japan, Old Japan / Mobile mosque takes ‘omotenashi’ everywhere

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Muslims who live in Japan prepare to pray at a mobile mosque in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, on Sept. 23. It takes only a few minutes after parking for the back of a truck to expand sideways into a prayer room.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior PhotographerA “mobile mosque” was unveiled in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, in late September, with Muslim residents of the Kanto region coming to say their prayers. Capable of being sent anywhere, this mosque on wheels was created with an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as well as other international events that will be held in Japan.

The mosque looks like an ordinary truck, about 12 meters long and about 2.5 meters wide when it drives on the road. Within several minutes of parking, the sides expand to the right and left, rendering the truck about six meters wide. The vehicle has now become a 48-square-meter prayer room that can accommodate more than 50 people at once.

The prayer room has four air conditioners. It’s also equipped with water tanks and outdoor faucets so the faithful can wash before making their prayers.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Men pray in an about 48-square-meter room in the back of the truck. The room is equipped with four air conditioners.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Muslims wash before praying.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The mobile mosque is seen on the road.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A worshipper uses a smartphone to determine the proper direction for prayer.

A Tokyo-based event organizing company and others came up with the idea for the mosque, in a bid to provide omotenashi Japanese hospitality for Muslims. It was created by the executive committee for the mobile mosque project for about ¥100 million.

“Infrastructure is being improved to accommodate visitors to Japan of various nationalities, cultures and religions. However, the nation is short of places of worship for Islam — one of the three major religions in the world,” said Yasuharu Inoue, head of the Tokyo-based committee. “I’m a Buddhist, but I wanted to create an environment where everyone can say their prayers at ease.”

The mosque is expected to be leased to event organizers and dispatched to locations that don’t have sufficient rooms for prayer, such as gyms, stadiums and tourist facilities.

“There were very few places for worship for Muslims and they had to avoid people’s attention when I came to Japan 30 years ago,” said Sandha Saleem, a visitor to the mosque who is from Pakistan and currently living in Adachi Ward, Tokyo. “The number of prayer rooms has gradually increased in Japan, but even today, there aren’t many. So mobile mosques like this will make Muslims visiting Japan feel at home,” he said after prayers at the mosque.

Since the completion of the mobile mosque was announced to the press in July, the executive committee has received inquiries from more than 45 countries, and some event organizers are considering using it at international events.

“The mobile mosque is seen as very unique to Japan. Surprisingly, it’s getting a lot of attention from Islamic countries, where there are many mosques,” Inoue said. The committee has set out to create a second mobile mosque.

(New Japan, Old Japan is a series exclusive to The Japan News)


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