11/03/2016, 17.11
JAPAN
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Prayer facilities and watering spots for Muslim customers and students at universities and commercial establishments

In recent years, Japan has seen a sharp increase in the number of Muslim visitors and students (in particular from Malaysia and Indonesia). Historically Shinto and highly secularised, Japan is taking steps to provide more and more prayer facilities in commercial establishments and universities (e.g., Sophia and Rikkyo).

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Japan has started to build prayer facilities at universities and commercial establishments, targeting the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims – one fifth of humanity – many of whom are visiting and studying in Japan.

“Many Muslim students want to study in Japan,” said an official at one university. “There is an intensifying competition among universities over how to build an environment that would help attract them.”

Rikkyo University (Tokyo), which has plans to increase its number of non-Japanese students to 2,000 by 2024, opened a prayer room in April, complete with a board indicating the direction of Makkah and a watering spot for ablutions.

Rikkyo University President Tomoya Yoshioka said that the opening of the prayer room “provides an opportunity for our Japanese students to learn about Islamic culture.”

Sophia University has about 50 students from Muslim nations, including Indonesia and Malaysia. A cafe that offers a range of halal meals opened 29 September at the university’s Yotsuya Campus. Its dishes are cooked without pork-derived ingredients or alcohols, or condiments containing them.

“The essential thing is the spirit of hospitality,” said Keigo Nakagawa, 41, an official with the Japan Halal Business Association. “We want people to understand the culture of Islam in welcoming Muslims.”

Japan is getting geared up to welcome more Muslim visitors. Japan National Tourism Organisation figures show a notable growth in the number of visitors from Malaysia and Indonesia. Approximately 510,000 people came to Japan from those two countries in 2015, four times more than a decade ago.

The Shisui Premium Outlets in Shisui opened a prayer room in February 2014. The Takashimaya Shinjuku Store, a department store in Tokyo, also set up its prayer room in September 2014.

Mega Don Quijote LaPark Utsunomiya, a general discount store located in a busy central district of the capital of Tochigi Prefecture, opened a prayer room on 1st October 2014 after a non-Japanese student said that a lack of prayer facilities made outings uncomfortable.

Akihiko Nakabayashi, manager of the store, said that the opening of the prayer room “will positively impact revitalisation of our regional community.”

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