02/06/2020, 18.24
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Tokyo 2020: mosques-on-wheels for Muslim athletes

The Yasu Project is behind the initiative designed to show Japanese hospitality. The back of lorries will be turned into prayer rooms with a capacity of 50 people with outdoor water taps.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan is set to host the 32nd Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer (24 July-9 August).

By the time the Games begin, prayer rooms will be available at Olympic Village. However, to serve the needs of the large number of Muslims expected, an organisation called Yasu Project is set to provide extra prayer rooms. 

The goal is to extent omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) to Muslim sportspeople and tourists and make them feel at home.

“I want athletes to compete with their utmost motivation and for the audience to cheer on with their utmost motivation as well,” said Yasu Project CEO Yasuharu Inoue.

“I hope it brings awareness that there are many different people in this world and” that it will “promote a non-discriminatory, peaceful Olympics and Paralympics.”

To achieve this goal, 48-square-metre dedicated prayer rooms with a capacity of 50 will be set up at the back of modified lorries. They will have Arabic signage and outdoor water taps for pre-worship ablutions.

Mr Inoue hopes that athletes and tourists will appreciate the mobile mosques.

Up to 200,00 Muslims currently live in Japan and can worship in 105 mosques (as of 2018), most of them in suburban Tokyo, this according to research by Waseda University.

As Muslims are required to pray five times a day, distance from the Olympic Village or existing mosques might be an issue for them.

Muslims living in Japan know this all too well. Topan Rizki Utraden, an Indonesian who has lived in Japan for 12 years, is one of them.

For him, “It is really difficult to find mosques near your place. If you are in the city there is no problem but if you take a road trip outside Tokyo it is difficult.”

In fact, “Sometimes I pray in a park but sometimes the Japanese look at me like ‘what are you doing?’”

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