The number of Muslims in Japan has increased significantly over the past decade, with more people embracing Islam in the East-Asian country.
According to Tanada Hirofumi of Waseda University, the number of Muslims in Japan is more than double in the last 10 years, The Economist reported.
In 2010, the statistics showed the number of Muslim worshippers in Japan to be at 110,000. By the end of 2019, the number increased to 230,000 (including as many as 50,000 Japanese converts).
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The increasing number of Muslims has led to the construction of more mosque, prayers areas, and halal food restaurants across the country.
Today, Japan has 110 mosques to accommodate Muslim worshippers, a welcome change according to Muhammad Tahir Abbas Khan, a professor at Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University (APU) and the head of the Beppu Muslim Association (BMA).
While Muslims have more opportunities to pray, they still struggle to find final resting places. Some 99% of Japanese are cremated, a practice Islam forbids.
“If I die today, I don’t know where I will be buried,” Khan laments.
The BMA started searching for a new burial ground nearly a decade ago. Raising ¥60m-70m ($582,000-679,000), the start of construction approached. Yet, residents of nearby hamlets raised fresh concerns over water supplies.
“It’s not something concrete, just a feeling,” says Eto Kiyotaka, who initiated a petition against the cemetery. “We won’t be able to drink the water with comfort.”
Those concerns simply ignore scientific evidence about the safety of the burials, said Kawabe who herself face angry calls and letters for supporting Muslims.
“They say to me, ‘You’re Japanese, why are you on the side of the Muslims? Many people are scared,” she sighs.
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Despite these fears, Khan says Japan is “a nice place to live”.
“We’re trying to integrate,” Khan says. “We adopted Japan as our home country.”
Islam began in Japan in the 1920s through the immigration of a few hundreds of Turkish Muslims from Russia following the Russian revolution.
In 1930, the number of Muslims in Japan reached about 1000 of different origins.
Another wave of migrants who boosted the Muslim population reached its peak in the 1980s, along with migrant workers from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.