The Muslim Street of Shinjuku
Passers-by in the street, called “Islam side street” gushed into an old multi-story building. Their destination is a Friday congregational prayer, the week after week holy day for Muslims. The small mosque on the fourth floor, which measures a few dozen square meters, is stuffed with Muslims as well as in the entrance on the third floor. Muslims need to take off their shoes, so more than 200 sets of footwear are left on and around the stairs. At the point when the time came, the worshippers faced Qibla (Mecca) and prostrated themselves with their brows and noses touching the floor. Mecca is 9,500 kilometers away. Apart from worship, remote Muslims living in Japan go to this area for Halal food.
This mini Muslim district is located west side of JR Shin-Okubo Station, lined with numerous Halal restaurants, gathering crowds from Asian countries, mostly Muslims. As soon as the Friday congregation concludes, Muslims from the mosque start gathering at the restaurants selling their traditional spicy food prepared with Halal seasonings and meat. All in all there are 9 Halal shops on this street. We took great pleasure in talking to an exchange student from Indonesia who had come to Japan for his studies.
He said he visits the Muslim Street each Friday when he doesn’t have a class, despite the fact that it takes 40 minutes via train from his home in Higashi-Murayama in western Tokyo. In his country Indonesia, where Muslims represent 90 percent of the populace, there is a mosque inside of a 10-moment stroll of his home. In spite of the fact that Tokyo has 10 or so mosques, few of them are almost near a train station. The same goes for eateries and shops serving halal food. Although abundant but these basic Muslim amenities are not near Major train stations. He said I feel confident offering prayers here along with people who share a similar faith.
When asked about food, he said one major reason he comes here after religious duty is the Halal food. The dishes served here in the Indonesian restaurant remind him of back home. We feasted on “nasi campur” with him as we chatted. It’s an Indonesian specialty containing rice, chicken, lettuce and other vegetables. No doubt it tasted different and unique. It started to remind me of my traditional food back home.
He told us he tries to contact his companions on the off chance that they don’t come to Friday prayers. When he discovers newcomers, Ahmed gives them valuable information and knowledge of how they can survive in Japan and where they can find Halal food, mosques or other useful information they need to live comfortably in Japan. One important thing that we observed was the reason Muslims came here in huge numbers on Friday was the fact that it is a big social platform for old as well as new settlers to make social connections because in a country away from home, it is better to know as many people who share a similar faith or home country to feel a sense of security and belonging. It gives one a reason to live having friends around especially in difficult times. All in all, Muslim prospects in Japan are quite bright.