Japan debuts Mobile Mosque, courts Muslim tourists ahead of 2020 Olympics
Yasuharu Inoue, the CEO of Yasu Project, said the possibility that there might not be enough mosques for Muslim visitors in 2020 alarmed him. His Mobile Mosques could travel to different Olympic venues as needed.
"As an open and hospitable country, we want to share the idea of 'omotenashi' (Japanese hospitality) with Muslim people," he said in a recent interview.
The first Mobile Mosque was unveiled earlier this week outside Toyota Stadium, a soccer venue and the headquarters of the car company with the same name.
The back of the modified 25-ton truck flipped up to reveal an entrance and then the side slid out, according to AP, doubling the width of the truck. The 48-square-metre room can accommodate 50 people.
Muslim guests prayed inside the mosque, which includes outdoor taps and a washing area for pre-worship cleansing.
An estimated 100,000 to 200,000 Muslims live in Japan. Many Muslim non-residents are also expected to land in the country during the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Inoue said the inspiration for the project came to him on a trip to Qatar four years ago.
Initially, the project organisers plan to target international sporting events both in Japan and overseas. Inoue said he hopes the project will do more than fill a gap in religious infrastructure.
"Going forward, I would be so happy if people from Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa, the Middle East and, for example, refugees who are coming from Syria are able to use the mosque as a tool to promote world peace," he said.
The Mobile Mosques come on heels of other Japanese measures to encourage Muslim tourism.
In 2016, three Japanese municipalities in the southern part of Japan's Honshu island launched a project to promote "Muslim-friendly tourism" in the region.
The municipalities, all located in Okayama Prefecture, began promoting Okayama city's mosque, the many hotels with prayer rooms and the first all-Halal bakery in Japan in the neighbouring town of Kibichuo.
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