Religion does not play a significant role in the everyday life of most Japanese people. The average person typically follows the religious rituals at ceremonies like birth, weddings and funerals, and may visit a shrine or temple on New Year. Aside from that, people are mostly secular with a central focus on their career and work to the extent that they have a term for death due to overworking – karōshi (過労死).
Japan is home to approximately 10,000 native Japanese Muslims and a growing population of 120,000 Muslim migrants with an emerging second generation of native-born ‘Japanese Muslims’. While on the surface this looks like a burgeoning Muslim community, there is deep-rooted resentment from this second generation who blame Islam for the current socio-political position they are in – neither genuinely Japanese or part of their ethnic culture.
With this as a backdrop iERA first visited Japan in 2015 to lay the foundation for conveying the message of Islam through helping to facilitate useful tours for the more than 2 million people who visit a mosque each year in Japan. Fast forward to 2018, we returned to Japan with a nationwide tour, covering more than 600 km across and around Japan’s main Islands.
From the historic city of Kobe to the future facing capital of Tokyo, iERA CEO Hamza Tzortzis and Global Outreach Manager Salahuddin Patel delivered a range of outreach training, interfaith engagements and public lectures.
On Friday 4th May, in the historic city of Kobe, in Japan’s oldest Mosque (built in 1917), Hamza delivered his emotional reminder, Why Allah deserves to be worshipped.
Back in Tokyo, on Saturday 5th May, the iERA team helped facilitate the Open Day at the Tokyo Camii and Turkish Cultural Centre. Hamza Tzortzis delivered a talk to the visitors on the message of Islam and gave out copies of iERA’s new publication ‘Making Sense of God’ in the Japanese language. By the permission of Allah, a Japanese sister decided to embrace Islam!
Without skipping a beat, the team travelled again to Otsuka Masjid in Toshima to deliver two reminders, ‘The Divine Reality’ to a group of Non-Muslim and New Muslim sisters and ‘Conveying The Call’ to a rapt audience, about the importance and duty of conveying the call and advancing the Prophetic Mission in Japan.
Sunday 6th May saw iERA’s Global Outreach Manager Salahuddin Patel deliver iERA’s dawah training course at the Arabic Islamic Institute in Hiroo, Tokyo. The training was well received as the attendees enjoyed learning how to make a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam.
In the evening the team went to a local park to deliver food packs and interact with the homeless living in the park in downtown Tokyo.
On Monday 7th May the iERA team met a representative from St Ignatius Catholic Church in Kojimachi Tokyo. Over morning coffee they engaged in a friendly discussion over the commonalities between the two faiths and the importance of working together. As a token of good faith, a Japanese copy of the Quran was presented along with iERA’s new publication ‘Making Sense of God’.
Later that afternoon at the prestigious University of Tokyo, Hamza Tzortzis delivered a talk with a live Japanese translator entitled ‘Is There Meaning to Life?’ to a packed out audience. They were fascinated to hear about the two worldviews of Philosophical Naturalism and Islamic Theism and the implications and realities of both worldviews. In conclusion, Philosophical Naturalism cannot explain the ultimate meaning, belief in human value, our need for Ultimate purpose and meaningful happiness.
The talk at the University of Tokyo was hosted by Professor Ejii Nagasawa the Head of the Institute for Advanced studies in Asia. Professor Nagasawa enjoyed the discussion and was presented with iERA’s ‘Making Sense of God Booklet’ that was also distributed to all the attendees of the talk.
The following day the iERA team spent the morning and afternoon engaging in two Interfaith events. Professor Wessels from St Ignatius Church hosted the team, and they participated in a warm, positive discussion on the history of the Catholic Church, the Trinity and the similarities with Islam. After the discussion, Professor Wessels who was a senior lecturer at the prestigious Sophia University in Tokyo where he taught International Relations before he retired earlier this year, gave the iERA team a tour of the Church and its facilities.
Later that afternoon the team was hosted by Mrs Fujiko, a Buddhist priestess at the Kojengi Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Mrs Fujiko explained that the temple was centred around death and funerals ceremonies and this was what the temple was primarily used for, as religion is no longer a core part of the Japanese culture and way of life.
Later that evening, Hamza Tzortzis delivered a passionate talk at Hira Mosque in Tokyo entitled ‘The Way of the Prophet’. Hamza explained to the audience that the Japanese people need to hear the message of Islam and it was the duty of the Muslims living there to deliver the message to them as this was the way of the prophet and the core action of the prophetic mission. The Japanese people work incredibly hard and have built a fantastic society however they are disconnected from God, and we have to convey a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam to them.
Finally, Saturday 12th May 2018 saw the local dawah team donned the Japanese iERA T-shirts and went out to feed the homeless. Over 400 homeless people were given hot food and engaged in positive interactions and conversations as part of the outreach activities in Japan to present a confident and compassionate case for Islam.