The Report of the First Joint Research Meeting “Religious Facilities and its Fusion with Urban Spaces: Coexistence of Mosque-gathering Muslims with Japanese Society”

The joint seminar was held by face-to-face (venue: Research Building No. 2, 4th Floor, Meeting Room [AA447], Kyoto University) and Zoom “hybrid format” on August 2 (Tuesday).

After the self-introduction of the participants, the first speaker TONAGA Yasushi of Kyoto University made his presentation titled “Islam Integrated with Local Societies: Is There Also ‘Japanese Islam’?” He introduced his own recent other joint researches within the framework of A. cultural coexistence, B. moderate Islam, and C. how to understand Sufism, which shall be bases for his research in this joint research. He also introduced the moderate Islam observed in Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey, which emphasizes their own cultural tradition. Here “vernacular Islam” has a positive meaning contrary to the general dichotomous understanding between “vernacularized marginal Islam,” which is nearly equal with “corrupted Islam,” and “Arab Islam,” which is nearly equal with “genuine Islam.” Then he examined the idea of “Japanese Islam” which may be equivalent with “Indonesian Islam (Islam Nusantara).” In the past there were such an idea like Ariga Bumpachiro’s “Japanese Islam (Nippon Isuramukyo)” and Abe Haruo’s “Mahayana Islam (Daijo Isuramu).” In the end he pointed out that we find nether such a claim nor the Sufism-based understanding of Islam in the contemporary Japan.

The second speaker was Danisman Idris (Ritsumeikan University), whose title of the presentation was “Religious Life and Religious Institutions beyond Borders: Is it Possible for the Mosques to be integrated with non-Muslim Urban spaces?” Focusing on the case of current Japanese mosques, he mainly talked about some arguments related to the issue of integration of Muslims and Islamic institutions especially the mosques into the Japanese society such as architectural features of the mosques in Japan, the extent of blending of the mosques in the urban silhouette of Japan. Firstly, he started with classification of the current mosques in Japan. After classifying the mosques into four types, which are, 1) “Prayer rooms” that were built inside main train stations, airports and some major department stores within the frame of the government-led project of “Muslim Friendly Japan” to attract Muslim tourists; 2) “Modificated mosques” that were originally built for other purposes but later reconstructed into mosques; 3) “Cultural centers along with prayer halls; 4) “Purpose-built mosques” that were built from the beginning for being mosques, he pointed out that, all types of the mosques are far from the situation of being integrated with the traditional city appearance of Japan. Then, he discussed the idea of mosque that is not extrinsic to Japanese urban space and local communities, arguing that such type of mosques could help the acceptance of mosques and Muslims in the local community. Finally Danisman, after sharing some of the primary results of his recent study on the mosques in Japan, concluded his talk with the need of study about the idea of the mosque per se in Islam, and conditions for a mosque in order to be accepted by the Japanese society.

The third speaker, Hirofumi Okai, presented a report entitled “The Function and Design of Japanese Masjids: Considering ‘Multicultural Conviviality’ within and outside Religious Institutions from the Discourse on ‘Design’.”He examined the discourse surrounding the ‘desirable design’ of Japanese mosques. Through this procedure, he aimed to explore the possibility of an approach that picks up on the diverse ‘desirability’ of the design of Japanese mosques and the factors associated with these diverse ‘desirability’.
In his presentation, he first referred to the functions of European mosques, showing that some of the functions arise in relation to the wider society and that design could be seen as a part of the function.
He then provided a brief analysis of the preliminary research. “‘Multicultural coexistence’ within a religious organization” and “‘Multicultural coexistence’ outside a religious organization” (Takahashi Norihito (2015) were used as the analytical framework.
The results revealed the existence of diverse ‘desirable designs’, such as an emphasis on foreign cultures, a fusion of the cultures of origin of local Muslims, and a fusion of Japanese and Islamic cultures. It was suggested that individual ‘desirable designs’ are deeply related to individual attributes (e.g. generation, gender, roots, majority/minority in the organization etc.) and life paths. These factors also generated negotiations, tensions, exclusions, agreements etc. between members when considering the design of the mosque. The narratives also suggested that the design of the mosque and the individual’s idea of ‘desirable design’ is influenced by factors that arise in the relationship with the wider society (e.g. ideas about the role of the mosque in the local community, non-Muslim residents’ attitudes towards Islam and mosques). Based on the above, it was pointed out that through discussions on the ‘desirable’ design of mosques as conceived by individuals/groups, it may be possible to capture part of the process of the integration of Islam in Japan.

In the general discussion after the three presentations, such questions as (1) which of theoretical and material levels should be pursued with more focus, (2) how the locality of Islam should be understood in the comparison with its globality, and (3) what does the concept of something “Japanese” means, were discussed

Takahashi, Norihito, 2015, Gendai Nihon no Tabunkakyosei to Shukyo: Konngo ni Muketa Kenkyudoko no Kento, The Bulletin of Faculty of Sociology,Toyo University, 52(2), 73-85,