But locals are wary of building facilities for them
Every friday scores of Muslim men and women stream into a mosque in an unassuming four-storey building in Beppu, a hot-spring mecca on Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s big islands. Many are students who study nearby at Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University (apu) and work part-time at the hotels around town. Others have come to man the fishing boats and shipyards that the ageing and shrinking local population can no longer fully staff.
The ranks of worshippers have grown in recent years, as the government has sought to attract more foreign workers and students. The number of Muslims living in Japan, though small, has more than doubled in the past decade, from 110,000 in 2010 to 230,000 at the end of 2019 (including as many as 50,000 Japanese converts), according to Tanada Hirofumi of Waseda University. The country boasts more than 110 mosques. That is a welcome change, notes Muhammad Tahir Abbas Khan, a professor at apu and the head of the Beppu Muslim Association (bma). In 2001, when he first arrived from Pakistan as a graduate student, there were only 24 mosques in the country and not a single one on Kyushu.