事業報告

2014.02.13

「境界地域研究ネットワークJAPANの活動とシンクタンクの役割」        

公益社団法人北海道国際交流・協力総合センター(HIECC)  

調査研究部・上席研究員               

北太平洋地域研究室(NORPAC) 

高田 喜博

スライド1 スライド2 スライド3 スライド5 スライド4スライド6

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  スライド9スライド10 スライド11スライド12  スライド13 スライド17スライド15スライド14  スライド16  スライド18スライド19  スライド20スライド21  スライド22 スライド23 スライド24  スライド25 スライド26スライド27 スライド29 スライド28 スライド30 スライド31 スライド32 スライド34 スライド33 スライド36 スライド35 スライド37 スライド39 スライド38 スライド40 スライド42 スライド41 スライド43 スライド44 スライド45 スライド46 スライド47 スライド48 スライド49 スライド50

 

2013.08.30

新シルクロードと北海道

 HIECC調査研究部 研究員 吉村慎司

 

 

 現代版シルクロード誕生の序章とでも言うべき光景がそこにあった。中国と、その西隣にある中央アジア・カザフスタンとの境界エリアである。石油など地下資源で急成長するカザフは、国境の街「ホルゴス」を世界的な物流拠点にしようと、中国と合作で広大な保税特区を整備中だ。

カザフ地図・主要都市名入り201308作成

 

 筆者は8月上旬、中国・新疆ウイグル自治区の首府ウルムチで、このホルゴス経由でカザフの商都アルマティに向かう国際バスに乗り込んだ。国境付近までは半日強。出入国エリアで周囲を眺めると、両国側とも敷地内で建設車両が活発に動いており、ほぼ完成した物流倉庫や車両ターミナルも目に入る。「特区」の敷地は札幌ドーム95個分。来春とされる稼働の後には、両国のドライバーが域内をビザなしで往き来できるようになり、扱える貨物量が大幅に増えるという。

 場所が場所、ユーラシアの真ん中である。ヨーロッパへもアジアへも、いずれは中東方面へもアクセスできる全方位の物流拠点になるというわけだ。敷地内にはホテルや大型商業施設をつくり、将来は鉄道を敷く計画もあるという。両国政府は、特区に世界中から工場や在庫拠点を誘致するつもりだ。

ホルゴスの中国側バスターミナルは、カザフに向かう商人でいっぱい(中国・新疆ウイグル自治区)

中国側のホルゴスバスターミナルは、カザフに向かう商人でいっぱい(中国・新疆ウイグル自治区)

 特区は「ホルゴスICBCC(”International Cross-border Cooperation Center”の略)」という。プロジェクトに、カザフ側で日本の運送会社センコー(大阪市)が関わっている。国境地帯は撮影禁止なので写真で紹介することはできないが、筆者が目にした倉庫の一つは同社が現地企業と合弁で建てたものだ。

 旧ソ連という歴史的経緯もあってかカザフは日本では目立たない。だが現実には昨年の1人あたりGDP(国内総生産)は約1万2000ドルと中国の2倍。ASEAN諸国と比べればさらに高い水準にある。センコーは、「物流立国」へのいち早い参画で先行者利益をねらっている。

 数年前まではカザフに関わる日本企業と言えばエネルギー業界ぐらいで、あとは自動車・家電を除けばほとんどゼロだったようだが、今年に入り、消費拡大に着目したコンビニエンスストアのミニストップがアルマティに初出店した。

 カザフは厳冬など北海道との共通点もある。日本国内4カ所の名誉領事館のうち一つは札幌だ。道内経済界でもう少し話題になってもおかしくない国だと思うのだがどうだろう。


※GDPの出所は世界銀行HP
※2013年10月中旬発行予定のHIECC機関誌「季刊北方圏」にカザフ経済概況を掲載予定

2013.08.08

札幌初!イフタール・パーティー~断食明けの夕食会

8月7日(水) 18:15~20:30 於:アートホテルズ札幌

 

協賛のムハンマド・ビン・ラシード・アル・マクトゥーム国立人道慈善団体ロゴマーク

協賛のムハンマド・ビン・ラシード・アル・マクトゥーム国立人道慈善団体ロゴマーク

 札幌で初となる「イフタール・パーティー」がアートホテルズ札幌(加森観光㈱・中央区南9西2)で開催された。主催は宗教法人日本ムスリム協会(本部・東京都)で協賛はムハンマド・ビン・ラシード・アル・マクトゥーム国立人道慈善団体。ムハンマド氏はドバイ首長国首長であり、UAEの副大統領兼首相。諸外国におけるイスラームの普及に熱心に取り組み今回の宴のスポンサーである。この日は札幌在住ムスリム4名(日本人3名、インドネシア人1名)と招待された20数名の関係者らが参加した。「イフタール」という言葉はアラビア語でラマダーン月(断食月)の日没後最初に口にする食事のこと。日本でも2005年から首相官邸で毎年「イフタール」食事会を開催し、今年も7月31日に安倍首相が多くの駐日大使らを招いた。

sumisan

宗教法人日本ムスリム協会札幌連絡事務所代表のタウフィーク須見さん(右)

furu-tsu

フルーツの盛り合わせ

 冒頭に宗教法人日本ムスリム協会札幌連絡事務所代表のタウフィーク須見さんからラマダーンについて「私たちムスリムは太陰暦第9月がラマダーン月と定められ、六信五行に基づき断食斎戒を行います。厳格なイメージがあるイスラームですが、実際は非常に柔軟性に富む教えです。たとえば、ハラール(イスラーム的に許されること)に関しての判断は、個人の知識と経験が基準となります。仮に知らずに禁忌食を口にした場合、それは許されます」などと説明した。

kaishoku

アルコールではなく、ソフトドリンクが供される

 

 当日の日没時間は18時49分、時間になると須見さんを含む4人のムスリムは日没の礼拝を行うために別室に移動。その間招待客にはフルーツの盛り合わせが供され、断食斎戒明けの雰囲気を味わった。ほどなく祈祷を終えた4名のムスリムが戻ると、ホテルが用意したスモーガスボードに料理が運ばれ始める。須見さんが「ふつうは乾杯というところでしょうが、我々ムスリムはお酒を飲めませんので乾杯なしでどうぞ。お食事の方を始めてください」と笑いを誘い、和やかに会食が始まった。

ozen

どの料理も好評

sashimi

たこ、カツオ、サーモンのお刺身

 

ryouri3

ピラフ

 

ryouri1

肉と魚介類と野菜のソテー

 

ryouri6

ツブ貝を使用したシーフードサラダ風ディッシュ

 

ryouri4

牛肉のステーキとシメジのソテー

 

ryouri5

白身魚と野菜のオーブン香草焼き

 アートホテルズ札幌を運営する株式会社加森観光は昨年から、近年増加傾向にあるムスリム旅行者対応の一環としてハラールに気遣った食事を提供している。この春から、北区でインドネシア料理店を営むウィディアさんを「ムスリム・フード&トラベル・アドバイザー」として迎え、「ムスリム・フレンドリー」な食事の開発に取組んでいる。今回提供された食事もウィディアさん監修のもとに調理された。アルコール分を含まない調味料やハラールミートを使用するなど、コスト高にはなるが品質と安心感は高いという。「昨年は2000人位のムスリム客がルスツリゾートに宿泊しました。礼儀正しく、こちらからの好意には必ず感謝で応えてくれ、大変すばらしいお客様だと思いました。これからさらに多くのムスリムの方々に喜んでいただけるよう努力したい」と加森観光株式会社社長室長の仙野雅則さんは話す。

sennnosan

加森観光株式会社社長室長の仙野雅則さん(右)とムスリム・フード&トラベル・アドバイザーのウィディアさん

 

 メニューの中にはタコの刺身やツブ貝のサラダなど、道産食材を有効に利用した料理もあり、参加者からは「おいしい」「素材がいい」など賞賛の声が上がり、用意された料理は1時間ほどで完食された。最後に須見さんが「最近イスラーム、ムスリムに対する理解を深めるセミナー等を多く見かけ、喜ばしいことと思います。イスラームはあくまで信仰なので、セミナー等で紹介される表面的な部分は信仰の一部分にすぎないことにご留意いただいた方がよいかと思います。今後も「ムスリム・フレンドリー」をキーワードに互いの理解を深めていくことを願っています」と挨拶し、札幌初の「イフタール・パーティー」は終了した。

shuugou

参加者記念撮影

 

Interview with future zoo keepers from Sweden

Interviewer : HIECC Reserch Div. Senior Staff Takeo Moriuchi

 

In Sweden, after finishing compulsory school (Age 7~16), 98% students go on for the Upper Secondary school (Age 17~19) called “Gymnasieskola”. There, they can choose either college preparatory programs or vocational programs depending on their interests, and the proportion of the students is about 50/50. With the population size as Sweden (9.25 mil.), an efficient way to educate and produce skilled labor force through those vocational programs is crucial to assist strong economy. They play rather big role to build and sustain so called Folkhemmet- the people’s home. Mr. Pelle Nilsson and Ms. Jennifer Billgren, senior students at Himmelstalundsgymnasiet(upper secondary school in Norchopin) majoring zoo keeping in the vocational program, participated in the School Exchange Program initiated by Hokkaido International Exchange and Cooperation Center(HIECC) this May and finished internship training at Sapporo Maruyama Zoo. I interviewed with Pelle and Jennifer.

 IMG_2712

-When did you decide to study zoo keeping?

Pelle About fourteen or fifteen years old.

Jennifer About thirteen years old.

 

-Sounds very early to decide your life plan, especially compared with Japanese standards. Didn’t you have any worry?

Pelle Not really, cause it’s kind of a normal thing to do in Sweden. And, if you feel you want to change the course of your life plan, you can still go to the adult education program to learn new things to pursue new carrier and that’s also common in Sweden.

 IMG_5464

 

IMG_5525

-So you think the education system in Sweden is functioning well in that sense?

Jennifer I think so especially in the sense that our education system offers many different choices after the compulsory education. Sometimes it’s easier for young people to be introduced to the varieties of vocational courses rather than vaguely pursuing the liberal arts course.

 DSC09867

 

IMG_5574

-What subjects students can choose other than zoo keeping in your school?

Pelle Gardening, Pet animal keeping, Dog training, to become an assistant of veterinarian. Those majors are probably rare in my country, and other schools offer subjects such as business, IT related subjects and engineering and so on.

 

-What’s your plan after graduating from the Secondary school?

Pelle I will be working for the local zoo as zookeeper for three months. I hope I will be able to continue working there after three months.

Jennifer I am planning to join the training program for zoo keeper in South Africa safari. I also want to continue working there even after the program finishes cause’ I love big animal.

 

-You guys really like animal, don’t you? Do you have any pet home?

Pelle Two dogs, two lizards and a snake. I love reptiles. And of course the moose, the wild bear and the wolves outside the house.

Jennifer I have thirteen tropical fish in the 150 liter aquarium. Very beautiful to watch. And of course two cats, one is called Mozart, and two rabbits. Very cute.

 

-Did you see any difference between the Swedish zoo and the Japanese one?

Pelle Distance between the spectators and the cages. Japanese people are lucky to be able to appreciate animals at such a short distance whereas safety distance must be taken much wider in Sweden.

 DSC09961

 

DSC09955

-How was the internship training program at Maruyama zoo?

Jennifer It was very interesting experience because there were many opportunities to actually touch and communicate with animals. It is very important to touch and feel the animals for those want to become zoo keeper. I also learned the importance of cleaning cages. The most difficult task I experienced there was to clean cages at children’s zoo where pony and smaller animals were kept.  The zoo keepers at Maruyama Zoo were open-minded and cool. They were really good role models. I want to become like them.

 

-I heard you’ve been to Asahiyama Zoo as well. Any impressions in particular?

Pelle They exhibits animals in very unique ways. More dynamic, I would say. And Maruyama zoo was in a baby-rush which means animals there were feeling less stress enough to reproduce. Maruyama zoo is good environment both for animals and human spectators.

 DSC09945

 

DSC09899

-What would you say the very first thing you want to do after going back to Sweden?

Pelle I want to see my girlfriend.

Jennifer I want to give a big hug to my cats.

 

※平成24年度北海道日本ロシア協会第7回通常総会時の基調講演(2/27於:かでる2・7)時の基調講演をまとめたものです。

↓         ↓         ↓

https://www.hiecc.or.jp/takada.nichiro.pdf

2013.5.8

※北海道新聞2013年5月1日付朝刊コラム「観測気流」に大幅に加筆しました。

サハリン州が見せる「本気度」


 安倍晋三首相のロシア訪問を前にした4月24日、サハリン州が東京でPRイベント「サハリン 経済・投資ポテンシャル ビジネスフォーラム」を開いた。筆者も参加してきたので、会場の様子と印象を記しておきたい。

 

 一言で言えば、ロシアの地方政府のイベントとは思えないような豪華なフォーラムだった。

 

 開催告知のパンフレットに、このイベントのためだけにつくられた特製ロゴマークが載っているのを見た時点で、ずいぶん凝ってるな、という印象を持っていた。

 

 会場は東京タワー近くにあるホテル「ザ・プリンス パークタワー東京」の地下大ホール。当日会場に入ると、州の象徴である帆船をかたどった大型オブジェとともに特製ステージが目に飛び込んできた。300人分以上と思われる座席は、日露双方の参加者で大方埋まっている。首脳会談の直前というタイミングも手伝い、後方には10台前後のテレビカメラが並んでいる。会場正面の壁には左右に巨大スクリーンが備え付けられ、会スタートの午前11時をまわると軽快な音楽をバックに州のPR映像が流れ出した。

 

 DSC_0045

 

 

 ロシアの地方政府が東京でプレゼンすること自体は珍しくないが、普通、参加者は数十人規模だ。会場も大使館や、ホテル内でも一般的な大会議室であることが多い。サハリンのイベントは、それとは明らかに違っていた。

 

 午前のメーンとして登壇したアレクサンドル・ホロシャビン知事は、この言葉でスピーチを始めた。「今日は特別な日です。サハリン州が、40年以上にわたる日本との交流史の中で、初めて日本の首都でイベントを開くからです」。

 

 ご存じの方も多いと思うが、サハリン州は3年半前にも東京での投資説明会開催を計画していた。だが、北方領土問題が原因で、日本総領事館が訪問団の一部に訪日ビザ発行を認めず、イベントそのものが中止になった経緯がある。そうした意味でも今回は満を持しての開催だったと言えるだろう。

 

 知事は水産、医療など多くの分野に言及したが、持ち時間の半分をエネルギー関連の話題に割き、中でも、ロシアから日本への送電システム「エネルギー・ブリッジ」を架ける構想を強調した。

 

 プログラムは、午前が全体会合、午後は4つの分科会という2部構成だった。分科会は「エネルギーと輸送インフラ」「水産加工・林業」「観光」「地域間交流」に分かれ、同時進行した。筆者が出席したエネルギー分科会では、送電プロジェクトの当事者であるRAO東電力システム社のトルストグゾフ会長が計画を説明。また、サハリンの石炭産業や風力発電の現状、またサハリンと大陸を鉄道で結ぶ計画など、日本では情報が少ない分野のプレゼンが続き、100人を超える日本人参加者が耳を傾けた。

 

 全体会合、分科会を通して30人以上のロシア人がプレゼンを披露したが、スクリーンに映る資料のほとんどが日本語化されていたのも印象的だった。筆者の経験では、こうした場ではどちらかといえば英語資料が使われることの方が多い。人口の割に日本語通訳・翻訳者の層が厚いサハリンならではだ。

 資料は紙では配られず、USBメモリで、原則パワーポイントファイルで全参加者に配られた。メモリには今回のイベントロゴがしっかり貼ってあり、やはりロゴの入った特製の手提げ袋に入れられていて、おまけにペンとノートもついてくる。

 

 ちなみに午前・午後をつなぐ昼食は、立食形式で無料だった。ホロシャビン知事主催の夕食会に至っては、結婚式の披露宴さながらに着席式の丸テーブルが20脚以上並び、ロシア人歌手グループの歌声が響く中でコース料理が振る舞われた。

 

 DSC_0390

 

 国際的な資源開発事業「サハリン・プロジェクト」が稼働するサハリン州は、ロシアでも指折りの経済発展地域である。宗谷岬からわずか50㌔弱。プーチン大統領が極東での日露経済協力を強調する中で、対日アピールに力を入れてきたのは明らかだった。

 

 少々、演出過剰感を覚えないでもない。おそらく参加していた日本人は今のサハリンについて一定の知識を持つ人も多く、なにもここまでやらなくても経済発展の事実ぐらいわかってるよ、と感じた人も多かっただろう。

 

 しかしその一方で、あまり関心のない日本人からは、いまだ物不足の貧しい国として見られがちなロシアである。首脳会談前、中央メディアも集まる東京でのプレゼンとあっては、やり過ぎぐらいのアピールも、立派な作戦だったのかもしれない。

(了)

Muslim community in Hokkaido

Article and Translation

By

Takeo Moriuchi

Senior Staff, Research Div.

Hokkaido International Exchange and Cooperation Center

Friday Prayer meeting

Friday Prayer meeting

 

Friday Prayer Meeting at Sapporo Masjid

Noon time at Sapporo Masjid in cold winter. A number of Muslims came inside the masjid as adhan being sung by a man with strong vibrato. “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Come to prayer, Come to prayer; Come to success, Come to success.” They prostrated themselves as they started getting into prayer. Imam started today’s speech on importance to live by Halal standard. “Use your caution when you are tempted to eat something you are not supposed to eat or not sure about especially when you are absorbed in your research study. It is easy to simply give in to your appetite. But that’s the time when you should think of Allah and gravity of halal.” Speech was conducted in English since Mr. Tawfeeq Sumi and I was the only Japanese among over sixty multi raced crowd, mostly students of Hokkaido University. Among those, major group were South-Eastern Asians and Middle-Eastern people, and some Africans are sparsely mixed. Friday is designated as the day for group prayer meeting according to Islamic law, and Sapporo Masjid strictly follow that rule. More than hundred Muslims gather together at its peak.

札幌マスジド外観

Sapporo Masjid

IMG_1954

Prayer Session

 

Muslim Population in Hokkaido

Japanese government does not provide with official demographic statistical data based on religious belief. According to Pew Research Institute in the U.S., more than 185,000 Muslims inhabit in Japan (2010). Among those, how many Muslims are in Hokkaido alone? According to rough calculation to estimate the number, a thousand strong Muslims are currently living in Hokkaido. The number is calculated through the number of foreign residents in Hokkaido multiplied by the Muslim ratio of respective countries. For instance, when one hundred Egyptians are living in Hokkaido and Muslim ratio in Egypt is 90%, one hundred multiplied by 0.9 equals to ninety Egyptian Muslims, are likely to inhabit in Hokkaido. Although the figure might not be 100% accurate, one thousand residents account for 4.5% of total foreign population in Hokkaido. The figure would increase if those spouses converted into Muslim or Japanese Muslims are taken into consideration. Among those one thousand Muslim residents, Indonesians account for two hundred, Bengalis, Malaysians, Pakistanis and Egyptians account for hundred each. Majority of those are said to be international students and researchers studying in Universities in greater Sapporo area. And there are some used car dealers or restaurant owners who determined to stay in Hokkaido for good as well.

Bulletin board

Bulletin board

 

Hokkaido Islamic Society

There are two mosques in Hokkaido. One in Sapporo city and other one in Otaru city, and both are serving as divine places for devoted Muslims in Hokkaido. Sapporo Masjid is managed by Hokkaido Islamic Society (HIS). They originally started their activity at rented space near Hokkaido University in mid-1990s and eventually purchased a used house at the price of thirty two million yen in 2007. All the cost was paid by sadaqa, namely voluntary donation by Muslims in Hokkaido and from elsewhere. When you look at the facade of the building, it is hard to notice that the building is serving as mosque because the building is not decorated with any Islamic architectural symbol such as minaret. However as you enter the building, hints of Islamic decoration and functional renovation can be seen everywhere. Two prayer rooms which are covered with beautiful Islamic patterned green carpet, one for Muslims (male) and the other for Muslimas (female) . Even “Mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of  Mecca) ” in the prayer room is properly set. The washing place for ritual purification “Wudu” is placed at the entrance of the mosque. And of course you can find Qurans in the bookshelves everywhere. HIS was initially established as a private organization by a group of Hokkaido University students in 1992, and then designated as religious cooperation in 2010 by Hokkaido prefectural government. The director is elected yearly, and incumbent director is Mr. Chowdhury A.R.M Myeenuddin from Bangladesh. Sapporo Masjid also offers places for over-night stay to fellow Muslims traveling to Sapporo from around the world, and sometime organizes Islamic study meeting. No serious conflict against neighbors was reported so far, except for occasional ill-mannered bicycle parking at wrong place by frequent visitor to the Masjid. Religious persecution is none to be seen.

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House Map

 

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Washing Place for purification(WUDU)

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Japanese Quran

Islamic Cemetery

HIS started managing Islamic cemetery some ten years ago. When you are dead in Japan you are cremated in the most cases, which is not commonly practiced in Islamic countries (and Christian, Jewish countries of course). Thus Muslims in Japan are having difficulty finding their cemetery since only three or four Islamic cemeteries where burial is allowed are available. One of them is located in Yoichi, a fishery town two hour’s drive away from Sapporo. Yoichi cemetery initially allowed devout Christians who were searching place for burial near Sapporo, followed by devout Muslims who also were desperately in need of one. Currently 32 plots (128㎡) are allocated for HIS and several deceased are buried peacefully in well managed cemetery. One hundred thousand yen is required as an initial cost for burial and sadaqa as voluntary donation is collected for ongoing maintenance thereafter.

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Mr. Chowdhury A.R.M Myeenuddin(Right)

 

Surging Islamic Tourism in Hokkaido

The very first prayer room built in commercial shopping mall in Japan was introduced at Chitose Outlet Mall Rera last summer. Shortly after a temporary prayer room was built in New Chitose Airport to welcome tourists from ASEAN countries who flew with seasonal chartered flight to Hokkaido. Each prayer room is equipped with indication in direction to Mecca and washing place for purification (Rera only). The number of the tourists from abroad to Japan in general after 3.11 disaster declined sharply, meanwhile tourists from ASEAN countries have been on the steady increase. In the past, overseas Chinese were the dominant tourists from ASEAN countries, but now more Muslims are visiting Japan as their economic status being boosted. Rusutsu resort owned by Kamori Kanko Co., Ltd. made the first move in order to go with this big tide. They said they cannot ignore gigantic Islamic market, 1.6 billion worldwide, 200 million ASEAN areas alone. Kamori Kanko acquired so called “local halal certificate” authorized by Malaysia Halal Corporation, Malaysian company to check, instruct and confer certificate to those who want to be authorized as “Halal”. The biggest challenge for any Muslims to face in Japan is food problem. Because one cannot expect English explanation of food ingredients to be indicated in the supermarket or even in decent restaurants which cater western food. So, Kamori Kanko is expecting Muslim customers to be worry-free about food served at their hotels by emphasizing that they are serving halal food. Already several big orders by tourists largely consist of Muslims were placed and they are confident with its strong response. It makes perfect sense that improving halal situation in Hokkaido helps to increase Islamic tourists to Hokkaido. Japan Tourism Agency also keeps its eyes on recent surge of Islamic tourists to Japan, and held a seminar in Tokyo in February on how tourism sectors should be prepared for Muslim tourists. Hokkaido is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan from ASEAN areas and need to work out a strategy to take in tourists from those areas in the most efficient way. Mr. Arif Hanif, the president of used car and heavy machine exporting company in Sapporo says, “Hokkaido is undoubtedly good place for Muslims to live in, in the sense that people are very kind and there is no worry to be exposed to malicious religious persecutions, let alone racial discrimination. However Japanese people ought to know that it is extremely important for Muslims to identify food ingredient. If Hokkaido wishes to receive more Muslim tourists from abroad, English menu at restaurants, to say the least, and desirably indication of ingredients at supermarkets is the one single most thing to be improved.” It wouldn’t be so difficult now that indication of allergic substance on the package of any processed food is legal mandatory in Japan.

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Prayer Room in RERA

Prayer Room in RERA

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Prayer Room in New Chitose International Airport

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Interview with Mr. Tawfeeq Sumi, the representative of Japan Muslim Association, Hokkaido sector. Mr. Sumi came to believe in Islam 10 years ago, followed by marriage with Indonesian spouse. He is devoted Muslim who paid pilgrimage to Mecca twice.

(Interviewer : Takeo Moriuchi, HIECC)

 

—–What would you say the appeal of Islam?

“First of all, Islam is easy religion. It somehow resembles to Japanese moral sense -Dotoku-  in many ways, thus it was easy for me to accept the teaching of Islam. And Islam basically does not need medium such as priests or Buddhist monk to communicate with Allah. Thus you don’t have to have such a feeling being forced to believe in the teaching, which can sometimes happen during a pursuit of any religious life. You can develop your sense of connection with Allah at your own pace. The number of Muslims in Hokkaido is increasing recently. I witnessed three new Muslims last year. This trend seems to continue.”

 

—–Is there any special feeling being Muslim in Hokkaido?

“I have this impression that most Japanese people view any religious activity through the filter made up by the media such as television or books, or in many cases completely indifferent to it. Especially towards Muslims, the negative propaganda which swept away all over the world after 9・11 seemed to have heavily influenced the mindset of Japanese people. I have not encountered any religious persecution so far in Sapporo, however I came across interesting experience caused by people’s ignorance about Islam. I was walking down the street with several Muslim friends, and someone reported to Police station just because we were there walking peacefully. (smile) I assume our attire might have been too conspicuous to pass by. I just hope that people can learn something about Islam through such kind of experience.

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Mr. Tawfeeq Sumi

 

——Is there any advice for Japanese people as the number of Muslim tourists to Hokkaido increases?

“If you are in the position to meet with Muslim tourists on a regular basis, it is best if you can gain basic information about Islam. It is not easy to categorize Muslims as one unified body since they are different according to countries, areas or ethnic backgrounds with different cultures. And of course there are those who are completely devoted ones, and rather loose ones. After all, they are all different individuals with same belief, so impression you receive from Muslims may differ in great variation.

 

—–Do you have any expectation on the part of administration side in terms of preparing to receive Muslims as tourists?

“I expect people in the administrative side to have correct information on Muslims. It is undeniable that preparedness to receive Islam tourists in Japan is far behind compared to any other developed countries. It is good that now Japan is willing to take Islam population as huge tourism market, but, at the same time, Japan needs to be internationalized in more balanced manner. What I mean is that you need to know who your guests are in order to render proper service to those who pay visit to Japan. Knowing your guests is the first step to show hospitality. If you keep showing your best hospitality that eventually leads to the increase of tourists to Hokkaido. Hokkaido has the big potential to become popular tourist’s destination worldwide. It is my strong belief that bringing Muslims in Hokkaido is a big chance to invigorate Hokkaido itself in many aspects.”

 

(This article was originally published in Japanese in “HOPPOKEN No.163”, and translated into English by Moriuchi. Note that any translation error and provision of incorrect information attributes to Moriuchi. )

 


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