TOKYO (Reuters) – For the thousands of Muslim athletes, officials, and supporters who will be coming to the Tokyo Olympics later this year, finding a suitable place to pray could be a struggle.
A mobile mosque on the back of a truck, which is a portable solution for Muslims looking for a safe and clean place to pray, will be parked on February 5, 2020 in a parking lot in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS / Jack Tarrant
The answer might be to roam the streets of Tokyo on the back of a truck.
Until the start of the games in July, prayer rooms will be available in the sports village under construction. However, some venues may not have a dedicated area.
There is also a lack of prayer rooms in hotels and public areas in the Japanese capital.
This is where the Mobile Mosque comes in, a fully equipped, 48 square meter prayer room that opens on the back of a parked truck.
The rear of the modified truck can be expanded in seconds. The vehicle also includes Arabic signage and outdoor taps for cleaning before the service.
The Yasu Project, the organization behind the company, plans to perform outside of the venues during the Olympic Games, which run from July 24th to August 9th.
The organization's CEO, Yasuharu Inoue, hopes that both athletes and supporters will use the truck.
“I want the athletes to start with the greatest motivation and to cheer the audience on with the greatest motivation. That's why I did it, ”said Inoue, pointing to the white truck that was parked next to the Tokyo Tower on Wednesday.
"I hope it raises awareness that there are many different people in this world and promotes a non-discriminatory, peaceful Olympics and Paralympics."
Tokyo 2020 announced on Wednesday that they were looking for different ways to provide adequate facilities to all religious groups.
"The organizing committee is preparing a list of religious or religious centers that can be contacted or visited at the request of villagers during the games," Tokyo 2020 told Reuters in an email.
"In the venues of the games, prayer rooms for athletes and spectators in different faiths are taken into account when planning the operation of the venue."
According to an investigation by Waseda University, there were 105 mosques in Japan at the end of 2018. However, since these are spread across the country and many are small and on the outskirts of Tokyo, it may be difficult for Muslims who have to pray five times a day.
Inoue said he has spoken to several Olympic committees, most recently Indonesia, to help their athletes.
Topan Rizki Utraden, an Indonesian who has lived in Japan for 12 years, first came to the Mobile Mosque with his daughter.
He said it could be difficult to find a quiet place to pray in Japan, especially outside of Tokyo.
"It is really difficult to find mosques near you," said Utraden.
“When you are in the city, there is no problem, but when you take a trip outside of Tokyo, it is difficult.
"Sometimes I pray in a park, but sometimes the Japanese look at me like" What are you doing? "
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; additional reporting from Sarah Aoyagi; Edited by Christian Radnedge