Publication Details

Yamagata, A. (2019). Perceptions of Islam and Muslims in Contemporary Japan. New Voices in Japanese Studies, 11 1-25.


In Japan, the population of Muslim residents is estimated to be only around 170,000; however, the number of Muslims visiting or living in Japan is expected to increase in the future. There have been some studies to date focusing on the development of Muslim communities in Japan, but there has only been limited discussion of perceptions of Islam and Muslims in Japan. In this article, I explore perceptions of Islam and Muslims by analysing incidences of official surveillance of Muslims in Japan, displays of anti-Islamic sentiment by ultra-conservative activists, and newspaper articles about Muslims in Japan. Following the recent influx of Muslim refugees into Europe, some European countries have experienced a rise in Islamophobia, while other countries have seen a rise in negative attitudes towards Muslims in the wake of terrorist incidents attributed to Islamic groups. Based on my analysis of media representations of Muslims in Japan, I consider how Islam and Muslims living in and coming to Japan are perceived, and explore the rationales behind these perceptions. In conclusion, I argue that Japan is showing a rising interest in Muslims as visitors or tourists, and that there is little evidence to indicate increasing negative attitudes towards them. In Japan's case, rather than inciting violence or hate speech, I contend that a recent rise of national pride in Japanese hospitality has encouraged Japanese people to be more welcoming to Muslims. I also provide an overview of the historical background and current situation of Muslims living in Japan to address the lack of English-language scholarship in this area.



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