Muslim prayer room set up in Japanese shopping mall

Kyodo

A prayer room for Muslim shoppers opened Tuesday in an outlet mall in Chitose, Hokkaido, to serve an increasing number of tourists from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is the first prayer room for Muslims in a Japanese shopping facility, according to the operator of the Rera Chitose Outlet Mall and an Islamic organization that attended the ceremony to mark the room’s opening.

“I had a hard time hiding myself when I had to pray while I was away from home so that I wouldn’t be stared at. It would be helpful if there were more prayer rooms,” said Widya Sumi, an Indonesian who runs a catering business in nearby Sapporo.

The 30-sq.-meter room located in the mall’s bicycle-parking area has separate areas for men and women, ablution facilities and a mark on the ceiling to indicate the direction of Mecca.

The mall, located close to New Chitose Airport, has seen an increase in visitors from Southeast Asian countries over the past few years, the operator said.

The company decided to set up the prayer room, a common sight at malls in Europe, after some customers were seen praying in open spaces on the mall’s premises.