Prayer Room for Muslim Elementary Students in Japan
This year, I picked up an interpreting job at the local city hall.
As an interpreter, my job is to interpret Japanese to Bahasa Indonesia (and vice versa) for Indonesian and Malaysian parents and students in various school settings.
Recently, a large number of Malaysian families came to Japan and they currently reside at Ikeda, an area 20 minutes away (by bike) from where I currently live. Due to this, there has been a surge of enrollment of Malaysian students at the local kindergarten and public schools, and I help translate these kids who are completely foreign to the Japanese language.
Now, as much as I love kids and always find joy interacting with them, what left the biggest impression on me today was not them, but the school itself.
You see, there are 13 Malaysian kids in this school.
Since most of these kids are Muslim, it only makes sense that schools accommodate their religious necessities, which include dietary requirements, prayer facilities, etc. I was not entirely surprised that the girls hardly felt out of place in their hijab, or at the fact that the teachers knew about their dietary restrictions. This much is basic knowledge.
However, out of the many schools I’ve heard about (and personally visited), I genuinely believe this school is doing the best in terms of the prayer facilities. While the other schools do provide a room for students to sneak into during prayer times, this was the first time I’ve seen a school prepare a room with ‘PRAYER ROOM’ written in bold on the door.
Up to this point, you might think – but this is the essentials. A prayer room need at least this much. Nothing amazing about this.
Well, let’s remember that this is Japan we’re talking about. Osaka University was only able to give us this much in 2017, but it’d only be weird if a top global university does not provide something like this given the number of foreign students.
To see this provided at an elementary school when these students are likely not going to stay in Japan for that long, it’s a stop towards progress that I am extremely happy to witness with my own two eyes.
I genuinely believe Japan is in a good place regarding the provision of basic religious necessities. I can only hope they will improve their efforts beyond the essentials moving forward.
Here’s to us,