But not many realize that Kobe is also where Japan’s first and oldest mosque is located.
Founded in 1935, the mosque is situated in Kitano-cho, one of Kobe city’s more well-known tourist areas, according to star2.com. It stands juxtaposed among the historical European-style buildings there, some of which can be visited.
The mosque was constructed through donations collected by the Islamic Committee of Kobe from 1928 to 1935, from Indian, Tatar and Turkish Muslims living in the neighborhood. Although the property was confiscated by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1943, it continues to function as a mosque today.
The architecture of the mosque is rather unique. It was built in the traditional Indian style by a Czech architect Jan Josef Svagr (1885-1969) who also designed several other religious buildings in Japan.
Because of its structure and basement, the mosque survived through the air raids that decimated the city in 1945 during World War II. It also survived the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.
The prayer room comprises an elegant chandelier and ornate carpeting.
The mosque is open to all visitors; operating hours are from 10am to 5pm.
Muslims in Japan are small in number and diverse in ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds, and geographic location.
The true size of the current Muslim population in Japan remains a matter of speculation. Japanese scholars such as Hiroshi Kojima of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research and Keiko Sakurai of Waseda University suggest a Muslim population of around 70,000, of which perhaps 90% are resident foreigners and about 10% native Japanese. Of the immigrant communities, in order of population size, are Indonesians, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Iranians. The Pew Research Center estimated that there were 185,000 Muslims in Japan in 2010.