Japan and Islam until Meiji Era

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Translation / 翻訳

In 1275, China’s Yuan dynasty dispatched a 5 people mission to Japan.  Two of them were Muslims.  However, Japan’s Kamakura Shogunate (Japanese government then) cut their heads.  It angered Yuan dynasty, invading Japan twice.  However, Yuan dynasty’s army got serious damage from typhoon.  In Japan, they called it Kamikaze (god wind).

Japan is far away from the Islamic world, there had been a little knowledge about Islam before the Meiji era. Korea’s Lee dynasty (1397-1910) did not accept the faith of Islam.  The European countries such as Spain and Portugal were eager to propagate Christianity, converting Filipino Muslims to Christians.  Thus, Islam was not introduced into Japan. Especially Edo Shogunate closed Japan from the outside world.  Unlike the Southeast Asia, Muslim merchant s never had chance to come to Japan for tradings.

During Meiji Era, Japan paid much attention to European countries’ developments, industries, technologies and political system.  Japan’s view regarding the Islamic world came from European countries. So, it was not right and correct view and somewhat biased.

European countries forced Japan extraterritoriality and did not admit tariff autonomy.

So some Japanese including then minister of agriculture and commerce, Tateki Tani had sympathy with colonized country in the Middle East, especially Arabi Revolution in Egypt of 1882, visiting Ahmad Arabi in Sri Lanka.  Japan tried to maintain its national identity and attain modernization at the same time, sent missions to Egypt to study Egyptian legal system in 1872 and 1886. At that time Egypt was combining Sharia and European law orders.

However, after Japan had become to govern Korea and had ambition about China, Japan’s political leaders had positive view s about European domination in the Middle East. 

Ceiling of Tokyo Camii

In 1887, Emperor family member, Komatsunomiya Akihito paid a courtesy visit to Abdulhamid Ⅱ.  In response to this visit, Abdulhamid Ⅱ sent major general Ottoman Pasha to give supreme decoration to Meiji Emperor.  However, Ottoman Pasha’s battleship “Ertuğrul was sunk in to the sea near Wakayama prefecture in Japan.  The local people devotedly help the crew, shaping Turkish people’s pro-Japan feelings.  Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japan war was regarded the victory of Asians against European imperialism in the Islamic countries.  However, it was actually the war between imperialistic powers.

Turkish young people were cheering Japan during Great East Japan Earthquake.

Featured image:

Japanese actress, Shiori Kutsuna who appeares in movie “Ertuğrul 1890”

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