Does Japan Forbid Islam?

Courtesy of Steve Reichert, with over 1,700 likes and 1,700 shares.  This meme about Japan restricting Islam is false on almost every claim it makes, and some are real whoppers.

It’s true that there aren’t a great deal of Muslims, or Muslim immigrants in Japan, but there aren’t a lot of immigrants period in Japan.  Like many Asian countries, Japan is quite homogeneous.  In 2010, only 13,072 people were given Japanese citizenship, and 11,600 of those were Korean or Chinese, leaving less than 2,000 new citizens from elsewhere in the world.  To put that in context, Japan has more than 1/3 the population of the US, yet in 2014 the US naturalized 654,949 citizens!

Given the reality of Japan’s highly restrictive immigration system for every immigrant, let’s look at each claim in the meme.

Japan doesn’t give citizenship or permanent residency to Muslims.

Not true.  The Japanese Constitution is pretty clear in its protection of religion:

Article 20: Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. 2) No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious acts, celebration, rite or practice. 3) The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.

Of course, like the US, it’s possible that Japan ignores its constitution, so we need to look a little deeper.  Japan doesn’t require groups to disclose their religious affiliation, so it’s difficult to know the exact number of residents, but according to the US State Department, there were an estimated 63,000 Muslims residing in Japan in 2005.  Not a lot, but keep in mind the small amount of total immigrants above.

Remember, gaining Japanese citizenship is very difficult.  One must live in Japan for at least 5 years, be at least 20 years old, have a clean record, be able to speak/read/write Japanese, and submit many documents related to one’s job and motive to be a citizen.  This will naturally exclude most immigrants.  However, an applicant does not need to disclose their religion during the residency or citizenship process, and Japan claims to approve 99% of these applications, so there’s no reason to conclude Muslims are excluded.

Propagation of Islam in Japan is banned

The Tokyo Camii, the largest mosque in Japan

Not true, see Article 20 of their constitution above.  There are several mosques in Japan, including this one in Tokyo.  A quick Google search brings up, whose stated objectives are:

  • Arrange Quran classes for the Muslim kids and adults living in Japan
  • Improve public image of Islam and the Muslims living in the country
  • Cover actual events and other news related to foreign Muslim organizations and embassies
  • Provide news/views and other events related to the Muslim communities in the country

The University of Japan does not teach Islam

True, but only because there is no University of Japan!  It doesn’t exist.  Other universities, like Tokyo University, offer courses in Arabic studies.  See for yourself.

Japan is the only country in the world with negligible number of embassies in Islamic countries.

Not true, unless one has a bizarre use of the word, “negligible”.  According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have embassies in almost every country, including Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  The notable exception to this is that the Syrian embassy is currently suspended, due to the murders of Japanese hostages there.

One cannot import a Koran in Arabic

Not according to the constitution, or to Amazon Japan. Get yours today for only 2,500 yen! (about $20)

Muslims must follow Japanese law and language

Somewhat true, as all people in Japan must follow their laws.  That’s not exactly unique to Japan.  As far as language, it’s certainly not illegal to speak foreign languages in Japan, but you do need to speak the native tongue to gain citizenship.

Muslims cannot rent a house

Mostly untrue. There is nothing outlawing Muslims in particular from renting a house.  The reality is that it’s difficult for any foreigner, Muslim or not, to rent in Japan.  One must first get a “guarantor” who’s Japanese to vouch for them, and generally must speak the language. Many places will not rent to any foreigners, due to a variety reasons.  If a landlord does agree, generally the equivalent of 6 months rent is due up front!  There could definitely be discrimination against Muslims (or any group) with particular landlords, but it appears to be based not on religion, but the skepticism that the tenant will pay.

There is no Sharia Law in Japan

True, there’s only Japanese law.


It’s pretty rare to find a meme with this many errors!  The worst part is that even if they were true, it still wouldn’t make it right to follow those policies, as they would be in direct violation of our constitution and any rational view of liberty.

2 Comments on "Does Japan Forbid Islam?"

  1. Thanks so much for this! I live in Japan, and it all seemed like total BS. Thanks for confirming for me that it is!

  2. Thanks for that, I found it very informative. It is very good to have someone point out the anomalies in the original report. In particular, I really admire that an immigrant, of any nationality, is required to speak, read and write Japanese prior to being granted citizenship. It’s a shame that Australia and other Western countries don’t demand this of those seeking to adopt our country as their own.

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