The first modern Muslim contacts were with Malays who served aboard British and Dutch ships in the late 19th century. In the late 1870s, the life of Prophet Muhammad was translated into Japanese. This helped Islam spread and reach the Japanese people, but only as a part of the history of cultures.
Another important contact was made in 1890 when the Ottoman Empire dispatched a naval vessel to Japan for the purpose of saluting the visit of Japanese Prince Komatsu Akihito to Constantinople several years earlier. This frigate was called the Ertugrul, and was destroyed in a storm along the coast of Wakayama Prefecture on the evening of September 16, 1890.
The first Japanese to go on the Hajj was Kotaro Yamaoka. He converted to Islam in 1909 in Bombay, after coming into contact with Russian-born writer, Abdürreşid İbrahim, whereupon he took the name Omar Yamaoka. Both were traveling with the support of nationalistic Japanese groups like the Black Dragon Society (Kokuryūkai), Yamaoka in fact had been with the intelligence service in Manchuria since the Russo-Japanese war. His official reason for travelling was to seek the Sultan's approval for building a mosque in Tokyo (completed 1938). This approval, granted 1910, was necessary as Sultan Abdülhamid II of the Ottoman Empire was the Khalifah of Islam and Ameerul Mu'mineen (the leader of all Muslims).
Another early Japanese convert was Bunpachiro Ariga, who about the same time went to India for trading purposes and converted to Islam under the influence of local Muslims there, and subsequently took the name Ahmed Ariga.
Yamada Toajiro was from 1892 for almost twenty years the only resident Japanese trader in Istanbul. During this time he served unofficially as consul. He converted to Islam, and took the name Abdul Khalil, and made a pilgrimage to Mecca on his way home.
The real Muslim community life however did not start until the arrival of several hundred Turko-Tatar Muslim refugees from Central Asia and Russia in the wake of the October Revolution. These Muslims, who were given asylum, in Japan settled in several main cities around Japan and formed small communities. They are estimated at less than 600 in 1938 for Japan proper, a few thousand on the continent. Some Japanese converted to Islam through the contact with these Muslims.
The Kobe Mosque was built in 1935 with the support of the Turko-tatar community of traders there. The Tokyo Mosque, planned since 1908 was finally completed in 1938, with generous financial support from the zaibatsu. Its first imams were Abdürreşid İbrahim (1857–1944), who had returned in 1938, and Abdulhay Qorbangali (1889–1972). Japanese Muslims played little role in building these mosques.
There are currently between 30 and 40 single-story mosques in Japan, plus another 100 or more apartment rooms set aside, in the absence of more suitable facilities, for prayers. Many Muslim communities have plans to build mosques in the near future.
Mohammad, 38, runs an Asian grocery store in Tsunashima, Yokohama. The Sri Lankan had 520,000 yen in savings, and was thinking of donating 300,000 yen towards the purchase of the mosque. He changed his mind and donated 500,000 yen, virtually emptying his account.
He says: "When you make a contribution to a mosque, God prepares a house for you in heaven. It's thanks to God that I've been able to make my way in Japan up to now. And God will continue to help me in future."
Mohammed, the seventh-century founder of Islam, was a merchant of Mecca, and many passages in the Koran reflect a merchant's manner of thinking -- as, for example: "Who is there who will lend a good loan to God? For He will double it for him, and for him is a generous reward."
The deadline for payment of the 90 million yen was 11 am July 20. On July 10, the community was still 5 million yen short. Iqbal worked the phones, contacting foreign Muslims all over Japan. On the morning of July 20, 2 million yen arrived in cash. That, plus contributions forwarded directly to a special bank account, just made up the required amount.
In Nagoya, local foreign Muslims, most of them used car dealers, got together and purchased for 46 million yen a suburban building that had previously been a clothing store, turning it into the Nagoya Port Mosque, which opened last autumn.
"Wherever in the world Muslims live, it's only natural that there be a mosque," says Hanif, a 36-year-old Sri Lankan. - See more at: http://www.japanfocus.org/-kawakami-yasunori/2436#sthash.oQqnTReT.dpuf