CHIBA, Japan (AP) â€” Yohei Matsuyama breaks his daylong Ramadan swift with chopsticks. He's seated on the floor at a narrow table with a dozen other Japanese Muslim men & boys as they eat "gyudon," a dish consisting of rice topped with beef.
These Japanese Muslims are observing the holy month of Ramadan. The dawn-to-dusk fasting, which is an exercise in self-restraint, is intended to bring the faithful closer to God.
"Praying is very significant for me. Praying is more significant than work," said Matsuyama, 31, who does postdoctoral research on the history of Islamic thought at Tokyo University. He lives with his wife & 8-year-old daughter, to whom he teaches Arabic. His family is all Muslim.
p>Shinto & Buddhism are the predominant religions of Japan. The Japan Muslim Association, of which Matsuyama is the director, puts the number of native Japanese Muslims in the country at around 10,000.
Matsuyama's interest in religion began early. In junior high school, he was influenced by the Bible & considered himself a Christian. But he changed his mind a few years later, converting to Islam at the age of 18.
"I read the basic teachings of Islam on the Internet & thought that's the ultimate religion for me. So I decided to convert," he said.
"Perhaps I was a bit different from the average Japanese," said Matsuyama, who is moreover known by his Muslim name, Mujahid.
"My family (was) surprised approximately my conversion," he said. "But my family is open-minded."
Each day this week, The Associated Press will focus on a Muslim devotee living in the minority in the Asia-Pacific region, illustrating what the fasting month of Ramadan means to the Muslim community in that country.
Source: “Associated Press”