Photo/IllutrationForeign tourists walk around the Naiku inner shrine of Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

ISE, Mie Prefecture--Plans to set up a Muslim prayer room near Ise Jingu shrine next year have been scrapped after a flurry of complaints from the public, city officials said March 8.

A section of a public tourist information center about 800 meters from the Naiku inner shrine was to be renovated to make a “multipurpose room” containing a marker to indicate the direction of Mecca and wash basins for cleansing before prayers.

Ise Jingu is considered one of the most sacred sites in Shintoism.

The city government unveiled the plan in February to cater to the increasing number of Muslim tourists visiting the city.

The facility would have been open to all, including non-Muslims, as a baby-feeding space or somewhere to rest when not in use for prayer.

However, when the news was reported, negative feedback poured in.

Some cited the principle of separation of state and religion. Others apparently felt uncomfortable, asking questions such as “Why does it have to be near Ise Jingu?”

It was also suggested that the location might not be the most convenient for foreign tourists.

The city government has received feedback from about 100 people, via e-mail and phone calls, and the shrine body and tourism organizations also received comments.

A senior city government official described the response as “unexpected,” adding that “we decided it would cause trouble to other organizations if we carried out the plan as is.”

The city will now proceed with setting up the multipurpose room, minus the equipment to assist in praying, and explore the possibility of setting up a prayer space at a privately run facility instead.

The issue was raised at a city assembly committee meeting on March 8.

An assembly member questioned the plan, saying, “I don’t think (a Muslim prayer room) is suitable at the entrance of the Naiku inner shrine.”

A senior city government official said that they will “reconsider the plan from the beginning.”