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Feeding the Homeless in Ikebukuro

SNA (Tokyo) — On the evening of August 13 in the normally-quiet Higashi-Ikebukuro Central Park, hundreds of men gathered, most of them standing in a long line that stretched around for quite some way. If that sight wasn’t odd enough, there were also about a dozen or more foreigners there as well, some of them wearing the national dress of some parts of Pakistan and the Persian Gulf countries.

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Hundreds line up for curry rice

The event was “takidashi”—feeding the homeless—which takes place once every two months in this location right next to Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City shopping mall.

These events serving the homeless of Tokyo’s Toshima Ward and other nearby districts began at the end of the 1990s and are organized mainly by the NPO Tenohasi, a group dedicated to the support of the needy.

Several years ago, however, Tenohasi gained a new partner, Japan Islamic Trust, a Muslim religious group based out of Otsuka Mosque. The main role of the people from the mosque is to purchase, prepare, and serve hundreds of dishes of curry rice to the eager line of homeless people.

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A Muslim volunteer

A young man named Onoda, one of the volunteers from Tenohasi, didn’t have a clear explanation of why he personally participates in these activities, but suggested that it was just part of the proper role of being the member of a community to ensure that everyone had the basic needs for living.

Fahd Khan, a graduate researcher at the University of Tokyo, became involved through Otsuka Mosque. He cites Sura 4 of the Quran as placing an obligation on Muslims to help the needy and one’s neighbors. He adds, “They have nobody to provide for them. They live on the streets. I think this one day when they are given medical facilities, a haircut, free food, and some clothes as well, it makes them very happy.”

Another volunteer associated with Japan Islamic Trust, Associate Professor Ahmad Almansour of Keio University, stated, “We must appreciate everyone. I am Syrian, and right now that makes me especially understanding of the importance of life. We’d like to give them some hope.”

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