[EARLY TATAR PUBLISHING IN JAPAN / EXILE - MIGRATION / DIASPORA PRINTING] Bidevâm-i sharif kitabi. [i.e., The book of Islamic catechism]

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Matbaa-yi Islâmiye, Tokyo, 1934.

Original wrappers. Cr. 8vo. (20 x 14 cm). In Tatar with Arabic letters, with Japanese text on colophon. 15 p. A near fine copy.

Extremely rare first and only edition, of this book of Islamic catechism, printed as a textbook and distributed free of charge for the Muslim Tatar minority who immigrated from Russia to Japan. It was one of the 39 books printed in the first Islamic Printing House established in Tokyo.

In the early 20th century, groups of Tatars immigrated from Kazan, Russia, to Japan. The community was led by the Bashkir émigré imam Muhammed-Gabdulkhay Kurbangaliev, who had fought on the side of the White movement in the Russian Civil War and arrived in Japan in 1924. He then set up an organization to unite the Tatars living in Tokyo. The Tatars in Japan founded their first mosque and school in 1935 in Kobe, and another in Tokyo in 1938, with support from Kurbangaliev's organization. Another Tatar organization, the Mohammedan Printing Office in Tokyo, printed the first Qur'an in Japan as well as a Tatar-language magazine in Arabic script, called the Japan Intelligencer; it continued publication until the 1940s. Most of the Tatars emigrated after World War II, and those remaining took up Turkish citizenship in the 1950s.

Özege 24116., As of April 2024, we can’t trace any copies in the WorldCat.


The encounter between Muslims and Japan coincided with the end of the 19th century. Japan, which had closed itself off to most of the world for about 250 years during the Tokugawa period, opened its doors to the world due to the influence of the United States in 1853 and began establishing communication with many countries. Following this, encounters with Muslims and the Islamic world also began. The first Muslims to arrive in Japan are believed to be merchants who came on commerce ships. Thus, the journey of Muslims to Japan began with Indian Muslim merchants towards the end of the 19th century. Turko-Tatar Muslims who sought shelter in Japan following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 constituted the second significant Muslim immigrant group.

After the Russian Revolution, some of the Idel-Uralian Turco-Tatars dispersed by immigrating to the Far Eastern regions, particularly Chinese territories like Manchuria, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, as well as Korea and Japan, where they formed communities. Turco-Tatar groups in Japan began forming in 1919, and cities like Kumamoto, Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoya hosted these newcomers. These groups had no close relationships with each other until 1924, when they began to meet after Molla Muhammad Gabdulhay Qurbangaliyef (Molla Muhammed Abdulhay Kurbanali) (1889-1972) arrived in Japan.

Molla Muhammed Abdulhay Kurbanali, who holds an important place in the struggle for the existence of Turco-Tatars in the Far East, is one of the most discussed Idel-Uralian leaders due to his political attitudes, relationships, and activities. He led the establishment of the first Islamic printing house in Japan, called “Matbaa-yi Islâmiye”, in Tokyo. The main reason for establishing this printing house was to meet the book needs of all Turco-Tatars who had to leave their homeland (primarily those in Japan) and to publish materials that would keep religious and national sentiments alive. During the establishment of the printing house, both Japanese officials and people from Idel-Ural made significant financial contributions. Undoubtedly, the reason for this was that Japan at the time aimed to create a new centre of attraction by establishing a base for propaganda activities towards the Turkish-Islamic world.

At a meeting held in October 1928, Turkish-Tatars living in Japanese-controlled lands and Japanese officials decided to establish a printing house in Tokyo that could publish books and other materials in Arabic script. Since the young Republic of Turkey began using Latin letters instead of Arabic letters with the Alphabet Revolution in 1928, the old letters and patterns of a newspaper in Istanbul were purchased and sent to Japan. Thus, between 1928 and 1942, the printing house produced 39 books, one newspaper, two journals, and 49 postcards (published in five groups: the first group includes sixteen, the second includes ten, the third includes four, the fourth includes eleven, and the fifth and final group includes eight cards), as well as calendars, advertisements, broadsides, invitations, programs, posters, and special envelopes.