In this article, we introduce you to Qayyim Naoki Yamamoto, an academic who embraced Islam twelve years ago and later introduced Islamic and Sufi concepts to Japanese society through manga themes. In doing so, he also reminded the Turkish community of its values. Meet Qayyim Naoki Yamamoto, who teaches Japanese at Marmara Anatolian Imam Hatip High School and Sufism at Ibn-i Haldun University’s Alliance of Civilizations Institute.
Who is Qayyim Naoki Yamamoto?
Born in Okayama, Japan, in 1989, Qayyim Naoki Yamamoto received a Christian education at Doshisha University. At the age of 19, after a severe illness, he began questioning the meaning of life. Upon recovery, he embarked on a quest, expressing gratitude for his well-being. Naoki Yamamoto recounts those days:
Finding the answers to his questions in Islam, Naoki wanted to delve deeper into Islamic studies and observe Islamic culture. Motivated by this desire and encouraged by Hasan Hoca’s advice to travel to Arab countries, Naoki set out on a journey and decided to go to Egypt. There, he acquired knowledge about Islamic cultures. Once he had learned everything about Islam, both in terms of knowledge and culture, he began to live his life in accordance with Islamic principles. When he realized that there was nothing left to deny, in the year 2009, at the Al-Azhar Mosque in Egypt, he declared the shahada and embraced Islam.
From Japan to Istanbul: A Sufi Journey
Returning to Japan twelve years ago after embracing Islam in Egypt, Naoki decided to come to Istanbul due to the conducive environment for preserving his Muslim identity. Reflecting on his journey, he states:
Building a Bridge Between Two Civilizations: Manga
For many, manga, or comics, is a form of entertainment. However, Naoki wondered if this widely read genre could also serve as a tool to introduce Islamic culture and invite non-Muslims to Islam. Naoki took action on this question. Through manga, an integral part of Japanese culture, he introduces Islam and Sufi concepts to young people in Japan via online platforms, emphasizing the characteristics of shounen manga (manga for young readers) to Turkish students. Naoki believes this can be a bridge between civilizations.
In an interview with Nihayet Magazine in November 2020, Naoki describes the process of calling to Islam through manga:
Incorporating Sufi Motifs into Manga
Combining his field of study with manga, Naoki struggled to merge the two and shares the subsequent positive outcomes:
“Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi said, ‘Beautiful is what beautiful sees.‘ Naoki’s perspective, like every Muslim, has beautified with Islam. The manga he has been immersed in for years has now become a means to invite people to Islam. May our views be painted with the colors of Islam.”