Is Japan the next destination for halal friendly travel?

Japan is boosting efforts to attract Muslim tourists by taking various steps to cater and accommodate Muslims better. Known as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’, Japan is a top destination for travellers, with a variety of family friendly attractions encompassing scenic, cultural and historical treasures. In the past, Muslim tourists had great difficulty in Japan due to a lack of halal friendly facilities and awareness. However, Japan is overcoming this issue and is now taking steps to cater to Muslims better.

In July 2013, Japan relaxed visa requirements for tourists from Islamic countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, which led to a boom in Muslim tourists to Japan. Motivated by this increase in Muslim travellers, Japan’s major airports have started providing private prayer rooms for Muslims as well as offer halal meals in compliance with Islamic rules.

The Kansai International Airport now has a prayer room and provides halal meal as well as pork- and alcohol-free menus at several restaurants. Narita Airport recently introduced ‘Silence Rooms’, which Muslims can use for prayers. Plans are underway to introduce more prayer rooms at these two airports by the end of 2014. Chubu International Airport has two main prayer areas for Muslim travellers and also serves halal food.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) opened its first ever booth dedicated to Muslim travellers at a travel fair in Malaysia in September 2013, and released a guide for Muslim travellers to Japan last year as well. This guide provides general tourist information as well as a list of halal restaurants and vegetarian restaurants in Japan. It also provides information on mosques for worship in major Japanese cities. Armed with this handy guide, Muslim visitors can now enjoy their holiday in Japan without worrying about meeting dietary requirements or locating prayer facilities.

Steps are being taken to improve awareness of the halal concept in Japan. Universities in Japan are introducing halal cuisine to cater to Muslim students. In addition, the city of Chiba which is located 30km east of Tokyo, is aiming to become the Muslim-cultural center in Japan.

The government is also taking an interest in promoting Halal products within Japan. In August 2014, a Japan Halal Summit will be held in Tokyo to discuss the Global Halal Trade and opportunities for Japan. The summit will bring together a large gathering of Japanese food producers and importers as well as experts and delegates from various countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, USA, UK, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to name a few.

Japan is clearly boosting efforts to attract Muslim visitors and promote the concept of halal. Muslim tourists should consider adding Japan to their list of halal friendly destinations to visit.

Aalia Mahdi
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