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40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation

What it Means to Welcome

Ethnically and Religiously Diverse Visitors


Following the decision to make Tokyo the venue for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, an increase in foreign visitors to Japan is expected, including athletes from throughout the world, competition-related personnel, as well as the welcoming of travelers and provision of hospitality through inbound promotion.

Among such visitors to Japan, those from Southeast Asian countries have been increasing in recent years. Comparing Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) statistics from 2012 (January to August) and 2013 (January to August), there has been a 50% increase in Indonesian tourists, a 59% increase in Thai tourists, a 52% increase in Vietnamese tourists, followed also by a significant increase in Singaporean, Filipino and Malaysian tourists. Some of the reasons associated with the rise in visitors from these countries are an increase in LLC (low-cost carrier) flights, favorable exchange rates due to a weak Yen, greater ease in obtaining visas (or else, visas are no longer needed for some countries) and a background of astounding economic growth of ASEAN countries in recent years.

To meet the needs of the rapidly increasing number of visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in particular, the Japan Tourism Agency is taking multiple steps to create an environment where travelers, regardless of race or religion, are able to enjoy their stay. Such steps can be seen from Muslim-friendly hotels that have slowly started to appear and that take into consideration food, prayer and traditions of daily life. One example is the Sakura Hotel & Hatagaya in Tokyo, where a prayer room has been newly installed for Muslim guests. Another example is the Dotonbori Hotel in Osaka, where halal foods are available even at breakfast buffets, and where prayer mats and kiblat can be rented for free by all guests. Just this year, English menus were made for all restaurants at the Kansai International Airport, which include easy-to-see logos indicating that certain dishes are pork free or alcohol free. Some of these restaurants have been given official certificates by the Malaysia Halal Consultation & Training Agency.

According to both Mr. Yakumaru (Japan Tourism Agency) and Mr. Okada (KIX terminal sales department), Muslim travelers are expressing their gratitude toward Japan's efforts in creating a Muslim-friendly environment while also providing ideas and advice.

In response to the advice, Kansai International Airport released plans for 4 new developments to be completed by March 2014. First is the creation of new prayer rooms in the North and South Wings of the International Departure Lounge, which will be partitioned to create a separate space for each gender. Second is the import of a halal meal service for Muslim travelers who prefer to eat certified halal meals. These meals will have been prepared in a halal kitchen that also prepares in-flight halal meals for international flights. They also plan to provide a selection of Japanese food such as halal sushi. Third is the expansion of halal certified restaurants in the airport. Currently, Za-U-Don and Oraga are the only two with certification. Lastly, a pork and alcohol free corner at gift shops has just been created.

On the other hand, the Japan Tourism Agency and JNTO have produced a pamphlet entitled "Japan Travel Guide for Muslim Visitors," which contains information on Muslim-friendly restaurants and the location of prayer rooms, hotels and mosques. These are distributed to travel agencies around Malaysia and Indonesia and can be also found on the JNTO Singapore web page (https://muslimguide.jnto.go.jp/eng/).

"We also want Muslim visitors to feel comfortable and be able to eat, pray and sleep at ease. We hope to increase halal-certified Japanese restaurants, because we want guests to be able to try Japanese food without hesitation as well as increase the option of food gifts that visitors can purchase before leaving Japan," states Mr. Okada.

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