Source: New Straits Times
By Mutsuko Murakami
Writer is a Tokyo-based veteran journalist
GREATER ENTHUSIASM: More travel agencies are going all out to ensure Muslims have a comfortable stay in their country
JAPAN has suffered a traumatic decrease of Chinese tourists since the third quarter of last year, primarily because of Sino-Japan territorial frictions.
Filling the void are the new waves of tourists, notably from Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries.
The number of Chinese tourists dropped 33 per cent during October, for example, but Malaysian tourists rose 66 per cent and Indonesians 40 per cent, compared with the same month the previous year.
The new trend is driving Japanese enthusiasm in preparing to welcome Muslim visitors so that they can stay more comfortably in accordance with their religious requirements.
More than 130,000 Malaysians visited Japan last year, up nearly 14 per cent from the peak year of 2010, because of the growing Malaysian middle class that can afford to travel abroad and launch of low-cost carriers.
These tourists include increasing Malay Muslims, who previously found it hard to keep their religious practices in Japan.
The Muslim population in Japan is between 50,000 and 100,000, most of them followers from overseas. There are only fewer than 1,000 Japanese Muslims, it is said, in a country of 120 million people.
Allah’s teachings are unfamiliar to most of the Japanese. The new clientele in tourism is quickly educating Japanese travel business about Muslims.
“A major challenge was to ensure space for worship and halal food for them,” says Kazunari Kurosawa of Miyako Kokusai Co. Over the past few years, the travel agency in Osaka has developed environments for Asian Muslim visitors.
He studied about halal food and visited restaurants, accompanied by Japan Halal Association officials, approved by Malaysia’s Jakim (Department of Islamic Advancement of Malaysia), to make sure they served non-alcoholic, pork-free food.
Read more: Japan sees big potential in Asian Muslim tourists – Columnist – New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/japan-sees-big-potential-in-asian-muslim-tourists-1.228222#ixzz2RVGjqUqJ