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Tuesday, 25th November 2014
In Japan Travel News,

Japan targets muslim tourists

Japan's efforts to diversify its inbound tourism market are being rewarded, it seems, with an uptick in the number of muslims visiting the nation for holidays or on business.

According to the government's Japan National Tourism Organisation, a record 9.7 million people visited the country between January and September 2014, with the majority of muslims coming from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The breakdown reveals that 158,000 tourists came from Malaysia during the first nine months of the year, while 111,400 visitors arrive from Indonesia. These figures represent jumps of 52.3 per cent and 13.4 per cent respectively. 

Efforts from those in the Japanese tourist industry to cater to a more muslim-orientated market - including the introduction of halal meat and prayer mats in hotels - is supposedly responsible for the uptick.

Innovations such as "Halalminds," a smartphone application that identifies halal products in the country, have also helped.

Founder Agung Pambudi, a Muslim originally from Indonesia who lives in Fukuoka, commented: "It's really difficult to find halal products, especially in Japan. Why? Because if I buy some products in Japan and I cannot read kanji, this is impossible for me to understand what kind of ingredients are inside." 

However, Shuichi Kameyama, the executive director of the tourism organisation's marketing and promotion department, said he believes that the country will gradually become more muslim-friendly, particularly following visa relaxations for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. 

He added that the number of prayer rooms, while currently insufficient, is among those aspects expected to improve over time, particularly with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching rapidly.

Japan is also seeking to make visitors from other countries welcome, with the government pushing for English street signs in key areas often visited by tourists and for restaurants to have multi-lingual menus.