lifestyle

Halal products draw more Muslim tourists to Japan

19 Comments
By Tom Benner for The Journal (ACCJ)

When Rafidah Abd Rahim traveled to Japan from Singapore last year, the recent college graduate was relieved to find a goodly number of lifestyle offerings for Muslim travelers, such as halal food—that is, fare that complies with Islamic dietary guidelines—and easily available prayer rooms.

Rafidah found Sakura House, a Muslim-friendly share house with separate dorms for females and males on different levels, as well as a halal restaurant nearby. And the Tokyo Camii mosque was within walking distance. She also found a variety of eateries serving halal food.

“I was able to broaden my choices,” she says. “Since I was unable to enjoy an authentic ramen [because it sometimes has] pork stock, I was able to enjoy a bowl of the vegetarian version.”

As overall tourism to Japan is on the rise — priority as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games — the country is getting high marks for its efforts at becoming a halal-friendly tourism destination.

Singapore-based Muslim travel authority CrescentRating, identifies countries in Asia that are working hard to attract tourists from fast-growing economies where a growing middle class is traveling to non-Muslim destinations.

“Countries like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are really targeting the Southeast Asian market for tourism,” says Fazal Bahardeen, CrescentRating’s founder and CEO.

Japan is at the top of that list of countries boosting its hospitality to the Muslim consumer and lifestyle market, Bahardeen adds.

Destination Nippon

The number of Muslim travelers to Japan is projected to more than triple by 2020. In 2013, an estimated 300,000 Muslim tourists visited Japan. This figure could reach one million by 2020. According to CrescentRating, from 2004 to 2013, the number of Muslim visitors grew at an average rate of 7.2 percent year on year. The highest growth rate was 47 percent in 2012, followed by 29 percent in 2013.

The next seven-year average annual growth rate is projected to be 18.7 percent, leading to an expected one million visitor arrivals in 2020.

Southeast Asia will remain the key source market for Japan, accounting for 65–70 percent of the total number of Muslim visitors. In 2013, the top three source markets were Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Bahardeen attributes this to increasing efforts by the Japanese travel industry to cater to the needs of Muslim travelers, in addition to Japan opening up visa-free travel for Indonesians, Malaysians, and others members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization—with 10 member states and two countries with observer status—set up to promote cultural, economic, and political development in the region.

“Even at one million visitors, it will only represent around 5 percent of total visitors to Japan. Globally, the Muslim travel market will represent around 13.5 percent in 2020. As such, Japan still has huge potential to capture more visitors from this travel segment,” Bahardeen says.

Both the private sector and the government are making efforts to develop the sector. More and more cities across Japan are developing services and facilities to attract the segment. That is in keeping with a larger trend. CrescentRating’s research finds that non-Muslim destinations are growing fast for Muslim holidaymakers.

A rising consumer class from fast-growing economies such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf is fueling the demand for Muslim-friendly products and services across businesses sectors in Asia and around the world.

The CrescentRating survey portrays the typical Muslim consumer as young, educated, and with a larger disposable income, which has precipitated an increased propensity to travel. This means travel and hospitality, and its various sub-sectors, is now one of the biggest markets within the Muslim consumer market.

Halal certified

Japan’s push to attract the Muslim tourism market is creating business opportunities. TFK Corporation, an airline caterer in Tokyo, is one example of how the travel industry is paying more attention to the growing Muslim market: Last fall, the company acquired certification for its halal kitchen, which prepares in-flight meals.

The company reportedly spent some ¥60 million to expand its Narita International Airport premises and purchase new equipment to meet the growing demand for halal food.

Other examples abound. Signs that declare “halal-certified” can be found in eateries and dining halls. Hijabs made from local silk can be found in Japanese stores.

For shoppers at its branch in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, the department store Takashimaya has a prayer room that is equipped with a facility for ritual washing and an arrow pointing in the direction of Mecca, the holiest city in the Islamic faith. Fukuoka City, moreover, contracted a consultant regarding how to become more halal friendly. By tapping into the growing Muslim tourist market, Japan hopes to diversify a tourism industry that has been long dependent on Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Korean tourists.

In May 2014, the global market for halal products and other services — including food, cosmetics, travel and tourism, financial products such as Shariah-compliant bank cards — was estimated to be $1.62 trillion, and is expected to reach $2.47 trillion by 2018, according to growth strategy and research advisory DinarStandard and Thomson Reuters.

Credit card giants MasterCard and Visa are vying for a piece of the action, offering Shariah-compliant, interest-free debit cards (Shariah-compliant financial products are prohibited from charging interest).

Financial markets outside the Islamic world including the UK, Hong Kong and Japan are encouraging investment and savings products compliant with Shariah principles such as sukuk, the Islamic equivalent of bonds.

Japan itself is home to some 100,000 Muslims, of whom 10 percent are native Japanese while the rest are foreign residents of Japan, according to CrescentRating.

Indeed, the modern history of Islam in Japan dates back to the late 19th century, when contact was made with Indonesians who served on British and Dutch ships that docked off the Japanese coast.

Later, in the 1870s, a translation into Japanese of the life of Prophet Muhammad greatly helped Islam spread across the country.

Growth areas

The world’s Muslim population of 1.6 billion is growing at twice the rate of the global average, and is expected to become 26.5 percent of the world’s population by 2030, according to the Pew Research Center.

Given those numbers, the Japan Halal Association is pushing halal-friendliness as a good business strategy. “The halal industry does not benefit only Muslims,” the association says on its website.

Bilal Atalay, a spokesman for the Tokyo Camii and Turkish Culture Center, saw a marked increase in Muslim tourists following Japan’s changing of visa regulations for some ASEAN member states such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Atalay says the sector is still growing, with halal certification organizations and businesses racing to meet demand.

A combination of halal-friendly products and services and "omotenashi" (traditional Japanese hospitality), he says, is beginning to emerge, offering exciting culinary and other options to a new wave of visitors to Japan.

Tom Benner is a Singapore-based journalist writing for Al Jazeera English and Nikkei Asian Review, among other outlets.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.


19 Comments
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I'll be a bit careful about what I say here since a similar comment on another thread was found to be controversial.

I think catering to important clients is a good move for any business, particularly one which already has a large number of Muslim customers. However, Japanese businesses often have a 'build it and they will come' mentality. My fear is that businesses with very with few Muslim clients will set aside prayer rooms and spend money on having their goods certified as halal by a private for-profit organisation in Singapore, when that money could have been better spent on facilities for the disabled or the elderly or simply on better multilingual signage (ie: other than English). Finding out what will satisfy the average tourist is notoriously difficult, but because religious requirements are often spelled out in black and white text, it's easy to disproportionately focus on this low hanging fruit rather than make the effort to find out and invest in what might satisfy a greater majority of customers.

11 ( +17 / -6 )

I saw signs for a Halal restaurant in Narita airport and thought to sample their wares, but couldn't find it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Other sectors of Japanese hospitality need to be educated

Muslim boy denied home stay in Japan

http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11462331

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am curious to see inside a Japanese slaughterhouse with Halal certification. The local Japanese workers issuing the Islamic prayer, bleeding the unstunned animal to death, making sure the head is aligned with Quibla, etc.

Kind of hard to imagine. Adapting to alternate work methods to accommodate a minority of foreigners is not something the Japanese are known for doing. LOL. I once triggered a serious complication when asking for my salad dressing to be served on the side.

Also surprised that Japanese TV, with its penchant for "you are there" reports, hasn't covered this.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I am curious to see inside a Japanese slaughterhouse with Halal certification. The local Japanese workers issuing the Islamic prayer, bleeding the unstunned animal to death, making sure the head is aligned with Quibla, etc.

Yep, it's all a load of nonsense. No way this happens. On a side note, Japan should be wary of following western Europe down this road....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sounds Kosher to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Frederic

Ha!! : )

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My fear is that businesses with very with few Muslim clients will set aside prayer rooms and spend money on having their goods certified as halal by a private for-profit organisation in Singapore, when that money could have been better spent on facilities for the disabled or the elderly or simply on better multilingual signage (ie: other than English).

Why is it a "fear"? It's businesses' money to spend as they want on whatever facilities they want. I happen to think pachinko parlors are a poor investment in local infrastructure, but it's not my money being invested.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

JeffLeeJul. 08, 2015 - 11:37AM JST

I am curious to see inside a Japanese slaughterhouse with Halal certification. The local Japanese workers issuing the Islamic prayer, bleeding the unstunned animal to death, making sure the head is aligned with Quibla, etc.

Here is a report by Mainichi on Sanda Meat Corporation which recently received Halal certificate. Sanda is known for Kobe Beef. http://mainichi.jp/area/hyogo/news/20150401ddlk28040402000c.html

公社では、イスラム法に基づいた厳格な処理を行う。ハラール処理の経験があるイスラム教徒の職人が解体の前に祈りの言葉を唱え、刃物を使って一撃で首を切り血抜きをする。同じ加工室や冷蔵庫では、アルコール類や豚肉などを扱うことはない。

At the Corporation, the processing is based strictly on the Islamic laws. Muslim workers who have experience in Halal processing offer prayer, cut the head by a knife in one strike and dispose of the blood. In the processing room or in the refrigerated storage room, alcohol or pork is not allowed.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Halal Kobe Beef @¥7.000/100 grams is very expensive.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

CH3:

Interesting link... I read the Koran once. I was mesmerized at how advanced they were. Mohamd specifically was told by G_d to make sure there was no alcohol or pork allowed in the refrigerated room or processing room. Shalom from a Jew. Peace and Tikum Ulam

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Just so you know about the slaughter of these animals:

This method of slaughtering animals consists of using a well-sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, windpipe, and jugular veins. Concern about slaughtering, without prior stunning, has resulted in the religious slaughter of animals being banned in Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

A civilised method of slaughtering animals? I don't think so but you make up your own minds.

2 ( +6 / -3 )

Harry...Kosher is similar

0 ( +1 / -1 )

YelnatsJUL. 08, 2015 - 09:08PM JST Interesting link... I read the Koran once. I was mesmerized at how advanced they were.

Please share some examples of the "advanced" edicts of Islam.

Mohamd specifically was told by G_d to make sure there was no alcohol or pork allowed in the refrigerated room or processing room.

"Refrigerated room"? Where were these "refrigerated rooms" during the times when Judaism and Islam were created? There is no mention in either the Torah or Quran of "refrigerated rooms."

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Salam Yelnat. Very funny Frederic but kosher food is infact halal for muslim.

@Harry_Gatto:

While the stunning of animals before slaughter is incompatible with shechita (the methods approved by Jewish religious authorities), halal slaughter can be performed after the stunning of animals, as long as the stunning is reversible. This is an important distinction because in the UK the demand for halal meat is much bigger than the demand for kosher meat and nearly 80% of all halal certified meat comes from animals that have been stunned prior the cut of the throat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

AyammuJUL. 09, 2015 - 08:04AM JST Salam Yelnat. Very funny Frederic but kosher food is infact halal for muslim.

Yes. And this is why they can't get along in the ME?

@Harry_Gatto: While the stunning of animals before slaughter is incompatible with shechita (the methods approved by Jewish religious authorities), halal slaughter can be performed after the stunning of animals, as long as the stunning is reversible.

"Reversible"? Why would this be necessary once you've slit the animal's throat?

I've always believed that many of us would become vegetarians if we spent five minutes in a contemporary slaughterhouse, Kosher, Halal, Ital or otherwise. But the semi-ritualized slaughter prescribed by Judaism, Islam and Rastafarianism is slaughter at it's cruelest. Retractable bolt to the brain is what should be law and in the modern world. Non-scientific religious practice should have no place in the discussion as federal governments set the standards for this industry.

http://www.grandin.com/humane/cap.bolt.tips.html

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Tourist Adaptation to religion? Better die, thanks. Especially when you know that it is about conquest from the belly. Good move for tourism to make think Japan is friendly to change.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Reversible"? Why would this be necessary once you've slit the animal's throat?

It means the animals aren't dead by stunning. They are just unconcious

You sounded like an atheist vegan... If the slaughtermen are indeed trained and strictly adhere to their slaughter principals, the animals will indeed be treated better than simply stunned dead commercial practiced. This includes pre-slaughter handling of the animal to minimise stress, ensuring sharp tools, etc. Do remember that most commercial halal slaughterhouse DO stun the animals before they slit their throsts. Bloodletting the animal before consuption makes the meat much more safer for consumption. In this case religion practice is supported by science. The only difference is the slaughtermen/women is a practicing believer.

Retractable bolt to the brain will literally fry & liquify the brain matter. There have been studies that indicate this is not safe for human consumption because it increases the probability of spreading mad cow disease to human. Stunning methods have their disadvantages, a number of issues can occur in the process, including possible miss-stuns, which can be very painful. Sometimes it takes much longer, multiple stunning to kill an animal. Slitting their veins actually ensures death than mere stunning.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hello all, greeting from indonesia :) i want to inform the benefit of halal slaughtering, that is reducing the animals pain (monitored by electro enchepalo gram/EEG machine) and making a fresher meat :) got this from http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/articles/161841/the-miracle-of-slaughtering-in-islam,, here is the quoted article..

Halal method

The first three seconds from the time of Islamic slaughter as recorded on the EEG did not show any change from the graph before slaughter. This indicates that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision. For the following 3 seconds, the EEG recorded a condition of deep sleep - unconsciousness. This is due to a large quantity of blood gushing out from the body. After the above- mentioned 6 seconds, the EEG recorded zero level, showing no feeling of pain at all. As the brain message (EEG) dropped to zero level, the heart was still pounding and the body was convulsing vigorously (a reflex action of the spinal cord) driving the maximum amount of blood from the body: resulting in hygienic meat for the consumer.

thanks :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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