Introducing Visa Exemptions To Muslims – Japan Takes Another Leap!
“When I visited Fukuoka; south-west Japan, in 2006”, a Singaporean Muslim tourist relates, “I only survived on salads and instant noodles for a week.” Things were much different, almost a decade later on his second visit, Mohamed was relieved he could enjoy the Japanese cuisines made of halal meat and seasonings. He tried udon, grilled Japanese platter consisting of halal meat and also bought halal souvenirs to take home to his family.
There are many other tourists in Japan who will tell you a similar story with a similar end and who wants to miss out the beautiful and exotic Japanese cuisine, made out of fresh vegetables, fresh catch of the day and halal meat. The sun of Islam is gradually rising in Japan, as this country starts to foster the needs of this fast spreading religion. Majority of Japanese airports have taken steps to become more Muslim friendly by making prayer rooms on various terminals where prayer mats are available for Muslims and also by introducing halal meals and alcohol and pork free food. Similar initiative was taken by cities like Chiba and Kyoto where many restaurants are being urged to adopt pork and alcohol free menus.
Japanese economists claim all this is part of the scheme for reaching the 20 million tourists mark by the time of the 2020 Olympic Games. Japan has most tourists coming in from China, South Korea and Taiwan but the fear that the ongoing tensions might bring a setback to Japanese trade and economic activity, Japan diversified its sourcing countries. In 2013, the visa requirements for Thailand and Malaysia were waved; resultantly there was a 60% hike in annual tourists from these countries. Chances are similar visa waivers are in pipeline for Philippines, Indonesia and India.
This escalation in tourists and trade activity is not only the work of the visa waivers, Economists in Japan claim that a devaluing yen, low cost-carriers, lower cost of living and a rising middle class in Southeastern countries has played a somewhat hidden role. Moreover, Japan’s step to embrace the Muslim population has also broadened the horizon fro newer markets for Japanese businessmen. One mere example is the app “Halalmind” which locates nearby halal restaurants, cafes and products for the Muslim tourists.
Travel agencies as old as the “Feel Japan with K” have introduced economical Muslim only packages to attract this major chunk of tourists that has begun to touch the Japanese shores. Everything else settled, accommodation still remains a question mark for Muslims, although a number of Muslim friendly hotels have opened up to tap on the needs for an affordable hotel with prayer rooms and halal menu. But still accommodation in Metro cities like Tokyo and Yokohama, is still out of the bounds of a middle class tourist. They rely on renting small congested rooms. Experts say Japan has put way too much attention into making arrangements on how to feed the tourists than to arrange for affordable accommodations.