People, Travel

More Muslims Visiting Japan

More Muslims Visiting JapanMore Muslims Visiting Japan

While the United States debates the feasibility of closing its doors completely to Muslim immigrants and visitors, Japan has quietly been adopting the opposite approach and rolling out the welcome mat for Muslims. It sees Muslim tourists as an opportunity to boost its economy.

This blossoming of Japanese hospitality towards Muslims stands in direct contradiction to widely circulated internet rumors among US conservatives claiming that Muslims are not even allowed to enter Japan.

Tourism is one area where the “Abenomics” policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have undeniably found the success that has so far eluded much of the rest of the program, Al Jazeera reported.

When Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December 2012, the value of the Japanese Yen was at about 85 to the US dollar.

His government’s push for monetary easing devalued the Yen sharply, so that it now stands at about 120 yen to the US dollar. One result of this is that it has now become much more affordable for overseas tourists to visit Japan.

The Abe government had initially set a target of attracting 20 million tourists each year by 2020.

But the acceleration in numbers has far outstripped expectations, meaning that the 20-million figure may be met this year — five years ahead of schedule. Now the government has revised its target upwards to 30 million tourists by 2020.

  Hospitality Handbook

Muslim tourism, led by Malaysians and Indonesians, is a major part of this wave.

According to the figures compiled by the Japan National Tourism Organization, by the end of October 2015 the number of Malaysian inbound tourists had risen by 18.2% over last year’s figures. The one-year jump in the numbers of Indonesians visiting Japan was even more dramatic at 30.8%.

When the total numbers are calculated, it appears that around 270,000 Malaysians and about 200,000 Indonesians will have visited Japan this year. Naturally, smaller numbers of Muslim tourists are visiting from other nations as well.

Japanese local governments and businesses have been responding proactively to this new set of customers arriving on their shores.

For example, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan recently published a Japanese-language Muslim hospitality handbook to teach the Japanese how they should behave when Muslim customers enter their shops.

Muslims searching for halal restaurants can now find online lists, and Japanese businesses have been moving to enter the halal food market with an eye toward expanding agricultural exports.