Japanese agency offers Halal, Muslim-friendly tours

Japanese agency offers Halal, Muslim-friendly toursTokyo, (AG/IINA) : An Osaka-based travel agency in Japan has offered tours catering specifically to Muslim visitors – a growing segment of travelers to Japan – featuring a visit to a mosque, halal food, and an attendant adhering to Islam rules, South China Morning Post reported Thursday.

Miyako International Tourist Co. said that its most popular route starts from Tokyo and takes participants to Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara, all the key tourist destinations. In recent years, Hokkaido, the northernmost island prefecture that has no rainy season and is known for winter sports, is also gaining traction, the company said.

“Our customers are particularly anxious about what they eat,” said Mohammed Naji Matar, a 39-year-old veteran Syrian attendant who has lived in Japan for eight years. “We want to offer a sense of safety and peace of mind.”

Japan had a record 19.74 million foreign visitors in 2015, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), up by 13 million from a decade ago. More than two million were from Southeast Asia, including around 310,000 from Malaysia, where 60 percent of the population is Muslim, and roughly 210,000 from Indonesia, where nine out of 10 people follow Islam.

Tourists from these Southeast Asian countries grew more than 20 percent from a year earlier, JNTO data shows.

The Osaka travel agency is run by Hideshi Matsui, a 57-year-old who converted to Islam four years ago after getting to know a Japanese Muslim woman in Dubai, which he was visiting on business, he said.

Miyako International started Muslim-friendly tours in 2010, and they now account for 30 percent of the company’s revenue. More than 70 percent of participants are Malaysian tourists, according to the travel agency.

“My mission is to serve Muslim brothers and sisters with a deep sense of hospitality and to show them the good Japan can offer,” Matsui said.


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