TOKYO -- Muslim visitors to Japan are increasing in number.
To accommodate them, more Japanese businesses are now offering products and services in line with Islamic religious requirements. Many businesses have obtained halal certification to assure customers their Muslim-friendly products and services are authentic.
Many ramen noodle dishes use pork, a meat Muslims are forbidden from consuming. A famous restaurant at the Shinyokohama Raumen Museum now offers noodles in a pork-free broth. Komurasaki, a highly regarded ramen restaurant from Kumamoto Prefecture, offers the Muslim-friendly ramen at its outlet in the museum.
The restaurant is famous for its thick pork soup. It developed a special recipe that uses vegetable stock and soymilk instead of pork. Its normal ramen dishes also feature chashu roast pork, but the halal version uses a soy-based alternative.
"I can enjoy this without worrying because it has no pork in it," a 24-year-old Indonesian office worker visiting the museum on a group tour said. "I will tell my friends about this."
Visitors from Indonesia, where Muslims make up 90% of the population, increased 13% from a year earlier to 135,000 between January and November. The number of visitors from Malaysia was up 42% to 210,000. Some 60% of Malaysians are Muslim.
The first halal-certified karaoke bar in Japan opened in central Tokyo late last year. The establishment, Karaoke Maneki Neko Yotsuya Sanchome, attracted Muslim customers from the first day.
"I love Japanese karaoke, but I had to limit my food and beverage orders to pretty much just juices because there were no halal karaoke places," a 21-year-old Malaysian woman studying in Japan said. With two friends, she enjoyed singing Japanese songs and had a meal on her night out.
The karaoke bar also has a prayer room for four people. It is considering rolling out special offerings for Muslims, such as service packages for parties after the Ramadan fasting period.
As a part of its revitalization effort, Tokushima Prefecture in western Japan has been encouraging businesses to obtain halal certification.
The prefectural government has been holding study meetings on halal for restaurants, as well as food companies that are hoping to export their products to Muslim countries. Since April, the prefecture has been offering subsidies of up to 1 million yen ($8,515) to businesses that are working toward obtaining halal certification.
Nippon Express offered a halal distribution service in December between Kumamoto and Tokyo on a trial basis. The service used a dedicated truck that was cleaned in accordance with Islamic religious requirements to deliver halal food products.
The company has received an increasing number of inquires from companies that have obtained halal certification.