FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, YAMANASHI PREF. – A hotel for Muslim travelers has opened near Lake Kawaguchi, a beauty site at the foot of Mount Fuji. It ticks all the right boxes, but a month after opening it has yet to take any bookings.
Syariah Hotel Fujisan, which opened late last month in the Yamanashi Prefecture town of Fujikawaguchiko, has a prayer room and offers halal menus for guests.
Japanese dishes using beef and unfermented seasonings are served in consideration of the fact that observant Muslims do not drink alcohol or eat pork.
Prayer mats are available. The hotel’s eight rooms have arrows pointing to Mecca to help orient prayers.
The hotel was created after renovating a vacant house, but despite the investment, as of Aug. 17, no reservations have been made.
Shigeru Yamashita, president of the hotel operator, said he did not expect customers in the first days after the opening.
“I run the hotel while looking ahead to the future in five to 10 years,” he said.
Yamashita, 72, became interested in halal food several years ago after sponsoring an event organized by a group that certifies such diets.
He decided to target Muslim tourists because increasing numbers of visitors to Fujikawaguchiko were from Indonesia and Malaysia.
Those nations’ tourism surges come on the back of rising prosperity.
Another hotel run by Yamashita in the town started to offer halal food last year.
Yamashita decided to open a hotel dedicated to Muslims after being told in April by a Muslim family visiting the town that there was no mosque nearby and that they had difficulties finding a halal restaurant to eat in.
Fujikawaguchiko is familiar with Indonesians and Malaysian visitors. More than 8,000 citizens of each nation stayed there in 2015.
Yamashita said the figures will rise if a welcoming environment is developed.
He is also considering setting up a mosque at the hotel and offering services for Muslims at another hotel he owns, but this will depend on how the new hotel’s fortunes play out.