This week’s featured article
As the influx of foreign visitors to Japan includes Muslims, there has been discussion about how Japan can best accommodate their religious dietary restrictions and other needs.
According to data released by the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of visitors from Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, exceeded 270,000 in 2016, up 32.1 percent from the previous year.
There are still many people in Japan who are unaware of what halal is and how it is taking root in Japanese society.
Halal facilitators and faithful followers of regulations in Japan also face the challenges of coping in the framework of a non-Muslim country, while devout Muslims might call for stricter guidelines.
The word “halal” refers to things that are permissible under Islamic law, including foods and acts connected to food preparation. As for food products, restrictions are applied to the entire production chain, often described as “farm to table,” while opinions differ over the details among Muslims in different countries and regions.
For example, livestock must be fed halal feed and processed at plants separated from those used to process pigs and other byproducts of swine or other forbidden animals, according to materials released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The Japan Muslim Association in Tokyo, in principle, issues halal certificates only for products from Japanese companies intended to be sold to Islamic countries upon request after strict and thorough reviews and inspections in accordance with Islamic law.
Regarding export items from Japan to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, government organizations or other entities in such importing countries are responsible for judging whether those items are halal or not in accordance with their national standards, according to the ministry document.
As for foods for the domestic market, the association will issue endorsements if their foods, services and facilities can be recommended to Muslims after examination, it said.
Currently, there are no set regulations on the issuance of halal certificates for products and facilities in Japan, as standards vary depending on the organization that issues a certificate.
Akihiro Shugo, co-founder of Halal Media Japan Co., who has been providing halal information to Muslim residents and visitors, said, “While Japan aims to attract 40 million annual inbound visitors (by 2020), it would not reach that goal without proper accommodations for the Muslim populations, which account for one-fourth of the world population.”
First published in The Japan Times on Sept. 2.
One-minute chat about food.
Collect words related to halal, e.g., Muslim, Arabic, Malaysia.
1) devout: very religious, e.g., “My grandmother is a devout Christian.”
2) swine: pig, e.g., “Cases of swine flu were found in the region.”
3) endorsement: formal approval, e.g., “He gave his endorsement to that candidate.”
Guess the headline
Japan’s h _ _ _ _ industry gathers pace but experts say there’s more to do
1) How many people from Indonesia came to Japan last year?
2) According to the article, what is the definition of halal food?
3) What is the current situation regarding halal food certification in Japan?
Let’s discuss the article
1) Have you tried or seen halal food?
2) What is your image of halal food?
3) What do you think needs to be done for Muslim visitors to Japan?
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