The city of Chiba is aiming to become the Muslim-culture center in Japan, seeking to draw in a growing number of Southeast Asian tourists to visit and stay in the city.
The move guided by the municipal government has been motivating businesses in the city, which is merely 30 kilometers east of Tokyo, to accomplish the status of “Japan’s first Muslim-friendly facility” in a a number of fields and sectors.
Japan’s first halal-certified food-processing facility opened in the Makuhari area in central Chiba earlier in January this year. The owner Sato Chohachi-Shoji Co., a Tokyo-based company dealing with food trade, said the factory is presently working on research and development for commercial production to commence by mid July.
A few hundred meters from the plant is the privately owned Kanda University of International Studies. Earlier this month it opened a Muslim-friendly cafeteria as the first of its kind among Japanese institutions. While last December at a nearby site, retail giant Aeon Co.’s new flagship mall opened, which features a prayer room for Muslim shoppers, making it the first such facility in its domestic network of 135 outlets.
The relocation of the headquarters of the certifying organization Nippon Asia Halal Association from Tokyo to the city, last September, prompted the latest efforts by the private sector in Chiba’s locality.
A representative from the nonprofit halal organization was invited by the Chiba municipal government to take part in a municipal committee on inbound tourism promotion in November, where members agreed to designate holidaymakers from Asia and Muslims as principal promotion targets.
The Muslim-friendly city initiative was backed by Mayor Toshihito Kumagai in line with the city’s efforts to host more international conventions at its Makuhari Messe, one of the largest convention complexes in Japan.
Atsushi Sakurai, head of inbound tourism promotion at the Chiba city office, told Kyodo News, “The main role of the city authority (in the Muslim-facility development in Chiba) is furnishing information to local businesses in need of assistance”.
The municipal government encourages local businesses to become Muslim-friendly through sharing experiences of successful companies and introducing providers of necessary services, Sakurai said.
A spokesman for Sato Chohachi-Shoji said the company will promote its Chiba-made halal products to enter the Middle East and Southeast Asia markets after expanding business with Japanese hotels that accommodate Muslim tourists.
“We would like to promote ‘Made in Japan’ as a brand in the global halal market,” he added.