Omotenashi: Hospitality, Japanese Style


              The Japanese have long prided themselves on receiving guests warmly and providing the finest, most considerate service. Omotenashi, the heart of Japanese hospitality, drew international attention during the selection of the location for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. It now symbolizes the uncompromising effort Japan is putting into welcoming tourists, including, needless to say, Muslims.


              The data suggest that, in the tourism sector, Japan is still a developing country. In 2012, 18,500,000 Japanese traveled overseas, but only 8,370,000 visitors from other countries came to Japan. That is only one-tenth of the total visitors to France, the world’s leading tourist destination, and one-eighth of the total for second place United States. Even two cities in Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore, outrank the whole of Japan in the number of foreign visitors. Clearly, while many Japanese travel abroad, relatively few people from other countries visit here.


              Japan is now committed to finding a solution to this situation. Easing visa requirements for visitors from Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, for example, is boosting the number of visitors from those countries to record levels. Japan hopes to top 10,000,000 visitors from around the world, including 1,000,000 from Asia, twice the previous year’s figure.


              The spirit of Omotenashi is, of course, extended to visitors of all cultures and creeds. Being impolite to guests is out of the question. We are studying Halal, in an effort to understand an aspect of the world little known in Japan. Conscious of differences in language and religion, Japan has began a strenuous effort towards a new goal: to offer Omotenashi that is Halal and fully meets the needs of Muslim visitors. Won’t you come visit Japan?