Muslim-friendly Japan

The Kobe Mosque
Do you know that Japan’s first mosque was built in Kobe?  In Kobe, the Kobe Muslim Mosque in Hyogo Prefecture is the first item on our itinerary and when I see its sturdy brickwork and towering minarets, it’s easy to understand how this mosque survived the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.  Designed with a basement, the mosque also gave refuge to Japanese soldiers and Second World War victims during the American reprisal after the Hiroshima bombing.  Today the Kobe Mosque remains a place of worship for Muslims in Japan and Muslims who are visiting, studying or living in Osaka.

While the Japan Tourism Agency has a promotion plan to achieve 1 million tourists from South East Asia to Japan in 2013, Kansai International Airport (KIX) and other establishments in and around Osaka, are gearing towards creating a more Muslim-friendly destination for visitors.  With a significant growth in the number of inbound tourists from Malaysia (up 159.8%) and Indonesia (up 164.1%), compared to 2012, KIX joins other East Asian airports in helping Muslim visitors feel more comfortable within the airport.  By providing halal certified restaurants and more prayer rooms in the airport, KIX aims to be the first Muslim-friendly airport in Japan. 

Prayer Facilities

There is one prayer room in Terminal One of KIX and by March 2014, two more prayer rooms will be open near the International departure gates in the North and South wings of Terminal One.  These carpeted prayer rooms and ablution areas are arranged separately for men and women. 

Comfortable prayer rooms
Since October 2013, 576 rooms in the adjacent Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport have been equipped with the kiblat or qibla signs, discreetly placed in the closet of each guest room for the convenience of Muslim visitors.  With the increasing number of Muslim travellers choosing to stay with the hotel, prayer mats and prayer clothes are also prepared for hire.  In Kyoto, guests at Hotel Granvia Kyoto can also have rooms equipped with prayer mat and the kiblat directional sign and groups can also request for the arrangement of a group prayer room.

Located just 20 minutes by shuttle bus from KIX, Rinku Premium Outlets is often the last stop in the travel itinerary to Osaka so that visitors can shop for some of the world’s finest international fashion labels and Japanese brands before leaving for the airport.  Designed with 210 shops sprawled across two buildings that are linked by a bridge, Rinku Premium Outlets also has a prayer room for Muslims which they call a Silence Room.  To make use of this facility, visitors should register with staff at Information before going to the room, located on the first floor of the Seaside wing of the mall. 

Halal Meals

In KIX the U-Don on the second floor of Terminal One and Oragasoba on the third floor of Aero Plaza are two restaurants that have been certified halal by the Malaysia Halal Consultation & Training agency.  Since November 2013, sixteen food outlets in Terminal One, Terminal Two, Aero Plaza and Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport, in KIX offer pork-free and alcohol-free menus. 

Halal certificate issued by the
Malaysian Halal Corporation Co Ltd
The Kansai In-flight Catering Co, the operator of the halal in-flight meals in KIX also provides a catering service for groups seeking halal meals in the airport.  With a minimum of one week’s advance reservation, halal Bento set meals and Japanese hors d’eouvre platters, can be served in various venues in KIX.  Based on the number of diners, the meals can be served within a hall in Sky View, a conference room in Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport or a VIP room in Terminal One. 

Muslim visitors in Kyoto can also choose to dine at Café Restaurant Le Temps in Hotel Granvia Kyoto which is certified halal by the Malaysia Halal Corporation Co Ltd since June 2013.  Food items in the buffet at Café Restaurant Le Temps are clearly labeled by the halal logo, with 3-day advance notice while Muslim guests can also enjoy a halal menu for lunch or dinner at Ukihashi, a restaurant in the hotel. 
The Tofu Restaurant in Kyoto, Kiyomizu Junsei Okaneya,
serves a range of halal set meals
Kiyomizu Junsei Okabeya, the Tofu Restaurant in Kyoto, is also able to cater halal set meals for groups at their charming restaurant situated close to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the most-visited temple in Kyoto.

The provision of prayer rooms and halal certified restaurants in and around Osaka clearly reflects a deeper understanding and stronger religious tolerance towards Muslim visitors.  These Muslim-friendly facilities will not only foster mutual understanding among various religions but will go a long way to make travel to Osaka more appealing to Muslims. 

Air Asia X flies direct to Kansai International Airport in Osaka from LCC Terminal in Sepang.  Details at
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 9 January 2014

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