Head of International Tourism at the Japanese Tourism Organization Yazowaki Shimida

The number of visitors to Japan between 2013 and 2015 increased from 10 to 20 million, 5 million from China alone, followed by 4 million from South Korea, 3.6 million from Taiwan, 1.5 million from Hong Kong, one million from the US, 800,000 from Thailand and 380,000 from Australia. This is what the head of International Tourism Division at the Japanese Tourism Authority Yazowaki Shimida told us, and gave a detailed explanation with numbers.
Japan recorded increasing numbers of visitors from all directions including Europe, as Russians topped the list in 2015 with 500,000 visitors, then the British with 260,000 followed by the French with 210,000, Germans with 160,000 and Italians with 100,000.
As for the Middle East region’s countries, the numbers are still minimal, though they are on the increase, as in 2014, the number of visitors from Kuwait increased to 1,963, 6,403 from Saudi Arabia, 3,973 from UAE and 14,766 from Turkey.
Many reasons, besides business and investment, are considered attractions to visit Japan, headed by shopping in a country whose industries are considered among the best in the world, and food, as Japanese food is the best according to many in the world. Also, visiting tourist attractions and enjoying natural hot water springs during the four seasons, particularly in volcanic areas, besides having a look at the customs and traditions of the Japanese people and joining them in some of them, including hot water baths.
This increasing growth in tourist visits to Japan brings it major income that was over •2 trillion in 2014. In 2014, according to Leisure magazine, Kyoto came in first place in the world among the most important touristic cities in a list that includes the US’ Charleston, Bangkok, Rome and Barcelona.
Japanese officials are focusing on attracting larger numbers of tourists from the Muslim world and encouraging them through paying attention to several important needs of the Muslim tourist, especially with regards to providing halal food, cleanliness (taharah), facilitating prayers and guiding signs.
This is confirmed by increasing interest of the government in educating citizens and workers in hotels on how to deal with Muslim tourists, and pictures of veiled ladies and Muslim families have begun to appear in tourism posters in the country. Also, the principle of halal food is widespread and there are explanations on it and how to benefit from Muslim residents in this field.

*Originally published on Kuwait Times on Feb. 8th, 2016.

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