On October 25, 2013 Travelience hosted an informational session for local restaurant owners about the ins and outs of vegetarian and halal food at the Asakusa Cultural Tourism Center in Asakusa. Dr. Saeed Aktar, Director of the Nippon Asia Halal Association (NPO) led the information session followed by a short Q&A. Over 50 restaurant owners who were interested in reaching out to foreign tourists and possibly expanding their menus to include vegetarian and halal dishes attended the event. Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Saeed Aktar has been living in Japan for about 16 years and is all too familiar with the dietary obstacles of a practicing Muslim.
Almost all Japanese dishes include animal ingredients which leave very few options for visiting vegetarians and Muslims. Vegetarian eaters from the U.S. and U.K. make up an estimated 10% of visiting tourists. The number of halal eaters from Japan's neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia are about 90% and 60%, respectively.
In cooperation with local restaurants in the Asakusa area and the Department of Commerce, Travelience will have a “food map” available in December 2013 to aid tourists in their food endeavors. The “food map” will feature an array of restaurants in the Asakusa area, explanations about different types of Japanese dishes and food diary to record your food travels. As well as noting which restaurants have English, vegetarian and/or halal menus available.
With the onset of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan and especially Tokyo will see a high influx of foreign visitors. And in the spirit of Japanese hospitality or “omotensashi”, creating a vegetarian and halal friendly menu is one of the many steps taken to accommodate the increasing numbers of foreign visitors in Japan and make them feel warmly welcomed.
Travelience plans to hold several more informational sessions in the future. Please email all inquiries, questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.