Introduction of Research Paper

Hello. I am Inoue, a Japanese Language teacher.

We have completed all the research projects for this academic year. I would like to conclude by introducing one of the research papers written by students. Thanks to those who have checked this blog all year!

"For Mutual Understanding between Japanese and Muslim"

1 Motives and Objectives of Research

The number of Muslims visiting Japan from Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia, have been increasing in recent years. In 2017, the number of Malaysian tourists traveling to Japan were around 440,000, which increased by 12% compared to the previous year and the number of Indonesian tourists were 350,000, which increased by 30% compared to the previous year. As you can see in these numbers, the number of tourists from Southeast Asia that have significant populations of Muslims have been increasing. A further increased number of Muslim tourists is expected in the future as the Olympics will be held in Tokyo.

<1> Muslim Tourists Visiting Japan and Current Situation in Japan

As for current situation in Japan, halal food is available in only a limited number of restaurants and supermarkets and there are also not many places of worship. Muslims feel that they stand out wearing a Hijab in Japan. For these reasons, some Muslims feel inconvenient and uncomfortable traveling in Japan. According to the research by the JTB Muslim Inbound Marketing Project Team (Subjects: about 840 Muslims who have traveled abroad except to Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore past three years), 80% of tourists traveling to Japan brought instant food, expecting that they would not be able to get Halal food in Japan. As this research shows, preparation prior to the trip is essential for Muslims since it is difficult to find Halal food in Japan. This appeared to be because Japan is not ready to welcome Muslim tourists.

Although there are many causes associated with this issue, one of the causes is Japanese have the negative image of Muslims and a lack of understanding about them. Looking at the survey studying the Japanese attitudes towards foreigners, 61.9% of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed with the question "what do you think about Muslims coming to Japan?," 17.3% disagreed a little, 9.2% strongly disagreed, 4.0% agreed a little, and 0.9% strongly agreed. Even combining "agree a little" and "strongly agree," only about 5% of respondents agreed. This suggests that what is needed is for Japanese to have more interest, a positive image, and accurate information about Muslims. Mutual understanding needs to be strengthened so that Muslims also become interested in Japan and come to Japan.

Therefore, in this research, we tried to deepen mutual understanding between Muslims and Japanese through food and culture. According to the Consumption Trends of International Visitors to Japan, which was carried out in 2017, 72.3% of tourists from Malaysia and 68.1% of tourists from Indonesia responded that they expected "to eat Japanese food" before coming to Japan. Malaysia and Indonesia are known for having a large population of Muslims. Based on this finding, we suggest that since Muslims are interested in Japanese food, it is effective to increase their interest in Japan through Japanese food.

The ranking presented in Japan Muslim Travel Index 2017 showed which prefecture is more ready to accept Muslim tourists. 1st place was Tokyo, 2nd was Osaka, 3rd was Hokkaido, 4th was Chiba, and 5th was Aichi. This ranking was based on a point system in three aspects: access (number of visitors and Wi-Fi environment), service (worship facilities, Halal food, airports, and accommodations), and communication. This ranking demonstrated that bigger cities are more ready to accept Muslims than smaller cities. In this research, we will examine if making a local cuisine from a small prefecture into a Muslim-friendly dish and posting a video about the dish on social media can deepen Japanese understanding of Muslim and increase Muslim interest in Japan.

<2> Using Social Media

ICT Research and Consulting carried out a research on the social media usage trend in 2018 on December 18th. The result showed that 75.6% of Japanese use social media. Based on this finding, we determined that the best way is to post a video showing the dish on social media since social media is commonly used by Japanese.

2 Approaches

Since Muslims cannot eat pork, we decided to make Kawara soba into a Muslim-friendly dish. Kawara soba is a local cuisine of Yamaguchi prefecture. Yamaguchi prefecture was ranked 44th in the ranking of Muslim friendly prefectures in Japan Muslim Travel Index 2017. Kawara soba is green tea noodles with thin fried egg and chopped beef on top, served on a hot tile with sauce to dip noodles in.

 Beef was substituted with soybeans. Non-alcoholic soy sauce was used. Cane sugar was used since white sugar could contain meat bone meal. Plates were washed 7 times so that Muslims feel comfortable eating with them. A video was made in Japanese and English and had explanations of ingredients and processes.

3 Outcomes and Challenges

The video was posted on Instagram and YouTube. The number of views in about a month on Instagram was 85 times and on YouTube was 148 times. Comments Muslims left for this video were such as "I also want to make Kawara soba." and "Students don't have lots of money so it is nice that I can make Japanese food." and also Japanese left comments such as "It helped me to have deepened understanding of Muslims." Yamaguchi prefecture Osaka office made a comment, "It helped us to learn about how to create a Muslim-friendly environment, including cleaning cooking utensils." The video had a certain number of views and was viewed by people associated with Yamaguchi prefecture and Muslims; therefore, it can be concluded that posting a video on social media about Muslims and their food and culture was effective for deepening mutual understanding between Muslims and Japanese.

However, since responses were mostly from Japanese associated with Muslims or Yamaguchi prefecture in a specific age group, a way to receive views from a wide variety of people needs to be found. We would like to make Muslim-friendly local cuisine not only from Yamaguchi prefecture but also from other prefectures.