A shop near Kansai International Airport is offering halal-certified bento (boxed meals) in a bid to serve the growing number of Muslim tourists in the area.

Mabruk — which means “blessing” in Arabic — is located near the entrance of Rinku Town Station in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, just one stop on the train from western Japan’s biggest international airport.

“We got the hint after hearing Muslims’ remarks about wanting to be able to enjoy Japanese cuisine in a bento box while viewing cherry blossoms,” said Huh Kyoyoun, 45, president of Grande Limite Co., a tourism consultancy involved in running the shop.

With Muslims comprising almost a quarter of the world population, “this is the next mega-market after China,” he said.

Mabruk’s halal bento was developed under the supervision of the owner-chef of the Michelin-starred Kappo Sakamoto in Kyoto and is relatively highly seasoned to meet the tastes of Southeast Asian visitors. Some ingredients, such as its green peas with rice and the onion sauce used on grilled salmon, are from Izumisano.

The halal bento is priced at ¥1,200 before tax and must be reserved in advance by telephone or via the shop’s website. The menu varies by season.

The boxed meals are prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws and are certified halal. This means chefs must ensure the food does not contain or come into contact with pork or alcohol at any stage during the preparation of the food.

Few restaurants and shops in Japan provide halal food. Many Muslim visitors bring their own food ingredients or even travel with their own cooks in order to adhere to their dietary restrictions during their stay in Japan.

In addition to the halal bento, Mabruk also offers baggage storage at ¥600 excluding tax to encourage tourists to go sightseeing in the neighborhood, rather than just passing through to another destination. Those using the baggage service can also borrow bicycles for free.

Specialities that Izumisano is known for, such as Senshu towels, are sold at the shop’s souvenir corner. Customers who make purchases worth ¥10,000 or more can have names embroidered onto the towels.

Originally published on www.japantimes.com

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