About half of Japan’s community lives in Tokyo, while the remainder is spread among a number of other cities. Japan’s modern opening to the Western world in the 19th century attracted many Jews to the country. The first Jewish settlers arrived in the 1850s on the eve of the Meiji Restoration, which set Japan’s course towards the status of a major world power. Small numbers of Jews from the United Kingdom, the United States, and central and eastern Europe made their homes in Japan (especially in Yokohama and Nagasaki). Persecution in the Czarist Pale of Settlement encouraged many Russian Jews to migrate to China, and some continued on to Japan. After World War I, several thousand Jews were living in Japan, with the largest community in Kobe. By the early 1970s, 1,000 Jews lived in Japan, the majority in Tokyo and Yokohama. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was an influx of gaijin (foreign workers), which consequently increased the number of Jews living in Japan.
The Tokyo synagogue, served by a full-time rabbi, is not aligned to any denomination. It caters to a community of American, Israeli, Australian, British, and French Jews, and has a kosher kitchen which provides take-out food and shabbat meals. The community maintains a Sunday school, attended by 45 students, and holds twice-weekly classes for adolescents. A cultural center operated by the Israeli embassy serves the community and educates members of the general public about Israel and Judaism.
Kobe: Ohel Shelomoh Synagogue and Community Center
4-12-12 Kitano-cho, Cho-ku, Kobe 650, Japan
Tel: (81) 78 221 7236
1-5-23 Takanawa, Minato-ku
Tel: (813) 5789 2846
Tokyo Jewish Community Center
8-8Hiroo 3-Chome, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo 150 0012
Tel: (813) 3400 2559
Aliya: Since 1948, 169 Jews from Japan have emigrated to Israel.
Embassy of Israel
3 Niban-Cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tel: 81 3 3264 0911
Fax: 81 3 3264 0832
Hiroshima is the site of a Holocaust Memorial.
Jewish Community of Japan, JCJ [Nihon Yudaya Kyodan]
3-8-8 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku,
Tel: 81 3 3400 2559
Fax: 81 3 3400 1827
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database