The Jewish Palate: The Jews of Japan

22.03.2011                      16.Adar ll, 5771

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The Jewish Palate: The Jews of Japan

160 Years after the first synagogue was built in Yokohama, Chef Dennis Wasko offers a look into the food and culture of the Jews of Japan.

Jews have not been in Japan for very long.  The first confirmed contact between the Japanese and Jews was during the 16th century when Dutch and Portuguese merchants and travelers visited Japan.  Many of these early travelers were Sephardic Jews. The first Jewish settlement in Japan did not occur until the 1850’s after Japan’s “closed-door” foreign policy was finally lifted following the Convention of Kanagawa.
In 1861, 50 Jewish families settled in Yokohama and built Japan’s first synagogue.  After the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, this community moved to the port city of Kobe where it still exists today.  During the 1880’s, 100 Jewish families settled in the port city of Nagasaki.  They built the Beth Israel Synagogue in 1894.  The community thrived until Russo-Japanese War in the early 20th century.  After its decline, the community’s Torah scroll was given to the community of Kobe.  During the first half of the 20th century the Kobe community continued to grow, attracting settlers from Russia, Iraq, Syria, and Central Europe.  At the same time a Jewish community developed in Tokyo comprised of immigrants from the United States and Western Europe. The Tokyo community is now Japan’s largest boasting approximately 600 families….