TOKYO, city in *Japan. Jewish history, culture, and religion were generally unknown to the Japanese of Tokyo before the end of World War I. Although the city had been designated the imperial capital in 1868, Jews who took up residence in Japan before World War I settled in the great port cities of *Kobe, *Yokohama, and *Nagasaki. Acquaintance with things Jewish was largely limited to Christian missionaries and their converts. This state of affairs changed somewhat after 1918 when a small number of Jews fleeing from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia made their homes in Tokyo, and many Japanese encountered Jews and witnessed antisemitism during Japan's military expedition in Siberia (1918–22). During the 1920s a handful of Japanese antisemites founded organizations and engaged in publication, mostly in Tokyo, but their work was generally ineffectual. With the spread of Nazism in Germany and the drift of Japan after 1932 toward closer relations with Hitler, professional antisemites – military and civilian – attempted with little success to spread their message of hatred among the Japanese people. When Japan surrendered to the allied powers in 1945, Tokyo soon emerged as a center of Jewish life and activity in Japan. Many of the Jews who helped to stimulate a wide variety of Jewish activities were among the thousands of American troops stationed in Tokyo during the American occupation of Japan (1945–52). The civilian Jewish community grew slowly during and after this period as hundreds of Jews, mainly from the United States and Western Europe, settled in the city for professional and commercial purposes. Jewish life gravitated toward the Tokyo Jewish Center which was established and maintained by the local community. In the late 1950s some American Jews studied briefly the feasibility of "missionary" work in Japan, especially in Tokyo, but the idea was soon abandoned. A Jewish community, supplemented by a steady stream of temporary residents from abroad, continued to exist in Japan's capital city. In 1971 there were approximately 300 Jews living in the city. In the first years of the 21st century the permanent Jewish population of Tokyo amounted to fewer than 200 people, though the transient Jewish population brought the total up to somewhat fewer than 1,000. These included representatives of businesses and financial institutions, as well as journalists and students, mostly from the U.S. and Israel. The Jewish community center houses the only synagogue in Japan as well as a school (with classes twice a week up to the eighth grade), a library, and a mikveh.
S. Mason, Our Mission to the Far East (1918); J. Nakada, Japan in the Bible (1933); I. Cohen, in: East and West, 2 (1922), 239–40, 267–70, 652–4; H. Dicker, Wanderers and Settlers in the Far East (1962), incl. bibl.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.