YOKOHAMA, city in Japan. Opened to foreign trade by Japan in 1859, Yokohama soon blossomed into the country's major port. Among the Westerners who settled here were Jewish merchants and professional people, some of whose graves may still be seen in the city's old cemetery, dated 1869 and 1870. The first organized community was established in 1917, mainly for the purpose of helping the approximately 5,000 Russian Jewish migrants, mainly women and children, who, on their way to join their menfolk in the U.S., were held up in Japan by a change in the American visa regulations. This community continued to exist until 1923, but after the earthquake in that year the majority of Yokohama Jews moved to Kobe. Although some returned, no community was reestablished. During the years of the American military occupation of Japan (1945–52), Yokohama became a center of Jewish life because of the presence of numerous American Jewish soldiers and sailors in the area. Since then the small number of American and European Jews have continued to reside as individuals in the city. Its Jewish cemetery is still used by the Tokyo Jewish community.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.