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Monday, March 29, 2010

Moses is America's prophet

By Bruce Feiler, Special to CNN
March 29, 2010 1:28 p.m. EDT
  • Bruce Feiler calls this week, from Passover to Easter, Moses week in America.
  • Feiler says U.S. and its leaders have referred to narrative of Moses for over 400 years
  • Pilgrims, Jefferson, Statue of Liberty, spirituals, Superman refer to Moses, he says
  • Moses represents courage, balance of freedom and law, ideal of justice, he says


Editor's note: Bruce Feiler is the author of "Walking the Bible," "Abraham" and "America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story." His new book, "The Council of Dads," will be published in April.

(CNN) -- This Saturday, millions of Americans will watch the annual spectacle of Charlton Heston acting the part of a Cold War hero in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." The TV air date is no accident.

This week, beginning with Passover and ending with Easter, is "Moses week" in America. It's the one time of year when the biblical hero steps to the forefront of religious ritual, renewing the special bond that has existed between the great prophet and the United States for over 400 years.

Moses was an American icon long before there was an America. When the Pilgrims left England in 1620, they described themselves as the chosen people fleeing their pharaoh, King James. On the Atlantic, they proclaimed their journey to be as vital as "Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt." And when they got to Cape Cod, they thanked God for letting them pass through their fiery Red Sea.

By the time of the Revolution, Moses had become the go-to narrative of American freedom. In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly chose a quote from the Five Books of Moses for its State House bell, "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants Thereof -- Levit. XXV 10."

The future Liberty Bell was hanging above the room where the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Congress' last order of business that day was to form a committee of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to design a seal for the new United States. The committee submitted its recommendation that August: Moses, leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. In their eyes, Moses was America's true Founding Father.

Two-thirds of the eulogies at George Washington's death compared him to Moses.
--Bruce Feiler

But escaping bondage proved to be only half the story. After the Israelites arrived in the desert, they faced a period of lawlessness, which prompted the Ten Commandments. The message: Freedom depends on law.

Americans faced a similar moment of chaos after the Revolution. Just as a reluctant Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and then handed down the Ten Commandments, a reluctant George Washington led the colonists to victory and then presided over the drafting of the Constitution. The parallel was not lost. Two-thirds of the eulogies at Washington's death compared him to Moses.

Although Moses was a unifying presence during the founding era, a generation later, he got dragged into the issue that most divided the country. The Israelites' escape from slavery was the dominant motif of slave spirituals, including "Turn Back Pharaoh's Army," "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" and the most famous, "Go Down, Moses," which was called the national anthem of slaves.

Yet as abolitionists used the exodus to attack slavery, Southerners used it to defend the institution. The War Between the States became the War Between the Moseses. It took America's most Bible-quoting president to reunite the country. Abraham Lincoln talked about the exodus at Gettysburg, and, when he died, he too was compared to Moses.

"There is no historic figure more noble than that of the Jewish lawgiver," Henry Ward Beecher eulogized. "There is scarcely another event in history more touching than his death." Until now. "Again a great leader of the people has passed through toil, sorrow, battle and war, and come near to the promised land of peace, into which he might not pass over."

The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty ... even Superman [were] modeled partly on Moses.
--Bruce Feiler

Political figures weren't the only ones compared to Moses; national icons were, as well, including Uncle Sam and Old Glory. The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty, was designed with spikes of light around her head and a tablet in her arms to mimic Moses' pose when he climbed down Sinai with shafts of light around his head and tablets of law in his hands.

Even Superman was modeled partly on Moses. The comic-book hero's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, modeled their superhero on the superhero of the Torah. Just as baby Moses is floated down the Nile in a basket to escape annihilation, baby Superman is launched into space in a rocket ship to avoid extinction. Both Moses and Superman were picked up by aliens and raised in strange environments before being summoned to aid humanity. Superman's birth name was Kal-el, which is Hebrew for "swift god."

But it was Cecil B. DeMille who turned Moses into a symbol of American power in the Cold War. The 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments," the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time, opened with DeMille appearing onscreen.

Forty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. compared himself to Moses, the Hebrew prophet is as resonant as ever.
--Bruce Feiler

"The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God's law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator," he said. "The same battle continues throughout the world today."

To drive home his point, DeMille cast mostly Americans as Israelites and Europeans as Egyptians. And in the film's final shot, Charlton Heston quotes the Liberty Bell (even though it comes from three books earlier in the Bible) and recreates the pose of the Statue of Liberty, forever securing America's place as the new Promised Land.

Today, 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. compared himself to Moses on the night before his assassination, the Hebrew prophet is as resonant as ever.

George W. Bush said in an Oval Office interview that he was inspired to run for the presidency by a sermon in Texas in which his preacher said Moses was not a man of words but still led his people to freedom. Barack Obama said in 2007 that the civil rights pioneers were the "Moses generation," and he was part of the "Joshua generation" that would "find our way across the river." And this week, Obama holds the second White House seder.

What explains this ongoing appeal?

First, Moses embodies the courage to escape hardship and seek a better world. He keeps alive the ministry of hope. "Not America," as W.E.B. DuBois put it, "but what America will be." Moses is the figurehead of "America will be."

Second, Moses encapsulates the American juggling act between freedom and law. "Since the exodus," German poet Heinrich Heine said, "freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent."

Finally, Moses is a reminder that a moral society is one that embraces the outsider and uplifts the downtrodden. "You shall not oppress a stranger," God says in Exodus 23, "for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt." Moses represents the ideals of American justice.

Yet he reminds us that we often fall short of our dreams. As King said, "I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over. I've seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land."

These words capture what may be the most enduring lesson of Moses: The true destination of a journey of hope is not this year at all but next.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Feiler.


Hata clan

Ying (嬴)
Country Qin Dynasty
Parent house
Titles Emperor of China
Founder Zhuanxu
Final ruler Qin Er Shi
Founding year 778 BC
Deposition Surrender to Liu Bang 207 BCE
Ethnicity Han Chinese, Japanese

The Hata clan (秦氏?) was an immigrant clan active in Japan since the Kofun period, according to the epic history Nihonshoki.

Hata is the Japanese reading of the Chinese (state and dynasty) name 秦 given to the Qin Dynasty (the real family name was Ying), and given to their descendants established in Japan. The Nihonshoki presents the Hata as a clan or house, and not as a tribe; also only the members of the head family had the right to use the name of Hata.

The Hata can be compared to other families who came from the continent during the Kofun period: the descendants of the Chinese Han Dynasty, by Prince Achi no Omi, ancestor of the Yamato no Aya clan, the Sakanoue clan, the Tamura clan, the Harada and the Akizuki clan; the descendants of Seong of Baekje (Kudara in Japanese) who sought refuge in Japan, for example the Ōuchi clan and the Sue clan; also, the descendants of the Chinese Cao Wei Dynasty by the Takamuko clan.


The Hata are mentioned by name more often than almost any other immigrant clan in the Nihonshoki, one of Heian-period Japan's epics, combining mythology and history.

The first leader of the Hata to arrive in Japan, Uzumasa-no-Kimi-Sukune, arrived during the reign of Emperor Chūai, in the 2nd century CE. According to the epic, he and his followers were greeted warmly, and Uzumasa was granted a high government position.

Roughly one hundred years later, during the reign of Emperor Ōjin, a Hata prince called Yuzuki no Kimi visited Japan. He said he is from Baekje and he wanted to migrate to Japan. but Silla did not permit. So 120 persons of his clan are staying in Minama. Enjoying his experience, he left and returned with members of his clan "from 120 districts of his own land", as well as a massive hoard of treasures, including jewels, exotic textiles, and silver and gold, which were presented to the Emperor as a gift.


According to Nihon Shoki, Yubukinokimi(弓月君)moved to Japan from Baekje with people from 120 towns, and named themselves as Hata clan. Some scholars say Hata clan did not come from Baekje, but Silla or Gaya area. [1]

The Hata are said to have been adept at financial matters, and to have introduced silk raising and weaving to Japan. For this reason, they may have been associated with the kagome crest, a lattice shape found in basket-weaving. During the reign of Emperor Nintoku (313-399), the members of the clan were sent to diverse parts of the country to spread the knowledge and practice of sericulture.

Members of this clan also served as financial advisors to the Yamato Court for several centuries. Originally landing and settling in Izumo and the San'yō region, the Hata eventually settled in the areas of what are now Japan's most major cities. They are said to have aided in the establishment of Heian-kyō (modern-day Kyoto), and of many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, including Fushimi Inari Taisha, Matsunoo Taisha, and Kōryū-ji.

Emperor Yūryaku granted the clan the family name of Uzumasa in 471, in honor of Sake no kimi's contributions to the spread of sericulture. Over the next few centuries, they were given the rights to the status (kabane) of Miyatsuko and later Imiki.

A number of samurai clans, including the Chōsokabe clan of Shikoku, the Kawakatsu clan of Tamba and the Jinbō clan of Echigo province, claimed descent from the Hata.

The Koremune clan, also descended from the Emperor of Qin, were related to the origins of the Hata as well. Prince Koman-O, in the reign of Emperor Ōjin (c. 310), came to dwell in Japan. His successors received the name Hata. This name was changed to Koremune in 880. The wife of Shimazu Tadahisa (1179-1227) (son of Minamoto no Yoritomo and ancestor of the Shimazu clan of Kyūshū), was a daughter of Koremune Hironobu.

In addition, many towns in Japan are named after the clan, such as Ohata, Yahata, and Hatano. The population of Neyagawa in Osaka Prefecture includes a number of people who claim descent from the Hata.

The Hata were also claimed as ancestors by Zeami Motokiyo, the premiere Noh playwright in history, who attributed the origins of Noh to Hata no Kawakatsu. According to Zeami's writings, Kōkatsu, the ancestor of both the Kanze and Komparu Noh lineages, was the first to introduce kagura Shinto ritual dances to Japan in the sixth century; this form would later evolve into sarugaku and then into Noh.

While most scholars believe in this line of descent from the Emperors of Qin, others attest that the clan was originally from Central Asia. Ken Joseph Jr explains that Yuzuki no Kimi means Lord of Yuzuki, and he found a place written 弓月 in Central Asia. The problem with this theory is that Kimi doesn't mean "Central Asian Lord", but was a Japanese official's rank under the authority of a Japanese governor of province (Kuni no miyatsuko) or a governor of district (Agata-nushi). The second problem is that Yuzuki doesn't refer to a location, but was the Prince's name. Ken Joseph Jr also explains that the family name Hata was given to all the naturalized foreigners, which is wrong. The name Hata (秦 Qin in Chinese reading) was reserved to descendants of the Chinese Qin Dynasty established in Japan.

Shinshūkyō and the Common Origin Idea

The notion that the Hata clan were among the Lost Tribes of Israel, though far from widely accepted or even seriously considered in formal scholarship, is central to the beliefs of several Japanese New Religions and to the writings of various contemporary Japanese antiquarians. While there are tantalising indications that the Hata were Semitic or Central Asian in origin, most serious scholars have not jumped to the conclusion that they were definitely Jewish, or among the Lost Tribes. Dr. Yoshiro Saeki (1872-1965), an expert on Eastern Christianity, is one of the primary scholars who has proposed the theory that the Hata were Semitic in origin practicing a form of early Judaism, and that they had a profound impact on Japanese culture. Ikurō Teshima, founder of the New Religion Makuya, and author of several books on the Hata, is another proponent of the theory.

Hata tribe members of note

Hata no Kawakatsu

Hata no Kawakatsu, in a book illustration by Kikuchi Yōsai.

Hata no Kawakatsu (秦河勝?), sometimes called Hada no Kōkatsu, was a semi-mythical figure in Japanese mythical history, who is believed to have introduced kagura Shinto dances to Japan in the sixth century. He is also considered the progenitor of a hereditary line which includes many of Noh's greatest playwrights and actors, such as Hata no Ujiyasu, Zeami and Komparu Mitsutarō. Though in legend he is portrayed as the reincarnation of the first emperor of Qin, if Kawakatsu truly existed he was likely a Chinese immigrant to Japan, or someone from further afield who came to Japan via China or Korea (see Hata tribe).

According to legend, as told by the preeminent Noh playwright Zeami, Hata no Kawakatsu first appeared as a child, during the reign of Emperor Kimmei (509-571), discovered in a jar near the gates to the Miwa Shrine by a high court official. The Hatsuse River had overflowed its banks, and the jar had been carried along on the current. As the official believed the child to have come from heaven, these events were reported to the emperor. That night the emperor dreamed of the child, who said that he was the spirit of Qin Shihuangdi, first Emperor of Qin, reborn. The child also explained his appearance in the dream as a result of his destiny being connected to Japan's.

As a result, the child was brought to the Court, by order of the Emperor, to serve as a Minister. He was given the family name of Chin, which was read as Hata in Japanese, and it was thus that the child came to be called Hata no Kawakatsu. Kawakatsu was then asked by Shōtoku Taishi to perform sixty-six dramatic pieces, in order to help settle disturbances in the land. The Prince made sixty-six masks to be used for this purpose, and the performances were then done at the Shishinden (Great Attendance Hall) of the imperial palace at Tachibana. Since this was successful in creating peace for the land, Prince Shōtoku decided that this form of entertainment should be kept for the ages, and dubbed it kagura (神楽, "entertainment given by the gods"). The form of entertainment known as sarugaku, along with its name, would later be derived from kagura.

Kawakatsu is said to have served a number of rulers, including not only Kimmei and Shōtoku, but Emperor Bidatsu, Emperor Yōmei, Emperor Sushun, and Empress Suiko. Having passed on his art to his descendants, Kawakatsu fled Naniwa in a hollowed-out wooden boat. The winds and currents took him to Harima province, where he came ashore no longer in human form. It is not clear from Zeami's version of the tale what sort of spirit or demon Kawakatsu was meant to have been, but it is implied that from the time he was discovered in the jar to this point he was never truly human. In any case, he haunted and cursed the people of Harima until they began to worship him as a kami, in order to placate him. They called him Taikō Dai-Myōjin (対抗大明神, "Great Raging Kami"), and later recognized him as an incarnation of Bishamonten. Prince Shōtoku is said to have prayed to the spirit of Kawakatsu for victory against Mononobe no Moriya, who led an armed force in opposition to Japanese adoption of Buddhism.

In 1907, Dr. Yoshiro Saeki, a supposed expert on Japanese Christianity, claimed to have discovered Kawakatsu's tomb, and a shrine devoted to him, on an island in the Inland Sea. Saeki was one of the leading scholars of a movement to assert and argue that the Hata were in fact Hebrews, and likely members of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

See also


  1. ^ Translations and comments of Baekje history - Japan part, 2008, South Chungcheong province of Korea
  • Frederic, Louis (2002). "Japan Encyclopedia." Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Rimer, J. Thomas and Yamazaki Masakazu trans. (1984). "On the Art of the Nō Drama: The Major Treatises of Zeami." Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Teshima, Ikuro (1973). The Ancient Refugees From Religious Persecution in Japan: The Tribe of Hada - Their Religious and Cultural Influence. 1.



Some writers have speculated that the Japanese people themselves may be direct descendants of part of the Ten Lost Tribes. There are some parallels between Japanese and Israelite rituals, culture, traditions, and language, which provide some evidence for this possibility.[1][2] An article that has been widely circulated and published, entitled "Mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes: Japan" by Arimasa Kubo[3] (a Japanese writer living in Japan who studied the Hebrew Bible), concludes that many traditional customs and ceremonies in Japan are very similar to the ones of ancient Israel and that perhaps these rituals came from the religion and customs of the Jews and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who might have come to ancient Japan.

Joseph Eidelberg's "The Biblical Hebrew Origin of the Japanese People" makes a similar case:

Late in his life, Joseph Eidelberg began analyzing ancient traditions, religious ceremonies, historical names, haiku poems, Kana writings and Japanese folk songs, discovering thousands of words with similar pronunciations, sounds and translations between Hebrew and Japanese. These discoveries are history in the making, giving credible new information on the meanings of many unknown Japanese words, numbers, songs and cultural traditions – and this book is the first time that these remarkable similarities are combined into a single consistent theory.
  1. ^ Japan article, Nova episode: Lost tribes of Israel, PBS website.
  2. ^ Israelites Came To Ancient Japan , Arimasa Kubo.
  3. ^ listing
History of the Jews in Japan

Jews are a minor ethnic and religious group in Japan, presently consisting of only about 2,000[1] people or about 0.00016% of Japan's total population. Although Jews have been present in Japan and Judaism has been practiced since the 16th century, on a very limited scale, in Japan, Japan comprised but a small part of Jewish history from the ending of Japan's "closed-door" foreign policy to World War II.

Jewish history in Japan

Early settlements

The first confirmed contacts between the Japanese and people of Jewish ancestry began during the Age of Discovery (16th century) with the arrival of European travelers and merchants (primarily the Portuguese and Dutch). However it wasn't until 1853, with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry following the Convention of Kanagawa ending Japan's "closed-door" foreign policy that Jewish families began to settle in Japan. The first recorded Jewish settlers arrived at Yokohama in 1861 establishing a diverse community consisting of 50 families (from various Western countries) as well as the building of the first synagogue in Japan. The community would later move to Kobe after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Another early Jewish settlement was one established in the 1880s in Nagasaki, a large Japanese port. This community was larger than the one in Yokohama, consisting of more than 100 families. It was here that the Beth Israel Synagogue was created in 1894. The settlement would continually grow and remain active until it eventually declined by the Russo-Japanese War in the early 20th century. The community's Torah scroll would eventually be passed down to the Jews of Kobe, a group formed of freed Russian Jewish war prisoners that had participated in the Czar's army and the Russian Revolution of 1905.

View of Beth Israel Synagogue in Nagasaki.

From the beginning of the 1900s to the 1950s the Kobe Jewish community was one of the largest Jewish communities in Japan formed by hundreds of Jews arriving from Russia (originating from the Manchurian city of Harbin), the Middle East (mainly from Iraq and Syria), as well as from Central and Eastern European countries (primarily Germany). During this time Tokyo's Jewish community (now Japan's largest) was slowly growing with the arrival of Jews from the United States and Western Europe for multiple reasons. Both of these communities were formed based on constitutional values along with community organizations that had a committee president and treasurer and communal structure. Each community now has its own synagogue and welcomes anyone of the Jewish faith 18 years or older to become a member.

Jewish settlement in Imperial Japan

Some Japanese leaders, such as Captain Inuzuka Koreshige (犬塚 惟重), Colonel Yasue Norihiro (安江 仙弘) and industrialist Aikawa Yoshisuke (鮎川 義介), came to believe that Jewish economic and political power could be harnessed by Japan through controlled immigration, and that such a policy would also ensure favor from the United States through the influence of American Jewry. Although efforts were made to attract Jewish investment and immigrants, the plan was limited by the government's desire not to interfere with its alliance with Nazi Germany. Ultimately it was left up to the world Jewish community to fund the settlements and to supply settlers, and the plan failed to attract a significant long-term population or create the strategic benefits for Japan that had been expected by its originators.

Ironically, during World War II, Japan was regarded as a safe refuge from the Holocaust, despite being a part of the Axis and an ally of Germany. During World War II, Jews trying to escape Poland could not pass the blockades near the Soviet Union and the Mediterranean Sea and were forced to go through the neutral country of Lithuania (which was occupied by belligerents in June 1940, starting with the Soviet Union, then Germany, and then the Soviet Union again).

Of those who arrived, many (around 5,000) were sent to the Dutch West Indies with Japanese visas issued by Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania. Sugihara ignored his orders and gave thousands of Jews entry visas to Japan, risking his career and saving more than 6,000 lives. Sugihara is said to have cooperated with Polish intelligence, as a part of bigger Japanese-Polish cooperative plan.[2] They managed to flee across the vast territory of Russia by train to Vladivostok and then by boat to Kobe in Japan. The refugees in number of 2,185 arrived in Japan from August 1940 to June 1941. Tadeusz Romer, the Polish ambassador in Tokyo, had managed to get transit visas in Japan, asylum visas to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, immigration certificates to Palestine, and immigrant visas to the United States and some Latin American countries. Most Jews were permitted and encouraged to move on from Japan to the Shanghai Ghetto, China, under Japanese occupation for the duration of World War II. Finally, Tadeusz Romer arrived in Shanghai on November 1, 1941, to continue the action for Jewish refugees.[3] Among those saved in the Shanghai Ghetto were leaders and students of Mir yeshiva, the only European yeshiva to survive the Holocaust. They, some 400 in number, fled from Mir to Vilna with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and then to Keidan, Lithuania. In late 1940, they obtained visas from Chiune Sugihara, to travel from Keidan, then Lithuanian SSR, via Siberia and Vladivostok to Kobe, Japan.[4] By November 1941 the Japanese moved this group and most of others on to the Shanghai Ghetto in order to consolidate the Jews under their control.[5]

Throughout the war, the Japanese government continually rejected requests from the German government to establish anti-Semitic policies. Towards the end, Nazi representatives pressured the Japanese army to devise a plan to exterminate Shanghai's Jewish population, and this pressure eventually became known to the Jewish community's leadership. However, the Japanese had no intention of further provoking the anger of the Allies, and thus delayed the German request for a time, eventually rejecting it entirely.

One famous Orthodox Jewish institution that was saved this way was the Lithuanian Haredi Mir yeshiva. The Japanese government and people offered the Jews temporary shelter, medical services, food, transportation, and gifts, but preferred that they move on to reside in Japanese-occupied Shanghai.

Throughout the war, the Japanese government continually rejected requests from the German government to establish anti-Semitic policies. At war's end, about half these Jews later moved on to the Western hemisphere (such as the United States and Canada) and the remainder moved to other parts of the world, many to Israel.

Accusations of antisemitism

With only a small and relatively obscure Jewish population, Japan had no traditional antisemitism until the 20th century, when Soviet antisemitism and Nazi ideology and propaganda influenced a small number of Japanese. Antisemitism became relatively widespread, and persists today,[citation needed] taking the form of a subculture of conspiracy theory which is expressed in the context of Western conspiracy to subjugate the world (or Japan),[citation needed] which is ultimately controlled by Jews.[citation needed] Antisemitic and conspiracist books and pamphlets are sold in major bookstores (although mostly in Tondemo category), and antisemitic themes enter the popular culture and even affect the educated academic community.

Current antisemitism in Japan includes elements of the occult and of conspiracy theories. Furthermore, Japanese society lacks many of the taboos held by the Western world on racial characterizations, as they have less experience with racist connections; this is occasionally reflected in elements of Japanese popular culture, reflecting stereotypes or other forms of expression regarding the Jewish people, or other peoples, that would be considered outrageous in the West.

In 1918, the Japanese army sent troops to Siberia to aid the White Army against the Bolshevik Red Army. It was at this time that Japanese were first introduced to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a conspiratorial text describing the Jewish global conspiracy in detail.[citation needed]

Though deeper research by the Japanese military and government unearthed no evidence of a global Jewish conspiracy, a small number of officials and officers continued to believe in the economic and political power of the Jewish people. In the early 1930s, a plot known as the Fugu Plan was thus hatched, in which this small cadre of "Jewish experts" convinced the government and military to arrange for the re-settlement of thousands of Jews from Europe in the Japanese Empire. The underlying belief behind this plan was that a population of Jews could create amazing economic benefit for Japan, and that the power of Jews in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States, was great enough that the rescue of Jews from the Nazis could benefit US-Japan relations.

In 1936, lieutenant general Shioden Nobutaka (四王天延孝), translated the Protocols into Japanese. Shioden became a believer in a Jewish conspiracy while he was studying in France. According to Dr. David Kranzler, "The key to the distinction between the Japanese and the European form of antisemitism seems to lie in the long Christian tradition of identifying the Jew with the Devil, the Antichrist or someone otherwise beyond redemption ... The Japanese lacked this Christian image of the Jew and brought to their reading of the Protocols a totally different perspective. The Christian tried to solve the problem of the Jew by eliminating him; the Japanese tried to harness his alleged immense wealth and power to Japan's advantage[6]."

As Japan was allied with Nazi Germany in World War II, Nazi ideology and propaganda regarding the Jewish people came to be circulated within Japan as well, contributing to the development of Japan's particular brand of antisemitism. However, while various theories about the Jewish people may have gained a degree of acceptance among the Japanese people as a whole, the Japanese government and military never gave in to Nazi recommendations that extermination programs or the like be undertaken.

By the end of the 20th century, a great many books were published relating to the Jewish conspiracy or the theory that Japanese and Jews have common ancestry. Various theories and explanations for the alleged Jewish control of the world were thus circulated, many involving elements of the occult and intellectual play, and gossip. Occult theories relating to the Jewish people, along with theories connecting the Jews and Japan, play a major role in a number of so-called "New Religions" (Shinshūkyō) in Japan. However, anti-semitic books in Japan are usually regarded as a type of tondemobon (トンデモ本, dodgy/outrageous books, a term which covers a very wide range of occultist subjects, such as UFOs and psychic power), and are generally taken very lightly by the vast majority of the population.

Jews and Judaism in modern Japan

After World War II, a large portion of the few Jews that were in Japan left, many going to what would become Israel. Some of those who remained married locals and were assimilated into Japanese society.[citation needed]

The Israeli embassy and its staff is based in Tokyo. Presently, there are several hundred Jewish families living in Tokyo, and a small number of Jewish families in Kobe. A small number of Jewish expatriates of other countries live throughout Japan, temporarily, for business, research, a gap year, or a variety of other purposes. There are always Jewish members of the United States armed forces serving on Okinawa and in the other American military bases throughout Japan.

There are two major active synagogues in Japan. The Beth David Synagogue is active in Tokyo, and the Ohel Shlomo Synagogue is active in Kobe. The Chabad Lubavitch organization has two centers in Tokyo [1] [2].

Tokyo Jewish Community


List of notable Japanese Jews

People of Jewish descent
Refugees, short expatriates
Other related people to Judaism and Jews in Japan
  • Jewish Soul Music: The Art of Giora Feidman (1980). Directed by Uri Barbash.
See also


  2. ^ Palasz-Rutkowska, Ewa. 1995 lecture at Asiatic Society of Japan, Tokyo; "Polish-Japanese Secret Cooperation During World War II: Sugihara Chiune and Polish Intelligence," The Asiatic Society of Japan Bulletin, March-April 1995.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Shanghai Jewish History
  5. ^ Pamela Shatzkes. Kobe: A Japanese haven for Jewish refugees, 1940–1941. Japan Forum, 1469-932X, Volume 3, Issue 2, 1991, pp. 257–273
  6. ^ Kranzler, David. Japanese, Nazis & Jews: The Jewish Refugee Community in Shanghai, 1938-1945. p.207
  7. ^

Jewish life in modern Japan
Judaism and Japan


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