About Me

Being Jewish in Japan

People seem to think that living a Jewish life in Japan is impossible… or, at the most, nearly impossible. I don’t know, I grew up Jewish in Japan and obviously, it didn’t seem so improbable or impossible.

Of course, being asked how hard it is is like asking me how hard a language Japanese is. I can describe what difficulties people seem to have learning Japanese, but that is acquired knowledge that I gathered later out of just getting tired of being asked the same question and not knowing the answer to it.

A native speaker does not automatically possess the objective knowledge of a foreign learner of the knowledge. Likewise, the native cultural inheritor does not have the objective knowledge of how hard it might be to live in Japan as a Jew, if that is her life for the first seventeen years of it. What I tell you today is a comparative perspective developed from looking back at it after having lived in big cities in the US for a while. That “big city” qualifier is there because non-big cities in America seem to be just as hard as some places in Japan to live as a Jew—although of course, in what area the “difficulty” lies is different.

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2 thoughts on “Being Jewish in Japan

  1. Hi Ruth, I do keep kosher and Shabbat, but I currently do not live in Japan.

    When I am back in Japan, I do keep up my observance, but it is quite difficult. I did not keep Shabbat the way I now do when I was growing up so that hardly became an issue, but I had always kept kosher to a degree and that was always quite challenging. But, when that’s the only you way you know to live, the “difficulties” and “challenges” are not at the forefront of your mind. That’s just the way the world is and you deal with it.

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