Kobe, Japan, Jewish Heritage tour for cruise and land clients

Day tour for Jewish Travelers, Cruise Excursion from Kobe port.

8:00am.  Meet your guide at the pier in the morning for full day sightseeing of Kobe with vegetarian lunch included. 

Kobe is a port city in the Kansai region of Japan on the main island of Honshu. 

Visit Kitano district. 

Kitano-cho is a city district at the foot of Mt. Rokko where many Western business people settled down in the second half of the 19th century, after the Port of Kobe was opened to foreign trade. A number of former mansions of Western residents remain in the area and are open to the public. The area also offers many pleasant cafes, restaurants and boutiques and is a favorite among young Japanese couples. 

An important city throughout Japanese history, Kobe also has a significant Jewish history. 

Already housing a modest Jewish community by the start of World War II, Kobe existed as a safe haven for thousands of Jews fleeing Europe during 1940 and 1941. At its height, the Jewish community of Kobe had thousands of residents, two synagogues, and recognition from the Japanese government. After World War II, however, the community became greatly diminished and remains extremely small today. 

Jewish History 

Kobe is home to the Ohel Shelomo Synagogue, officially the Jewish Community of Kansai- the oldest surviving Jewish community in Japan. 

The first Jews arrived in Kobe around the turn of the 20th century. Up until World War II, Jews flocked to the port city from Poland, Russia, Germany, and the Middle East due to its wealth and trading opportunities.  

By 1941, there were two separate synagogues in Kobe, one for the Ashkenazi and another for the Sephardi. During World War II, the Sephardic synagogue burnt down as the result of an American air raid, and the Ashkenazim shared their space with the Sephardic community. 

Between 1939 and 1940, despite being an ally of Nazi Germany, Japan continued to accept a large influx of Jews from Europe.  In a well-known act of bravery and kindness, Japan’s consul to Lithuania, Chiune Sogihara, ignored orders from Japan’s Foreign Ministry and gave thousands of Jews transit visas to Japan- many of whom found refuge in Kobe, and saving as many as 10,000 Jewish lives. 

The Jews in Kobe meanwhile found themselves unable to travel or conduct business during the war, but were treated well by local authorities.   

The present community center was built in 1970, under the direction of Albert Hamway and Vicot Moche, who came from Syria and Iran . 

For many years foreign business prospered and the Jewish community grew rapidly in size.  Large Israeli companies created headquarters in the area, bringing with them an influx of young families. Traders and other businessmen flocked to this commercial center on a regular basis and the shipping industry flourished. The Israeli presence was high. 

Unfortunately, a depreciation of the yen led many of these businesses to pull out in the 1980s. 

The current synagogue is located in Kitano-cho, not far from the center of commercial activity. The center exists to this day with donations from local residents, businessmen and travelers from around the world. Unfortunately, the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 caused serious damage to the building, which has since been repaired but still needs additional restoration work.  Visit Meriken Park - seaside park completed in 1987 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the opening of Kobe Port to the world. You will pass the Kobe Maritime Museum, and a number of monuments celebrating the unique history of Kobe.