Asia Japan

✈ Keeping Kosher in Kyoto, Japan

Contributed by: Josh Margo | Last Date of Travel: April 2006

Kosher Info: Eating kosher in Japan is not as easy as it sounds. They have some kosher food in the international market in Tokyo, but not in Kyoto. And they have some at the JCC, yes that’s right they have a JCC which holds two services. Otherwise please consult with your local Rabbi about eating fish, drinks and other products.

Tourist Info: If you are the historical and art buff like I am the place to be is Kyoto (consult your Rabbi about rules for entering shrines and temples). Kyoto is host to some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. I would definitely recommend going to the UNESCO sights first and even just walking around the city is a learning experience. The train station in Kyoto is world class, with a shopping mall attached to it there is a lot to do and some very nice shopping in the area.

As for day trips to the country side. I would check out Nara and the Mount Fuji areas. Nara is home of the largest Buda and the city of the deer. You have never seen anything like it there are deer everywhere. In the Mount Fuji area besides the great hiking is home of Fujiku, which is a great amusement park. The rides are some of highest and longest in the world and the Haunted is house in no joke. They know how to do scary!

Jewish Info: There are few places to spend Shabbat, but not really in Kyoto. There are two Chabads in Tokyo, the one in Ginza is the more popular one which is in a ritzy neighborhood and next to the JCC. There are hotels recommended on their website which are Shabbat friendly, but be very careful how you explain your needs or you will be walking up stairs for your entire Shabbat! There is a synagogue in Kobe, but we found them to be unfriendly and there is another Chabad but they never got back to us. Please consult your local Rabbi about Shabbat observance in Japan, as its not as easy as you think.

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Josh Margo

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  • The people at JCC Kobe are there to enjoy themselves. Mostly business owners and on Shabbat they are there to relax.

    Sometimes welcoming and outgoing. But not always. Basically Japan is a totally different world, it takes time to build relationships here.

    Also many of the Israelis do not speak English. So English speakers should ask to be seated next to English speaking regulars.

    Another caveat. Israelis communicate by making phone calls or by facebook. Will try to post contact info, languages spoken, then try to improve response time.

    In Tokyo, Rabbi Mendi and Rabbi Benyamin are extremely friendly and welcoming. JCC Tokyo is similar to JCC Kobe. But JCC Tokyo has a much larger membership. JCC Kobe has more regulars!

    Kansai Kosher