Tokyo’s only certified kosher restaurant is set to open to the public next month.
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The new restaurant began operations several weeks ago, Rabbi Mendy Sudakevich, Chabad’s emissary to Japan, told JTA on Friday. However, the restaurant, which is called as Chana’s Place, is currently only open by appointment.
“Initially, the restaurant will seat 14 in its small dining area but has another hall with 48 seats that may be used for larger groups or if the clientele grows,” said Sudakevich, who has been living in Japan since 2000.
In addition to the city’s Jewish population of a few hundred people from Israel, North America and France, the new restaurant, which is located at the Beit Chabad in the Takanawa neighborhood in central Tokyo, is designed to cater to non-Jewish locals and tourists from Israel, who last year numbered 13,000 and are arriving in growing numbers.
“The Jewish community declined in recent years, and the 2011 earthquake did not help matters,” Sudakevich added. “But recently we have been seeing an uptick in tourism from Israel that will only increase as the two countries seek greater cooperation than ever before.”
In addition to signing several memoranda enhancing security and trade relations this year, Japan and Israel in October announced they would issue one-year work holiday visas, which allow tourists to work legally for a period of one year in either country.
The move “has the potential of giving Jewish life in Japan a serious boost,” Sudakevich said.
He added that, to his knowledge, Chana’s Place is Tokyo’s first-ever certified kosher restaurant, though the city has a kosher falafel stand, King Falafel, which is certified by Tokyo’s other Chabad rabbi, Binyomin Edery.
Tokyo also has several non-kosher Israeli restaurants and delis, including one Israeli-style hummus bar. Sudakevich said the new restaurant will also serve Middle Eastern specialties like hummus, shakshuka and babaganoush and will feature a traditional Japanese garden.