Japan is well known as a fascinating country to visit. For us the attractions were not the ancient temples or cutting edge architecture, but the Jewish people.

The Sunday before Passover, we made the short trip from Kobe to Kyoto to visit with several Jews that lived there. Kyoto is a popular destination, so we arrived a few hours early and strolled the streets, hoping to find some Jewish tourists. Almost immediately, we spotted an American, possibly Jewish gentleman. We introduced ourselves to him. His name was Tzvi, and he knew Chabad very well. He had lived in Tucson and met the Chabad rabbi there. He even spent time on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, a few blocks away from Chabad World Headquarters! Twelve years ago, he moved to Kyoto, worlds away. He couldn’t believe that Chabad has a presence even here. We helped him put on tefillin, gave him a mezuzah for his home, and matzah and a Haggadah for his Seder.

We were still saying our final goodbyes to Tzvi when a large group of Israelis walked by. “Chabad is here!?” They exclaimed. “Maybe you have matzah for us?” We were happy to accommodate.

Lawrence lives with his family in Kyoto. We called him to confirm our three o’clock appointment. “Rabbi, one minute, I’m driving and I think I see the two of you…” Right there on the side of the road, he put on tefillin, and received matzah, enough for the fifteen people he expected at his Seder.

Next on our schedule was a visit with Amir, a native Israeli, at the falafel shop he owns. We started walking there. Fifteen minutes in, we met a Jewish woman and her children. She lives in Latvia, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She was visiting Japan to attend her son’s graduation from university in Osaka. The children had no exposure to Judaism. We spoke with them for a while, eventually wrapping tefillin with her son. “It’s your bar mitzvah, congratulations!” We left them with matzah, a Haggadah, and hopefully a newfound Jewish identity.

Two minutes later, a young man passed us. “Excuse me, are you Jewish?” He replied in the affirmative but kept on walking. “We have matzah for you.” He turned around and took the matzah with a smile.

The falafel shop was apparently further than we had thought. We stopped to buy some water. On the checkout line, we noticed someone staring at us. “Are you Jewish?”

“There is Chabad in Japan? Welcome, I’m Jack, or Yaacov, originally from Montreal. I moved to China seven years ago and have been living in Japan for eight months now.” We chatted with Jack for a while. He promised to attend our Seder the following night.

An hour later, Amir was thrilled to see us. We spoke for a long time about jewish life, past and present. When it came time to put on tefillin, we inquired whether he owned a pair of his own. He told us, “My grandfather didn’t have tefillin, my father didn’t have tefillin, but I will.” We had brought along a new pair of teffilin from New York, for just this kind of occasion, and were more then happy to part with them, knowing that they would come to goood use! The smile on his face when he had doned his own pair of teffilin was exquisite, priceless.

We returned to Kobe late at night, physically exhausted but on a spiritual high, and began our preparations for the Seder.