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Special to the JTA Judaica Preserved in Japan

The largest assortment of Judaica in the Far East has been established amid the Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in the old Japanese capital of Kyoto by a world-famous calligrapher, Kampo Harada.

Ronald and Phyllis Show of Woodbridge visited Harada in Kyoto while on a recent business trip for the Pilot Pen Corporation of America, which is headquartered in Trumbull, Conn. Shaw is the president of Pilot Pen, which is the U.S. subsidiary of The Pilot Pen Company, Ltd., Japan’s oldest and largest manufacturer of writing instruments.

The 75-year-old Harada has assembled the Judaica collection at the Kampo Kaikan Museum to encourage cultural exchange and to express his personal interest in Judaism and Israel. Born in Japan in 1911, Harada began the study of calligraphy and ancient Chinese literature in his youth.

Harada gave the Shaws a warm welcome and a personal tour of the museum. He also created stunning works of calligraphy while his visitors watched and then presented one to the Shaws as a momemto of their visit.

BASIS FOR HARADA’S INTEREST IN JUDAISM

“Mr. Harada, who is believed of Jewish ancestry, is the driving force behind this expression of intercultural interest in Japan,” Shaw commented. “The museum is in a serene garden and holds 300,000 documents, including 3,000 volumes of Hebrew literature and Judaica and a dozen Torah scrolls housed in a small ark. Famed 17th and 18th century Eastern European Talmuds and artifacts from everyday Jewish life are dispersed among the intercultural exhibit.”

“Mr. Harada’s interest in Judaism stems in part from his belief that his ancestors were Jewish and may be part of the ten lost tribes of Israel. He sensed the Jewish people’s deep respect for the Torah and education, and he believes there are similarities between Shinto and Jewish religious rituals,” Shaw related.

After World War II, Harada feared the growing secularism in his country and the decline of traditional crafts and customs, Shaw said. “So he founded the Nippon Shuji Educational Federation to teach orthodox calligraphy and the traditional spiritual nature of brush writing. The private schools now have 800,000 students in 18,000 branches.”

During the Chinese cultural revolution in the late 1960’s, thousands of ancient manuscripts were rescued from China and brought to Japan, Shaw said. “These manuscripts formed the core of the World Study Library, a multilingual treasury of world culture open to the public,” Shaw noted. Visitors are free to browse through books in the collection on Judaism, Israel and Jews in the Far East.

CORRECTION

Leon Recanati was misidentified in a July 15 Bulletin story about the resignation of Raphael Recanati from the Israel Discount Bank. Leon is his nephew, not one of his sons.

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