We remember the perished. We remember the survived and their path to survival.
That’s why we offer free guided tour to follow their footsteps.

The Story

In 1940, the people of Kobe were surprised by the entrance of thousands of Jews. Fleeing rampant persecution in Eastern Europe, these Jews crossed over Russia to enter Japan. They faced death in Europe, but in Kobe, they could breathe a sigh of relief.
After Kristallnacht in 1938, many Jews tried to escape Europe, but it was increasingly difficult. With the breakout of WWII in 1939, it became almost impossible for Jewish people in Eastern Europe to travel westward, so their only escape route was to the east. Many crossed over Siberia and came to Vladivostok by train, then crossed the sea to Tsuruga port in Japan and traveled by train to Kobe.

There were two waves of refugees, each bringing to Kobe about two thousand Jews. The first wave comprised of German Jews who arrived in the summer of 1940. Many of them held travel documents that allowed their departure from Kobe within a few weeks. The second wave comprised mainly of Polish Jews who arrived between October 1940 and the summer of 1941. They made their way to Kobe with transit visas issued by the Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara. Lacking the proper travel documents to go any further, these Polish Jews remained in Kobe for many months. But by the summer of 1941, Kobe’s remaining one thousand refugees were sent to Shanghai. They stayed there until the end of WWII.

People who helped the refugees

In July of 1940, many refugees were gathering in front of the Japanese consulate in Kaunus, Lithuania. These were Polish Jews, and they were in Lithuania because Poland had been invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union. Yet Lithuania too would soon be annexed. The last hope was to obtain transit visas for Japan. After a lengthy and difficult negotiation, Chiune Sugihara decided to issue thousands of visas for them in spite of objections from the Japanese foreign ministry. With help from Jewish aid organizations they bought train tickets and made their way to Kobe.
Yad Vashem later acknowledged Sugihara’s heroic acts and gave him an honorary title of “Righteous Gentile.”

Zorach Warhaftig, who later became the religious minister of Israel, was among the refugees. He put in tremendous effort to negotiate with diplomats, government officials and Jewish aid organizations.
The largest group among the refugees was Mir Yeshiva students. They all went to Shanghai and continued their Torah study until the end of WWII. The yeshiva is now in Jerusalem and in New York.
The stories of these refugees are recorded in many books, including Zorach Warhaftig's Refugee and Survivor and Rabbi Marvin Tokayer's The Fugu Plan.

Discover the footsteps of the Jewish Refugees in Kobe

We offer you free walking tour with English speaking guides

The Tour Course

Here are major spots to visit during the guided tour.

① Sannomiya Station

Our tour starts from JR Sannomiya Station. Although the building has been renovated, the main structure is the same as when the refugees arrived. When they arrived, those who had arrived earlier came to welcome them, and the hall was full of people hugging and kissing each other and crying with joy!

② JEWCOM Office

Then we will visit where the Kobe Jewish community office (JEWCOM) used to be. Food distribution, humanitarian aid, and of course, typical office work happened here. Although the building is gone, we can compare the location to old photos and get a better sense of what it was like.

③ Where They Stayed

The refugees stayed in several dozen houses, but most of them were destroyed in the heavy bombing during WWII. However, we can visit the sites and think about what their daily life might have been like. If circumstances and your schedule allow, we may be able to see one of the remaining houses.

④ Daimaru Store

The refugees frequented Daimaru department store and ate in the restaurant and sometimes prayed on the rooftop. South-eastern part of the building is still the same as the old days when the refugees were in Kobe.

⑤The Fourth Pier

Most of the refugees sailed out from Kobe port. Many of them departed from the fourth pier that is still used today for luxurious cruise ships. Fortunately, the old terminal building still remains. We can see the building from the outside.

⑥ Other Spots

We can visit several other spots, including Kitano area that is now a popular tourist spot of Kobe. Many Jews lived there before the WWII and we can see some of their houses.
We can also visit old custom office building that the refugees visited.

Time Table

The tour takes at least two hours by using public transportation (subway and Port Liner, less than 1000 yen) and walking. You need to come with clothing and shoes that are good for walking.

By using taxi, we can reduce walking and make the tour more comfortable. Since the taxi fare (around 3000-4000 yen) is not dependent on the number of passengers, it will be costly if you are just one or two persons. In the summer time, however, we recommend you to take taxi, as the summer can be very hot and there is a danger of dehydration.

Model Course A
Visit important spots but will not visit #4 Daimaru Store.

  • 0:00 Meet at Kobe Information Center (see below)
  • 0:05 Spot #1 (Sannomiya station) and walk to spot #2 (JEWCOM)
  • 0:20 Spot #2, #3 by foot
  • 0:50 Take subway and Port Liner (monorail) to spot #5
  • 1:20 Spot #5
  • 1:45 Take Port Liner and return to spot #1
  • 2:00 The end of the tour

Model Course B
Visit Daimaru Store and enjoy Kitano. Perhaps taking taxi in some parts will be recommended.

  • 0:00 Meet at Kobe Information Center (see below)
  • 0:05 Spot #1 (Sannomiya station)
  • 0:20 Spot #2, #3 by foot
  • 0:40 Kitano Area and short break
  • 1:10 Walk to spot #4
  • 1:20 Spot #4 and maybe shopping
  • 1:50 Take JR and Port Liner to #5
  • 2:20 Spot #5
  • 2:45 Take Port Liner and return to spot #1
  • 3:00 The end of the tour

If you have more time and energy, and weather permitting, we can take you to other memorial spots. If this is your first visit to Kobe, we will take that into account.

Terms and Conditions 

If you are interested in the tour, please read the following terms and conditions and fill out the application form below. We ask that you make reservations at least 2 weeks in advance.

You do not have to pay or tip our volunteer guides, but we require you to pay for your transportation fees, foods and drinks during the tour. ( In case you take taxi, our guides can not share the fee.)

We may not be able to visit all the sites listed here, or we will have to extend the tour time, because of traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. Also, we may have to cancel or change the course because of weather conditions.

Some of the spots are on narrow or one way roads. Some roads have heavy traffic, while others are a steep uphill. Additionally, in Japan, cars travel on the left side of the road while pedestrians walk on the right. For those who are unfamiliar with this, please take extra caution.

Some of the spots are in residential areas. Please be respectful and avoid sharing any pictures you take of homes publically, as well as their precise locations.

Please do not post pictures and names of volunteer guides on the Internet or other medium, without explicit permission from them.

Refrain from smoking (except for designated smoking areas) and alcoholic drinks during the tour.

If you feel your health condition is not fit for the tour, please feel free to cancel the trip any time.

Please make sure that you have a proper travel insurance.

As some spots are on narrow roads, it is optimal to have less than 6 people on one tour. If your group is more than 7, we may have to divide the group.

Let’s follow the Jewish Refugees’ footsteps in Kobe!

We look forward to having you on our tour!!

Application Form

Do you agree with the terms and conditions listed above.
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Name(If you are a group, please state the contact person’s name.) Male     Female
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Your contact info
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Number of people in your group(Please include yourself)
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If you are a group, please give a brief description.
If you have people with special needs or children under 12 in your group, please describe here:
Date/Time that you want to start the tour.
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(if you have options)
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How much time do you have for the tour?(You need at least 2 hours) hours and minutes
Choose all the statements that apply to at least one of your group members.
(We are asking this information to make your tour more fruitful.)
If you have any additional requests or comments, please write freely.
Our staff will email you within 2 days to discuss the details.

Meeting Spot

Our regular meeting spot is in front of the Kobe Information Center that is at JR Sannomiya Station.
It is on the Southern side of the station. It has a red sign (see picture), air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi.
It is also close to the other Sannomiya stations on Port Liner (monorail), Hankyu Line, Hanshin Line and Subway Lines.
If you will be staying in a hotel near Sannomiya, your guide may choose to come to the hotel lobby. Please coordinate with your guide.

Our guides will come with a big Welcome Card.
If you do not show up for 30 minutes without any communication, our guides may cancel the trip. Please respect the decided time. If you will be coming with luggage, please put the luggage in the coin lockers or baggage service BEFORE the meeting time. If you need help, please ask the staff of the Information Center.

About Us

Kobe Jewish Refugees Study Team (KJRS-Team) 神戸ユダヤ難民研究会

Our team was established by descendants of Japanese Christians who did relief work for the Jewish refugees in Kobe. They had been following the teaching of the Bible to “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” and therefore, they were more than happy to help the Jewish refugees who suddenly appeared before them.
Please visit our web site to apply for a free guided tour.

One refugee gave this mini Torah Scroll to Mr. Shiro Seto who was helping them. The lady on the picture is his granddaughter and our chairwoman.

SKK, Hirado-Bldg4F, 2-2-18 Nakamachi-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0027 JAPAN
TEL (+81)78-341-7501