Takahito Mikasa, Emperor Hirohito’s younger brother, has dedicated much of his life to scholarship of the ancient Near East, is a fluent Hebrew speaker, and appears frequently at Jewish communal events in Tokyo. He traces his interest in Judaism, ultimately, to his experiences in World War II, when, shocked by the horrific behavior of the Japanese army at Nanking, he came to oppose the war and his country’s institutionalized brutality. Menachem Butler presents an overview of Mikasa’s journey:
[Mikasa] deplored the theories, . . . common [in Japan in the 1950s], that the Japanese and the Jews have some mystical affinity or spiritual identity apparent only to the initiated. The real relationship of the two peoples, more contrapuntal than identical, he considered to be more profound. . . .
He said that after the Western powers defeated Japan . . . he had had the on, the obligation, to Westernize himself. He had gone on to learn Western culture. And, he said, in the six years of his study, he discovered one supreme fact; that the Jews were the key to Western civilization. The truth incarnated in Judaism, a truth of being rather than of theory, is the central meaning of history. . . . History had brought him—Prince Mikasa—to the Jew, . . . and Judaism had brought him back to himself. For the Jew is not only the father of the West, he is the scion of the Orient. He is the holy bridge (a traditional and poignant Japanese symbol) between East and West. Through understanding Judaism, the prince regained a sense of his dignity as a member of his people; he was again proud to be Japanese.