I just got home from the grand opening of the brand new building of the Jewish Community of Japan. (The last few Shabbats I've been eating and davening in their temporary offsite space.)
First of all, it was a totally amazing event. Their sanctuary was in full High Holiday mode, with portable walls removed (does every shul have portable walls? Do other houses of worship have this phenomenon?), and folding chairs set up.
I estimate there were 400 people there, including the Israel Ambassador, the German Ambassador (who stuck out like a sore thumb, looking an an old school northern European or old boy American diplomat), the Secretary General of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (who flew in from Moscow), the head of the Holocaust Memorial in Hiroshima (who read in the most wonderful Japanese-accented Hebrew), and the architect of the building, Fumihiko Maki (who has taught at Harvard, and designed one of the new buildings at the World Trade Center).
We davened maariv as a large community, and I was struck by just how passive everyone was. This is probably because many of the individuals who were there are either not traditionally practicing Jews, or non-Jews who are friends of the Jewish community in one way or the other. Given that I've been davening at Hadar this past few years, I've forgotten what it's like to be in a group of 400 people in a shul and be one of the only ones saying "beri kho" during Kaddish.
The food during the reception was amazing. In no particular order:
yakitori (chicken skewers)
breaded salmon balls
garlic bread with egg salad
cucumbers with tuna salad
garlic bread with smoked salmon
garlic bread with white fish
cocktail spoons of tuna
veggies and humus
I can't wait for Shabbat dinner tomorrow night!
Finally, a word about the building itself. It has:
a banquet hall
a gift shop
a deck (that would be great for a sukkah)
an enclosed roof (that would also be great for a sukkah)
an underground parking garage
and, a mikvah (though there didn't seem to be any water in it, so I'll probably have to wait until later in Tishrae for my annual pre-Rosh Hashana dunking)
A few pictures: