Episode 389 – The Very Lost Tribes

This week we’re going deep into the bizarre theories of Japanese Israelism: the conspiracy theory that modern Japanese people are descended in whole or part from the same ancestors as Jews. I’ll take you through the basics of these theories, with plenty of barely hidden scorn for their idiocy to light our shared way.


Goodman, David G and Masanori Miyazawa. Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype.

MacLeod, Norman. Epitome of the Ancient History of Japan (yes, it’s the whole book. God help you if you choose to read it)

Morris, James H. “The Legacy of Peter Yoshiro Saeki: Evidence of Christianity in Japan Before the Arrival of Europeans.” The Journal of Academic Perspectives 2016, No 2.

Parfitt, Tudor. The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth.


Basically the same thing as a mikoshi
Basically the same thing as the Ark of the Covenant
An IDF soldier who is clearly also a devoted yamabushi
A statue of a tengu in Kenchoji, in Kamakura who apparently also attends the local Chabad.
Jimmu Tenno, the first emperor of Japan, who decided to become a samurai instead of a doctor or lawyer like his mother wanted.




6 thoughts on “Episode 389 – The Very Lost Tribes”

  1. Is there any evidence to suggest that McLeod was a follower of British Israelism? My understanding about that ideologies that goes a step further Then how you described it, suggesting that the British people as a whole are one of the lost tribes and therefore the new chosen people. As a result they then get the right to Dominate the world. And surprisingly, it was, and still is quite popular and white supremacist circles.

    Also, what is the Jewish population like in Japan? I imagine there probably wasn’t much there prior to the Meiji restoration save for the occasional Sephardic sailor on a Spanish, Portuguese, or Dutch ship. Is it mostly an expatriate community of Jews living there while they are temporarily working in Japan before hoping to go back home, or is there a sizable population of native born Jews who have intermarried within the Japanese population?

    1. McLeod is fascinating because he’s a total enigma. There are a few clerical records of him working as a shipping agent, but we have no record of his personal life outside his book and therefore no idea why he got so deep into this Japanese-as-Jews theory, except that it was common in the colonial era for Europeans to declare random distant peoples as lost tribes.

  2. Very interesting episode and full of some personal facepalms at the stupidity of the publishers of this garbage as well. I found myself as a fellow Jew laughing and sighing at some of these “theories.”

    However, I’d like to point out one thing. Early Christians did, in fact, celebrate Passover, especially in Anatolia and the east. They would have a Seder and then later celebrate Easter. They were called quartodecimians (fourteenthers, from 14 Nisan). It became heretical and died out sometime before the first council of Nicaea. The date of Easter has always been tied to the date of Passover. Quartodecimianism became heterodox specifically to separate Jewish tradition from Christianity and tie Christians to the Julian calendar rather than the Hebrew one (apparently, because of the way the Hebrew calendar worked at the time, being tied to barley, there would sometimes be two Passovers in one year). So technically, those Christians celebrating Passover to “get in touch with their roots” are quartodecimian heretics re-enacting eastern Early Christian tradition.

  3. I enjoyed this episode immensely! I do have two comments, though, from my perspective as an Israeli Jew.
    The first is that the story of the ten losts tribes of Israel does pop up in Israel occasionally when discussing whether Israel should allow that or other minority to migrate under the “law of return”. The discussion is often full of similar arguements, racism and nationalism.
    Second, is that I first heard of this theory from my martial arts religious teacher. He was determined to prove that the very Japanese martial art he was practicing had in fact originated from the lost tribes of Israel. To the list of the usual arguments he added claims that some techniques are similar to descriptions found in the bible.

  4. Hi, my name is Yuya Tanaka. I’m Japanese but love listening to your show. It’s refreshing to get our history from a different perspective to Japanese one. I love how you describe the history. Good work 👍👍

    Those who read this, I think that I have to remind you that this comment is NOT related to the episode! My apology. I probably should’ve searched for other ways to leave my comment. But here is the first place I dropped my eyes on. So I’m leaving my comment here.

    Directly to the point,

    What made Japanese gender equality so infamously horrible? Are there some historical background or a turning point to it??

    The following long comment describes how I got the questions.

    Since I started keeping tuned in, I also have become interested in Japanese history. A couple of weeks ago, (in the beginning of May 2021), I went to a local library and found a book titled “乙女の日本史” (Otome no Nihonahi) written by Horie Hiroki. In this book, the author briefly mentioned that before the Meiji restoration the gender equality was not as bad as in the modern Japan. He theorises that the inequality stems from a traditional concepts of genders held in Satauma domain (where females are treated notoriously poorly by their male counterparts) As the domain took the major control of the Meiji government, the gender concept also spread throughout the country, according to the author.

    But do you think that the origin is from the Satsuma domain alone?

    In contrast, the book provides many examples where Japanese women played historically critical roles

    • In Kojiki, a female god took her lead for her husband to give birth to their children, some of them later became Japanese gods

    • Masako Hojo, who led the Kamakura government

    • In Sengoku period, female warriors were pretty common. They fought alongside their husband.

    • The daughters of Sengoku Daimyo had their right to refuse political marriages. If the refusal is issued from the daughters, even their father couldn’t force them to marry to their potential political ally.

    • Daughters of Nobunaga played key roles that led to the legendary Tokugawa reign

    • In rural regions like Edo and Osaka, townsfolk (men and women) took their job outside of their resident, shared choirs, and raised their children, sharing the roles.

    • An Oku ( 大奥) wrote letters that contributed to the peaceful transition of power from the Tokugawa to the Meiji new government


    All in all, Japanese women and men used to stand side by side. However, something happened and the gender equality deteriorated. When I read the book, i thought it convincing that the Satsuma influence triggered the change. But this is my first time reading such theory. So I began wondering the origin of the inequality.

    If you got interested & could understand Japanese the book is worth reading.

    Thank you for reading down til here.

    1. This is a great question! If you don’t mind, I actually do a Q and A episode every 100 episodes and I think this would be perfect for episode 400.

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