Anne Dinken’s Kosher Deli, Roppongi, c. 1970.

1970sCommerceHistoric DistrictNotable Landmark
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Anne Dinken's Kosher Restaurant, Tokyo, c. 1970.

“I’m not really a geisha. I’m a Yiddisha-mama-san.” Advertising postcard for Anne Dinken’s Kosher Restaurant, Tokyo, c. 1970. “Yiddish Hanashimasu” is translated to “Yiddish spoken here.”

“[Jack Dinken arrived in Japan in 1947] on a commercial entrant visa, one of the very few that the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) allowed at the time because of MacArthur’s desire to keep carpetbaggers to a minimum. He established an import-export company, Dinken Sangyo K.K., and moved into a small office a few blocks from the Dai-Ichi Seimei Building, which served as SCAP headquarters … [and] made huge profits selling Japanese transistors in the United States, while his wife, Anne – also from New York – opened a small hat shop.

“Jack and Anne divorced in the early 1960s, but his ex-wife made her own peculiar mark on the city when in 1965 she opened Anne Dinken’s Jewish Kosher Deli, the first of its kind in Japan. There were German restaurants such as Ketel and Lohmeyer in Ginza, Italian restaurants such as Antonio’s in Shibuya, and Nicola’s in Roppongi, as well as a lot of French restaurants such as the one in the Imperial Hotel. But there were no kosher delicatessens.

“… Brash and sassy, Anne bullied the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to allow the import of pastrami, even though MITI clerks had no idea what it was. She wound up with the exclusive rights to sell it in Japan.

“Japanese waiters were hired and trained to be just like their Carnegie Deli, New York counterparts: surly and sarcastic. Dinken’s wife taught them to say oy vey (a Yiddish exclamation of annoyance), and to slam your pastrami and rye on the table in front of you. The eccentric lady proprietor would berate customers for not finishing their food (I know I was once berated for not eating fast enough).

“Anne Dinken was sui generis. A young Japanese thug dressed in black leather once came into the shop and tried to rob the cash register. Anne Dinken slapped him in the face and he ran off.

“Japanese went there for the one-of-a-kind experience of a real New York deli. Americans, particularly those from New York, went there for the nostalgia and the insults. It reminded them of home.

“Anne eventually returned to New York and died in 1980, while Jack died in 1995. Both are buried in Mount Arat Cemetery in Suffolk County, New York.”

“A Little Bit of Home”, ACCJ Journal, by Robert Whiting, May 2014

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