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Historic Anniversary Gala

On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, we commemorated the 65th Anniversary of the Boston - Kyoto Sister City Relationship and the Japan Society of Boston's 120th Anniversary

at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston.

Boston's first formal Sister City partnership was signed with the City of Kyoto on June 24, 1959.

The friendship began when Mayor Takayama of Kyoto visited Boston for a conference and was struck by the fact that both cities were centers of culture and education. He proposed that Boston and Kyoto partner for official cultural exchange and Mayor John Hynes of Boston agreed.

JSB honored these distinguished honorees with the following awards:


Distinguished Global Citizenship: Takeda

Accepted by Julie Kim, President of the U.S. Business Unit, U.S. country head, and member of Takeda’s Executive Team

Distinguished Professional and Cultural Achievement:

Masataka Hata, President of Shoyeido Incense Company

Ernest M. Higa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Higa Industries Co., Ltd. and Wendy's Japan

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, Director Emeritus and Professor, Center for iPS Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, President, CiRA Foundation


Next Generation Distinguished Cultural Achievement:

Keila Wakao, Violinist, 1st Prize Winner of the 2021 Menuhin Competition, and Senior at Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Thayer Award 2023:

Akemi Chayama, Manager, Japan Program Educator at the Boston Children's Museum

MC: Chris Tanaka, Morning Anchor WBZ

Special Performances:

Kitanodai Gagaku Ensemble Performance

Rakugo Performance by Katsura Sunshine


Violinist Keila Wakao

Thank you to our Corporate Sponsors: Takeda, thinkrun, Japan Airlines, Covington, Kaname Capital, Digital Garage, Zen Associates, Inc., Mitsubishi Corporation, Breckinridge Capital Advisors, Miho Belmont International, Suntory, and Showa Boston

And to our Individual Donors: Shin and Maho Abe, Willa and Taylor Bodman, Kio, Mizuka, and Joi Ito, Louis and Kimiko Vigden, Todd and Yasuko Guild, Paul and Lynda Yonamine, Sue and Bernie Pucker, Atsuko and Larry Fish, Al Sandrock, Robert and Joanne Fallon, Merle Aiko and Takeshi Okawara, Jun Makihara and Mimi Oka, Kathryn and Brian Chiappinelli, Eiichiro and Yumi Kuwana, Kathy Matsui, Rafi Demirjian, Cordia and Tom Harrington, Ronald G. Weiner, James Nuzzo (Taichi-Aoi Foundation), James R. Martin, William Morton, Carole Charnow, Masaharu and Megumu Mabuchi, and Katharine Finnegan


Julie Kim


Julie Kim is president of the U.S. Business Unit, U.S. country head and member of Takeda’s Executive Team. The U.S. Business Unit portfolio encompasses gastroenterology, neuroscience, plasma-derived therapies and rare diseases.

She joined Takeda in 2019 through the acquisition of Shire, where she held several diverse roles with increasing responsibility. As part of Takeda, she became the president of the Plasma-Derived Therapies Business Unit, the position she occupied until April of 2022, when she became president of the U.S. Business Unit and U.S. country head.

Julie has 30 years of experience in health care, with leadership positions at global, regional, country and functional levels. 

Read Ms. Kim's full profile here

Masataka Hata


Masataka Hata is President of Shoyeido Incense Company. He was born in Kyoto in 1954 and after graduating from the Department of Commerce at Doshisha University, he studied in England for one year. In 1977 he joined his family’s 300 year old incense company, Shoyeido, in Kyoto, and is currently the President of the company.

He is active in many prominent organizations and important events in Kyoto, including lectures at Doshisha’s Women’s College.

He has been the recipient of many honors, such as the first Distinguished Member Award from the Japan Society of Boston in 1997,  and in 2004 he was awarded the Society’s 12th John E. Thayer Award in recognition of his 20 years of sharing incense programs that contribute to cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.

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Learn more about Shoyeido Incense here and read JSB's interview with Mr. Hata here.

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Ernest M. Higa

Ernest M. Higa is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Higa Industries Co., Ltd. and Wendy’s Japan. He is also a Director of JC Comsa Corporation and Shinsei Bank, and a member of Keizai Doyukai, the Board of Councilors of USJC, and the Board of Overseers of the Columbia Business School.


In 1990, he was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the New Business Conference, and in 1998, he was awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture for “innovation in the food industry” and recognized by Toyo Keizai as one of the top 50 entrepreneurs in Japan. Mr. Higa earned his MBA from Columbia Business School and his B.S. from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka is the Director Emeritus of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University and a Senior Investigator and the L.K. Whittier Foundation Investigator in Stem Cell Biology at the Gladstone Institute for Cardiovascular Disease (GICD). He is also a President of Public Interest Incorporated Foundation, CiRA Foundation.

He earned an MD from Kobe University in 1987 and a PhD from Osaka City University in 1993. From 1987 to 1989, he was a resident at the National Osaka Hospital. From 1993 to 1996, he was a postdoctoral fellow at GICD. In 1996, He became an Assistant Professor at Osaka City University Medical School. In 1999, he was appointed Associate Professor at Nara Institute of Science and Technology, where he became a full professor in 2003. He took his current position as professor at Kyoto University in 2004 and was appointed Senior Investigator at the Gladstone Institutes in 2007. Since 2008, he has directed CiRA.


He is most recognized for his original research on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Since his breakthrough finding, he has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Dr. John Gurdon (2012). Human iPS cells and their derivatives offer a new model for disease modeling, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine. His primary vision is to overcome diseases by delivering iPS cell-based innovative therapeutic options.

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Keila Wakao


Keila Wakao is a violinist who was awarded the 1st prize and the Junior Composer Award in the 2021 Menuhin International Violin Competition. She was also the 1st prize winner of the Stulberg International String Competition and was awarded the Bach Prize in 2021. In 2023, she was awarded the Aoyama Music Foundation Award in Japan for upcoming artists and is a recipient of Charlotte White's Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant in New York.
Most recently, Keila won the Boston Symphony Concerto Competition and performed a movement from Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with the BSO in Symphony Hall.

Born in 2006, 18-year-old Keila Wakao is from Boston, MA, and began playing the violin at the age of 3. Currently, she is a high school student at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

​Named a "VC Artist" by Violin Channel, Keila has performed solos and recitals throughout the United States, Japan, Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom in venues such as Cadogan Hall (London), Victoria Concert Hall (Singapore), Jordan Hall (Boston), and Carnegie Weill Recital Hall (New York City). In future seasons, Keila will be performing concertos throughout the US, including the Richmond Symphony in Virginia, and the Philharmonie Baden-Baden in Germany. She will also be performing recitals at Key West Impromptu Classical Concerts in FL, among others.

Akemi Chayama

Akemi Chayama is Manager, Japan Program Educator, and member of the Arts & Culture Team and the Programs & Exhibits Department at the Boston Children's Museum (BCM).

Akemi first joined the BCM in 2001 as the Japan Program Teaching Assistant. She is now a curator working primarily with the museum's Japanese House exhibit (also known as Kyo-no-Machiya), an authentic 19th century house from Kyoto, Japan which was gifted to the City of Boston on the 20th anniversary of their Sister Cities' Relationship and installed in the Boston Children’s Museum in 1979. 


Being trained in the anti-bias/anti-racism education framework, Akemi strives to develop programs inviting the Museum’s young learners and their adult guardians to experience Japan in a multifaceted way, and through that, to support them in developing a healthy sense of self-identity and cultural competency.

Some of the projects that Akemi has participated in include:​​

  • The Five Friends from Japan Exhibit

  • The Japanese House Website

  • The Family Stories Research

  • Arts, Friendship, Tohoku - Annual Art Gallery Exhibition and Program

  • The Kyoto-Boston Sister Cities 60th Anniversary Celebration Programming   

Chris Tanaka

Chris Tanaka co-anchors the 5:30p newscast on CBS News Boston's WBZ-TV with Paula Ebben and the 8p news on TV38. He joined WBZ in 2022 after most recently working in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Emmy and Associated Press award-winning journalist has had the good fortune to cover both news and sports in some of the most incredible places across the country, including Montana, Colorado, Hawaii and California.


Rakugo Performance by Katsura Sunshine

Violin Performance by
Keila Wakao

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