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Masataka Hata - President, Shoyeido Incense Co.

Updated: Feb 8

How long have you been coming to Boston?

I first visited Boston over 40 years ago because a private collector was looking for someone to explain how to use two beautiful maki-e boxes for an incense game. Since then, I've visited Boston almost every year to introduce the traditional art of Japanese incense.  Many of these events were hosted by the Japan Society of Boston.

In 2014, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Kyoto and Boston, I accompanied 18 other volunteers from the Naginataboko Gion Hayashi Preservation Society to Boston.  We performed traditional Gion Hayashi music at the JSB annual gala and also at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.  This was the first time in the 1000 year history of the Gion Festival for this performance to take place outside of Kyoto.

[President Hata appreciating incense in a traditional washitsu tatami style room]

What does your company do?

Shoyeido Co., Ltd. was founded in Kyoto in the early 18th century, the middle of the Edo period. We have manufactured and sold a wide variety of traditional Japanese incense - including the same traditional incense that's mentioned in the Tale of Genji - for religious observations, tea ceremonies and other uses ever since.  We source ingredients from all over Asia and market our products throughout the world.


What are the benefits and challenges of working in America?

Many Americans have a deep knowledge of traditional Japanese culture and are interested in the Japanese symbiosis with nature.  They offer us objective views of Japanese culture, which help us recognize its value.  In other words, in a foreign culture, we often rediscover our own.  Our challenge is to convey an understanding of the unique value and subtleties of Japanese incense to people in America. 

What is your favorite thing about Boston?

Like Kyoto, Boston has a long history and a high level of culture and sophistication. But it also has new industries, technologies and entrepreneurship, which means it's modern and vibrant.  I believe Kyoto has much to learn from Boston.

[President Hata in kimono at a Shoyeido store location]

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