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Posted by Julia Oliveri Orioles, guest blogger of Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

Massachusetts and Japan share a strong relationship dating back to the 18th century, when merchants from Salem and New Bedford began trading with Japanese merchants. Since then the relationship has evolved in education, commerce and culture, resulting in a vibrant and ongoing friendship.
To find out more about the Japanese presence in Massachusetts, we spoke with Japan Society of Boston Managing Director Ms. Yuko Handa.
Tell us about the Japan Society of Boston.
The Japan Society of Boston (JSB), founded in 1904, is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “Promote cultural and economic ties and active interchange between Japanese and Americans for mutual understanding, benefit and enjoyment.”
The organization is the oldest Japanese society founded in the US, there are 38 more Japanese Associations in the US.
The mission of JSB is to deepen the understanding and respect of people in the USA. The association is considered as a “bridging” business, meaning that they do help people on both ends to better communicate.
There are four main umbrellas that categorize under JSB: Cultural impact, Connection of business to business, Education, and Community Members.
Cultural: teach both Japanese citizens and US citizens how to interact with each other and be more exposed to the culture of the other.
Business: help businesses, both Japanese and Americans to familiarize with the culture of the other and how to conduct businesses without conflicts.
Education: help expatriates getting used to the Educational System in the USA, since it is very different from the Japanese System. JSB also has volunteers, such as haiku poets, who will gladly teach at a school the art of the Japanese poetry.
Community Members: to share ideas and keep the environment as open-minded as possible. In a way, give back to the community.
JSB serves as a facilitator to connect people and organizations.  What are some of the groups you work with in Massachusetts and New England?
JSB collaborates with many organizations, such as the Japanese Business Bureau of Boston, Japanese Women Leadership Initiative, Japanese Association of Greater Boston, New England Nikkei Kigyo Konwakai, Japanese Consulate of Boston, Boston Higashi School, Boston Children’s Museum, and many more.

Tamagawa Taiko and Dance, a JSB organized event.

The association organizes and supports many events, each program hosting from 10-200 people. Some of the events are Tamagawa Taiko and Dance, Annual Gala Dinner, Japanese/English Language Exchange and Tanabata.


What is coming up on JSB’s fall calendar?

JSB is hosting several events in the coming months.

To celebrate Boston’s 60th anniversary of being a sister city with Kyoto, JSB will co-present: Kogei-Kyoto x SA+C Boston: Contemporary Innovators in Japanese Arts and Craft. It will take place at the Society of Arts and Crafts, throughout the months of September and November. The event, in collaboration with the Society of Arts in Crafts, will display handmade designs and Japanese craftsmanship produced by nearly 30 artists.

For more information click here: Kogei-Kyoto x SA+C Boston: Contemporary Innovators in Japanese Arts and Crafts.

On  October 4, JSB is holding a Kodo (香道), incense appreciation event at its office at 50 Milk Street in downtown Boston.  Participants will be instructed on the art of incense appreciation. The Shoyeido Incense Company, known as the world’s premiere incense-making company, is supplying incense for the event.

For more information click here: Incense Appreciation 2:30 PM Seating, or Incense Appreciation 4:30 PM Seating.

For more events coming up, visit JSB’s website. (Japan Events in Boston)

Find out more by visiting Japan Society of Boston:

For more information on visiting Massachusetts anytime throughout the year, visit

Sister City Connections
One outgrowth of this friendship is a strong sister city connection between Japanese and Massachusetts cities.  Boston is the first sister city with Kyoto in the USA, formed in 1959. Other sister city connections include: Medford with Nobeoka (Miyazaki), Cambridge with Tsukuba (Ibaraki), Arlington with Nagaokakyo (Kyoto), Springfield with Takikawa (Hokkaido), Fairhaven New Bedford with Tosashimizu (Kochi), Plymouth with Shichigahama (Miyagi), Salem with Ota-ku (Tokyo), Amherst with Kanegasaki (Iwate), Concord with Nanae-cho (Hokkaido), Marlborough with Akiruno-shi (Tokyo), Gloucester with Tamano-shi (Okayama) and Revere with Date-shi (Fukushima). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is also a sister prefecture with the prefecture of Hokkaido.

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