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  • Noah Hill

Shenzhen Adventures, Japan Part 2: Mayor Kadokawa, Shoyeido Incense, and Takakura Elementary School

Hello! This blog will explain all of the exciting details from the second half of Dan's and my trip to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan. During the second half of the trip we toured Yosheido Incense, had a meeting with Mayor Kadokawa in Kyoto's City Hall, spoke with the Provost of Kyoto University, CiRA (Center for iPS Cell Research and Application ), had lunch at Ogawa Coffee with their CEO and President, toured Kyoto Clean Center, visited Takakura Elementary School, and ate some delicious Teppanyaki.

We were very honored to meet with the Mayor of Kyoto, Mayor Kadokawa, along with many other Kyoto representatives and the rest of our Boston delegation group. The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate and discuss the past 60 years of Boston and Kyoto's sister city relationship, and look forward to the next 60 years to come. Celebratory speeches were given, gifts were exchanged, plaques were presented, and many handshakes and business cards were exchanged.

Johannes Fruehauf, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Biolabs, also gave a presentation via video conference to announce that Biolabs will be exploring Kyoto to build a new addition in the Biolabs co-working lab space network. This was really cool to hear, as UCHU worked out of Tufts Launchpad Biolabs for a year and is how we initially got connected with JETRO and our friends in Kyoto!

After meeting Mayor Kadokawa in City Hall, we went to Shoyeido Incense. This was a really special part of the trip, as Shoyeido began producing incense and was established in 1705. Shoyeido is also widely considered to create the highest quality, finest natural incense in the world. They also produce a wide array of fragrance products beyond just incense, and we were able to smell the fragrance of authentic musk in their store (just on display, preserved for demonstration but not for sale).

The company's roots date back to the 18th century, where Rokubei Moritsune Hata began using incense-making techniques he learned as an employee of Kyoto's Imperial Palace to create his own products. We first watched a presentation about the company's history, and then went into the "Koh-labo" where many types of fragrance were on display. The purpose of this interactive lab is to learn about different categories of fragrance, how they are made, and what they look like.

We ended the tour by playing a game called kumikō, where incense is passed around and players are supposed to guess which fragrance is which. You first smell two incenses, are told the names, and then are passed three incenses which you are supposed to guess. The incense names are recorded on a piece of paper, to be judged and scored (final scorecard is the bottom-most right image).

The appreciation of incense is formally called "Kōdō", and is one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement. The other two are flower arrangement (kadō) and tea ceremony (chadō). This was a really cool experience and was my personal favorite part of the trip!

Afterwards we went to eat lunch at Ogawa Coffee with Yoshinori Uda, CEO and President of Ogawa Coffee USA. Ogawa Coffee began in Kyoto, but due to their popularity and extremely high quality of coffee they have been able to expand to the United States.

In fact, there is an Ogawa Coffee at 10 Milk St, in Boston, MA, so all of our Boston readers should definitely make a visit! Ogawa has also trained several world champion latte artists, and we were fortunate enough to see a previous world champion work her magic in person at Ogawa in Kyoto. The latte two pictures from the left in the top-most row of images above is a rose that we watched the previous world champion make right in front of us.

We started our second to last day by touring the Kyoto Clean Center. This is where all the waste is disposed of and treated in a very environmentally friendly way. Kyoto is very committed to maintaining a clean, healthy city, and it was very impressive to learn about the high standards the city holds for itself with regards to environmental policies.

After touring the Clean Center, we met the Provost of Kyoto University and toured the Center or iPS Stem Cell Research. Kyoto University if one of the leading research universities in the world and has a long history of Nobel Prize recipients. They are also home to the CiRA, or Center for iPS Research and Application. CiRA is a world leader in the stem cell research field, and is working on some of the most innovative potential solutions to some of the worlds largest medical problems. Shinya Yamanaka first proved the feasibility of this specific method of stem cell research, and is a celebrity in Japan due to his world-changing advances in the field. Since Dan and I both have healthcare and biomedical related research backgrounds, it was pretty crazy to be inside CiRA and learn about the kind of research going on.

When we left Kyoto University and CiRA, we went right to an elementary school called Takakura Elementary. This elementary school is special because it is one of the recipients of the "blue-eyed dolls" gifted from the USA. Corresponding Japanese dolls are on display at the Children's Museum in Boston, and the exchange of dolls is an important symbol for international friendship between Boston and Kyoto. The entire school was waiting for us when we arrived and greeted us in the door, where we exchanged gifts and talked about the relationship between Boston and Kyoto. The entire event was filmed and broadcasted on the Kyoto news, which was pretty cool as well!

The final night of our trip to Japan was spent at a dinner where everybody we met over the week came to eat good food and have fun. The event had an attendance of 60-70 people and the purpose was to share a final celebration of the amazing relationship between Kyoto and Boston. The dinner was kicked off by a speech from Mayor Kadokawa and a big "kanpai", the Japanese word for a toast.

Overall our trip to Japan was absolutely incredible, filled with amazing experiences, awesome people, and tons of fun. There was never a dull moment and we would love to go back again. One of the best parts of starting this company has been all the great people we are luck to meet and the genuine connections we have made. This trip to Japan was certainly no exception.


I hope you enjoyed reading about Dan's and my trip to Japan! Since we've been back, work has picked up like we never took a break. We are working with more people to help speed up our engineering process, touring more factories, and developing our first molar band scale miniaturized printed circuit boards. The trip to Japan was a great way to relax while still accomplishing some business objectives, and now we are feeling refreshed and more excited than ever to continue developing our technology at HAX.

Keep an eye out for upcoming updates, we potentially have a trip to New York, the Netherlands, and Thailand coming up soon - make sure you don't miss them!

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