During these times of incredible polarization, MassNews is beginning a series dedicated to recognizing those who have sought to employ their commercial talents toward the objective of unifying people from different backgrounds. Indeed, as we continue experiencing a fracturing in relations between people of different backgrounds, the story of Shuji Bon Yagi is one worthy of profiling and in fact emulating.
Mr. Yagi has spent decades sharing his Japanese cooking expertise and knowledge of Japanese food culture with American society not only as a means of generating a culinary empire; but also as a means of deepening the mutual understanding between our two nations. In recognition of this, Yagi was awarded the 11th Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award in 2017 for “overseas promotion of Japanese food.”
As a leader of the Japanese food market in New York City, Yagi has committed himself to contributing socially and philanthropically across a number of different verticals. As a board member of the Gohan Society he has helped promote Japanese food culture in New York through an exchange program of chefs between Japan and the United States. Yagi has also been the driving force behind the establishment of a Japanese restaurant association designed to help solve issues that Japanese restaurants might be plagued with.
Mr. Yagi’s philanthropy is also legendary within the Japanese American community. In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Yagi took the initiative to lead fundraising activities among his colleagues in the Japanese culinary scene and donated the proceeds to the United Nations and the Japanese American Society.
In addition to the social and philanthropic contributions Yagi has made, his culinary empire of restaurants has left an indelible mark on the culinary scene in New York City. Thanks to Yagi’s commercial achievements, New Yorkers that might otherwise have never been able to be exposed to various Japanese culinary specialties have been afforded the opportunity to do so. He is not only the personification of the American dream as an immigrant who built a business empire from scratch; but also someone who has successfully imbued important values in doing so – all while contributing to New York City’s cultural scene.