Japan-Finland Relations (Overview)
May 20, 2016
History of the Bilateral Relationship
Japan first recognised the statehood of Finland and established diplomatic relations in 1919, followed by an exchange of diplomatic missions in 1921. Diplomatic relations were temporarily broken off in 1944, but resumed once again in 1957. Since then, the two countries have consistently maintained amicable relations, and have broadened their cooperation in areas of mutual interests, including social welfare, science and technology, cultural and academic exchange, trade and investment and ICT, among others.
The bilateral cultural agreement of 1978 between the two countries was the first of its kind that Japan concluded with one of the Nordic countries. The Air Services Agreement was signed in 1981, and, based on this agreement, Finnair began operating direct flights between Helsinki and Tokyo in 1983, and later those connecting Helsinki directly to Osaka and Nagoya.
In 2009, Japan and Finland celebrated the 90th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations by hosting various events such as concerts, theatre performances and seminars both in Tokyo and Helsinki.
In 2013, Japan Airlines started operating direct flights between Tokyo and Helsinki, which has further increased the accessibility of the two countries to each other.
Japan's trade with Finland has long been predominantly export-based, but in 2009 the situation began to swing in favour of imports, with the tendency continuing to the present day. Japan currently exports industrial products such as cars and rubber tyres, while importing timber, paper, cobalt and so on.
Japan and Finland have long enjoyed a rich volume of cultural exchanges, from the grassroots level to intergovernmental projects. In 2010, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado visited Finland at the invitation of President Halonen. Princess Takamado and President Halonen were both honorary presidents of the Japan-Finland Programme 2007-2011, which sought to strengthen and deepen the existing research collaboration between the two countries. In 2014, a series of events on traditional samurai culture, “Spirit of Samurai 2014”, took place in Helsinki, comprising of a yabusame (horseback archery) performance, an exhibition on samurai armory “Spirit of Budo”, lectures on traditional Japanese samurai culture, and a tea ceremony at the chashitsu (tea house) on Suomenlinna Island, and drew over 30,000 visitors in total.
Exchange of Visits
In January 1987 Prime Minister Nakasone was the first Japanese Prime Minister to pay an official visit to Finland. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Finland in May 2000. President Halonen visited Japan twice in 2004, first in October as an official working visit, and the second occasion in December to attend the 18th ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) World Congress.
Prime Minister Koizumi visited Finland in September 2006 and Prime Minister Vanhanen paid a working visit to Japan in June 2008. Minister for Foreign Affairs Stubb visited Japan in November 2009. In September 2012 Prime Minister Katainen paid a working visit to Japan, during which he had a meeting with Prime Minister Noda to exchange views on energy cooperation, Japan-EU EPA and current international affairs. In October 2013, Minister for Foreign Affairs Tuomioja paid a working visit to Japan, where he had a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida to discuss issues including Arctic cooperation, Nordic-Baltic-Japan cooperation, and the Arms Trade Treaty.
In March 2016, President Niinistö visited Japan and held a meeting with Prime Minister Abe. The two leaders issued the “Joint Statement on a Strategic Partnership between Japan and the Republic of Finland as Gateways in Asia and Europe”. The President also had an audience with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.