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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Finland on Sunday evening with his spouse, Akie Abe. On Monday, President Sauli Niinistö and his spouse, Jenni Haukio, will receive the visitors in a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace. Finland Today will follow the visit.

Shinzo Abe is one of the longest-serving prime ministers in post-war Japan, but his visit in Finland as a head-of-state is his first. He has visited Finland once before, though. He visited the country in 1985 as a 30-year-old man serving as his father’s – the then foreign minister – personal assistant.

The diplomatic relations between Finland and Japan date back to the beginning of Finland’s independence. The diplomatic relationship between Finland and Japan was established in 1919 just 18 months after the Finns gained independence.

In 1939, on the eve of the Finnish Winter War, the Japanese extended their moral support to the country struggling in the midst of difficult negotiations. The Finns’ successful resistance and major tactical victories over the Soviet Union aroused great respect in the Japanese.

Finland has held active commercial relations with Japan since the 1960s. For the Japanese, Finland has always been a gateway to Europe and the European markets.

Kerava river is flooding at Lahdentie in the 1960s. Datsun Bluebird takes the lead. Picture: Väinö Johannes/The Kerava Museum

In 1962, Finland received 700 Nissan Datsun 310 Bluebirds as the first European country to start importing Japanese cars.

Finnair started direct flights between Helsinki and Tokyo in 1983. The collapse of the Soviet Union enabled direct flights across Siberia, and the time of flight shortened considerably. Measured in flight time, Finland is the European Union’s member country that is closest to Japan. Even though this is true and on the world map, Finland and Japan are separated by only one country, it cannot be said that the distance is short.

In 2000, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Finland and met with the former Finnish president, Tarja Halonen.

The year 2004 marked the 85th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and Japan.

For Finland, Japan is the biggest trading partner in Asia after China. Last year, the value of goods exports from Finland to Japan was over one billion euros, while the value of Japanese goods imports totaled 673 million euros.

Finns and Japanese usually find a mutual feeling of closeness. Some say it is due to a basic cultural resemblance when it comes to attitudes toward the respect nature and quietness.

Sources: The Foreign Ministry, Embassy of Finland, Tokyo, HS, The Office fo the President of the Republic

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