Santa Claus, Moomin, contemporary design and saunas may be the things that come to mind when Japanese think of Finland. What may be less widely known is that the two countries have been strengthening cultural and educational ties in recent years.

More and more Finns are traveling to and studying in Japan, and vice versa. According to the Japan Association of Travel Agents, Finland ranked top in 2011 among all Nordic destinations that Japanese travel to. Finnish design products, such as Iittala glassware, Arabia ceramics and Marimekko textiles, are also popular.

"In fact, Finland and Japan are basically very different, but I think a lot of Japanese people like Finland, mainly because of the similar mindset the two countries share," says Finnish Ambassador to Japan Jari Gustafsson.