This year, Japan and Sweden celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations. During Japan’s Meiji Era, Sweden became one of the first countries to establish ties with Japan and the relationship has continued to flourish, particularly in the areas of business, trade, science, culture and the arts.
“I am delighted that both Japan and Sweden continue to benefit from the relationship we have nurtured over the years,” said Jun Yamazaki, Japan’s ambassador to Sweden.
“This year’s anniversary is a wonderful opportunity for us to look back on the last 150 years of friendship and draw attention to the numerous Swedish-Japanese collaborations we have established. Our celebrations will provide us with an opportunity to inspire both sides as we create new partnerships and further develop our close ties.”
Several events in both Sweden and Japan have been organized to celebrate the anniversary. In April, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden visited Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government. During their visit, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko held a dinner for the royal couple and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hosted the royal couple.
Accompanying the royal visit was Sweden’s Minister for European Union Affairs and Trade, Ann Linde, who helped organize the country’s largest business delegation ever to visit Japan.
Swedish and Japanese business leaders discussed a range of issues and later this year, Sweden will host a Japanese delegation to continue discussions.
A key topic of discussion was the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement finalized late last year that is expected to fuel bilateral trade and investment between Europe and Japan.
“This EU-Japan free trade agreement creates new opportunities for Swedish businesses already active in Japan and companies looking to enter the Japanese market,” said Linde.
Anna Stellinger, director-general of the National Board of Trade and part of the delegation to Japan, commented that “Sweden is a small country and our economy is dependent on international trade. Doing business is in our DNA and Swedes understand that stimulating trade with our European neighbors and partners further afield is vital for our economy.”
Sweden and Japan are also benefiting from their cooperation in the scientific world. Both countries face similar social challenges and continue to work together in the fields of health care, biotechnology, sustainability, automation and smart cities.
“Sweden and Japan work very closely together and have similar interests in many areas,” said Tadaharu Tsumoto, director of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Stockholm Office.
“In addition to our collaborations in sustainability, green energy and smart cities, last year we hosted a seminar involving the University of Tokyo and the three major universities in Stockholm including the Karolinska Institute to discuss ‘Active Ageing: Living Longer and Healthier in an Ageing World,’ presently an important issue for aging societies of both countries.”
As Sweden-Japan celebrations continue throughout 2018, the Sweden-Japan Foundation, a nongovernmental networking organization promoting academic, business and cultural relations between the two countries, is playing an active role as an event facilitator and sponsor.
“The celebrations marking 150 years of friendship and cooperation between Sweden and Japan are designed to further strengthen our bilateral relationship,” said Edvard Fleetwood, secretary-general of the Sweden-Japan Foundation. “We expect to see our relationship flourish in the coming years as we continue to work closely together.”
The SJF and the supporting secretariat for the 2018 celebrations are working in cooperation with several charities and research foundations to support close to 50 celebration projects.