Estonia and Japan
Official visit of Their Majesties Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Estonia 24–25 May 2007
Japan recognised the Republic of Estonia de facto on 6 March 1919. On 26 January 1921, the Supreme Council of the Entente (including Japan) recognised the Republic of Estonia de jure. Japan also recognised the Republic of Estonia through a separate act. The chargé d’affaires a. i. appointed to Riga in 1921 also covered Estonia.
In 1934, Alfred Ruthe, whose field of activities comprised the whole of Japan, was appointed Estonian Honorary Consul in Dairen, South Manchuria.
In 1935 the first Japanese Honorary Consul, Voldemar Puhk, started his activities in Tallinn. In 1937, Japan's ambassador to Riga was also accredited to Estonia and in 1939 Japan established a diplomatic representation in Tallinn, which functioned until 1940.
The year 2011 was an important one for our relations with Japan – it marks 90 years since the establishing of diplomatic relations and 20 years since the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1991.
Relations since 1991
On 6 September 1991, Japanese Special Ambassador Hirokazu Arai conveyed to Tallinn the official statement of the Japanese government's recognition of the independence of the Republic of Estonia. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored on 10 October 1991. In January 1993, Japan's Embassy in Tallinn was opened.
On 4 March 1996, the Embassy of the Republic of Estonia was opened in Tokyo.
On 19 October 2010 Toivo Tasa, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to Japan presented his credentials to Emperor Akihito of Japan.
On 17 March 2010 Hideaki Hoshi, Ambassador of Japan to Estonia, presented his credentials to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Ambassador Hoshi is the first Japansese ambassador to reside in Tallinn.
On 7 April 2011 the Estonian-Japanese parliamentary group was re-established. The Chairman of the group is Urmas Reinsalu (the previous groups were established in 1996, 2000, 2003, and 2007).
In 1991, the Japanese-Estonian friendship society was established on the island of Hokkaido (chaired by Masatoshi Nakamura). In 1992, the Estonian-Japanese Association was established in Tallinn (chaired by Heikki Vallaste); it organises exhibitions and lectures, and promotes Japanese culture. In February 2004, the Estonian-Japanese friendship society was established in Tokyo (chaired by Kosaku Yamaguchi).
A sister city agreement was concluded on 1 May 2007 between the Japanese city of Saku, in Nagano prefecture, and the Estonian township of Saku, in Harju County.
||Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma was in Japan within the framework of a Japanese government programme
||Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
||Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
|October - November 2004
||President Arnold Rüütel
||Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland
||Minister of Economic Affairs Mihkel Pärnoja, accompanied by business delegation
||Official visit of State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Yutaka Banno
||Deputy Minister of Finance Kazunori Tanaka
||The official visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Estonia
||Vice Finance Minister Hidehisa Otsuji
||Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shigeo Uetake
- Declaration of Intent between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Industrial Bank of Japan (came into force 11 Mar 1996);
- Agreement on the Abolishment of Visa Requirements (came into force 1 Dec 1999).
- The co-operation protocol between the foreign ministries of Estonia and Japan was signed in June 2002 in the course of the visit of Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland. That laid the basis for regular political consultations.
- On 19 December 2000, Estonia and Japan agreed that only bilateral agreements concluded after 20 Aug 1991 are in force.
- Protocols, agreements and implementation agreements with a view of providing cultural, educational and sports grants on the part of the Japanese Government. At present (May 2007), there are six agreements governing the respective topic.
Economic relations between Estonia and Japan are good and progressing stably. Kosaku Yamaguchi is working in Tokyo as a representative of Enterprise Estonia.
Thanks to the Estonian government’s successful co-operation with Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi, a unique project will come to life from 2011-2013. A network of electric car charging stations than covers the entire country (250 stations in total) will be established and 509 Mitsubishi MieV electric cars will arrive in Estonia, which are to be used by municipal social workers. In addition, the Estonian government will start a support programme that will make it cheaper for people to buy electric cars.
In 2010 foreign trade between Estonia and Japan amounted to 74.8 million euros. Exports made up 47.7 million euros and imports 27.1 million euros. Overall Japan was Estonia’s 27th largest trade partner in the world, with trade making up 0.4% of Estonia’s total foreign trade turnover.
The trade balance was positive for the second year in a row. Estonian export to Japan did not decrease significantly during the crisis, which demonstrates that the primary articles have found a solid market and marketing channels.
Trade between Estonia and Japan in 2004 – 2010 (in millions of EUR)
Main export articles in 2010:
- Wood and wood products (laminated timber, cut or split wood) - 72.2%
- Other industrial products (wooden houses) - 8%
- Chemical products (inorganic and organic compounds of rare earth metals, yttrium, scandium or composites of these metals) - 5.7%
- Measurement and medical devices (thermometers and pyrometers) – 4.1%
- Metals and metal products (other nonprecious metals) - 3.9%
Main import articles in 2010:
- Machinery and mechanical appliances (heat exchangers, air conditioners, electrical appliances, rechargeable batteries) - 63.2%
- Transportation vehicles (cars) - 16.9%
- Measurement and medical devices (optical fibers, fiberoptic cables) – 7.3%
- Textiles and textile products (textile fabrics, plastic-coated or laminated fabric, fabric of synthetic filament yarn) - 3.3%
- Metals and metal products (hand saws, saw blades, other hand tools) - 3%
Source: Statistical Office of Estonia
According to Bank of Estonia data, as of 31.12.2010 the sum of Japanese direct investments made in Estonia is close to 5.3 million euros. The primary sectors for investments are real estate activity (85%) and wholesale and retail trade (9.6%).
Educational and Cultural Relations
The most recognised Japanophile in Estonia is Tallinn University professor Rein Raud, to whom Japan gave the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, for his contribution to heading Japanese studies and developing the study of Japanese in Estonia.
In Estonia, one can study Japanese language and culture at the Estonian Institute of Humanities, the Language Centre of the University of Tartu, Tallinn University, Tallinn Järveotsa Upper Secondary School, and in the Tallinn Language School. The Japanese Government has helped provide funding for the furnishing of the University of Tartu language laboratory (0.26 million EUR) and the Tallinn University Japanese language class (nearly 0.2 million EUR). It has also helped provide learning materials and technical equipment for the Institute of Humanities (almost 0.06 million EUR).
Estonian specialists are offered specialised training in various disciplines (power engineering, environment protection, forensic science, etc.) by the Japan International Co-operation Agency JICA. The Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbusho) offers grants for bachelors and masters studies at different Japanese universities. The Japan Foundation organises study trips to Japan and offers grants in the framework of various programmes. Since March 2001, it has been possible to apply for dedicated Japanese Government grants in the framework of the project "Grant Assistance for Cultural Grass-Roots Project".
THEATRE AND MUSIC
The Japanese Government provided aid to the Estonian National Opera for purchasing the audio-visual equipment (0.4 million EUR). The Estonian Music Academy was supported for the technical furnishings of the electronic music studio (0.36 million EUR). The Heino Eller Music School in Tartu was also supported for purchasing music instruments (0.37 million EUR).
In 1998, the Estonian Music Days took place in Japan with concerts by Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Hortus Musicus, organist Andres Uibo and others.
In August 2000 the ballet troupe Chambre Ouest performed in Estonia.
In November 2001 a kabuki theatre gave a performance in the great hall of the Estonian Drama Theatre (kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre that unites wordcraft, music, song and dance, and the actors are all men).
In October 2002 a modern dance performance by the Japanese technological theatre Dumb Type took place in Tallinn.
In December 2002, performances of the famed classical Japanese theatrical form Noh were given in the Drama Theatre.
In November 2002, Neeme Järvi (who at the same time was a guest conductor of the Japanese Symphony Orchestra) and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, gave five concerts, including the première of “Litany” by Arvo Pärt.
Another cultural event in 2002 was the performance of Eduard Tubin’s third symphony by the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra. In May 2003 and November 2004 conductor Anu Tali conducted in Japan.
In March 2002 the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra gave three concerts in Tallinn.
The Ellerhein Girls’ Choir has repeatedly been to Japan on concert tours. The conductor of the choir, Tiia-Ester Loitme, is a highly appreciated conductor in Japan; in December 2008 she was given a state decoration by Japan.
Neeme, Kristjan and Paavo Järvi have all conducted Japan’s leading orchestras.
In honour of the visit of Japan’s royal couple in 2007, a concert was organised at the Song Festival Grounds. A choir of 3 700 performed for the royal couple, performing many well-known Song Festival pieces. The Ellerhein Girls’ Choir performed the Japanese song “Sakuro”.
In 2010 Estonia was once again visited by the famous Japanese drummer Ichitaro. Within the framework of the Tuule ja Kõue Tour, he gave performances all over Estonia.
In 2010 Estonian oboist Kalev Kuljus and pianist Marko Martin performed in Japan for the second time. The concert was given on the island of Okinawa in southern Japan.
Within the programme for Tallinn’s Capital of Culture year there were many large-scale projects connected to Japan. The Japanese Embasy along with various Estonian partners organised the “Japanese Cultural Month” from the end of August until October, within the framework of which theatrical performances and concerts as well as lectures and exhibits introducing both traditional and modern Japanese culture took place. They included:
On 12-13 September concerts using traditional Japanese instruments (tsugaru shamisen, etc.) were given;
on 17 October there was a performance of Hachioiji Kuruma puppet theatre;
from 19-21 October concerts of the Estonian National Male Choir together with Japanese taiko drums took place;
from 21-25 September five Japanese children’s and youth choirs from the city and region of Sendai, which was the hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in the spring, came to Tallinn. The choirs were accompanied by the EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee delegation, made up of major Japanese entrepreneurs that are patrons of the arts, which has the goal of developing cultural and economic ties between European countries and Japan through co-operation with the European Capitals of Culture. Sadayuki Sakakibara, the chairman of the board of Toray Industries, which brings together the Japanese entrepreneurs in the delegation, had meetings with the prime minister, the minister of economic affairs and communications, and the Tallinn city government.
Classical Japanese poetry has been translated into Estonian by Rein Raud (Under the Full Moon, 1985; The Heart is the Only Flower, 1992; A Peak in the Bottom of the Lake, 2006). Japanese poetry has also been translated by Uku Masing (Haikus, 1997; Tankas, 1997). Novels and short stories have been translated by Agu Sisask (for example Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes, 1968; Shusaku Endo, When I Whistle, 1988; Yasunari Kawabata, Thousand Cranes; The Old Capital, 2001 and others), by Ülle Udam (Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country, 1989 and others), by Maret Nukke (Junichiro Tanizaki, In the Praise of Shadows, 2004) and by Kati Lindström (Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen, 2003; Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood, 2006).
Within the framework of the European Union literature seminar, a Jaan Kaplinski poetry evening was held in Tokyo in 2004.
In 2005 a reading of Yasuo Fujitomi’s poetry was held in the Adamson-Eric Museum, which was attended by the author himself.
CINEMA AND ART
In 2002 Ene-Liis Semper participated in the opening of the Kumamoto Contemporary Art Museum by exhibiting a video installation.
Japanese ceramics, photographic art and calligraphy have been exhibited in Estonian exhibition halls. In April 2003 the exhibit “30 Years of the Ikebana Tradition in Estonia” was displayed at the Estonian National Library. In June 2003, a Japanese exhibition introducing woodcutting was opened in the Museum of Adamson-Eric and in September of the same year the exhibition “Living Faces in Tallinn” by the Japanese modern graphics’ group Pintsaurus was opened in the gallery of the Art Building.
On 31 July 2011 a Japanese garden was opened in Kadriorg Park, which now contains the Hiroshima “Stone for Peace” presented to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves by the Stone for Peace Association of Hiroshima on 21 October 2011.
In May 2004, Estonian sumo wrestler Kaido Höövelson (aka Baruto) was the first Estonians – and among only a few Europeans – to become a member of the Japanese Professional Sumo Federation. On 31 March 2010 Kaido Höövelson was given the title of Ozeki, which is the second-highest rank in sumo. Baruto is the eighth foreigner to earn this title. Another notable fact is that the first Junior Sumo World Championships to be held outside of Japan took place in August 2006 in Rakvere, which is also where the adult amateur Sumo World Championships took place from 11-12 October 2008.
Co-operation on the level of municipal governments has also intensified. The Estonian township of Saku has engaged in long-term co-operation with the Japanese city of Saku, in Nagano prefecture.