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.
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 23 November 2012, Tetsuro Kai, Ambassador of Japan to Estonia presented his credentials to President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
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.
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
Commander in Chief of the Estonian Defence Forces Riho Terras
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.
Estonia’s trade balance with Japan has been positive in recent years and the export volume is increasing while still only accounting for 0.53% of total Estonian exports in 2012. Overall, Japan was Estonia’s 30th largest trade partner, 24th in terms of export capacity and 30th in terms of import capacity.
Trade between Estonia and Japan in 2007 – 2013 (in millions of EUR)
In 2012, the majority of export was wood and wood products – 34.4 mln Euros– 52%; then chemical products – 13.7 mln – 20.7%; measurement and medical devices (thermometers and pyrometers – 5 mln – 7.5%; and other industrial products (wooden houses) – 4.6 mln – 7%.
In 2012, imports were: cars and motorcycles – 17 mln Euros – 46%; machinery and mechanical appliances – 13 mln – 36%; measurement and medical devices (optical fibers, fiberoptic cables) – 2.1 mln – 5.7%.
According to Bank of Estonia data as of December 31, 2013, direct investments from Japan to Estonia totalled nearly 7.7 million euros. The main sectors are real estate, as well as wholesale and retail business.
Educational and Cultural Relations
Japan has supported Estonia in the fields of culture and education on numerous occasions according to one-time agreements between governments. 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).Financing has also occurred for exhibition- and conservation materials for the Estonian Art Museum. 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 (0.37millionEUR). EU-Japan Fest Foundation, which was created in 1993 has the goal of developing cultural and economic ties between European countries and Japan through co-operation with the European Capitals of Culture, was also active in Tallinn’s programs in 2011.
In Japan, the aspects of Estonian cultured that are highly valued are choral singing and animation. 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 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 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 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.
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 fall of 2012, Mari Kalkun performed record release concerts in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara. They were organized by Sonihouse, Nature Bliss (the company that released Kalkun’s record), and Afterhouse (who releases Pastaca’s records). New contacts were created with concert locations, producers, and creative individuals. Invitations exist for a new tour. Sales of the records “Üü tulõk” and “Vihmakõnõ” are going well in Japan.
As of 2015, Paavo Järvi will be the head conductor of the Tokyo NHK Symphony Orchestra.
The Estonian Art Museum plans to hold an exhibition of Japanese art at Kumu and preparations took place during a visit by Japanese curators to Tallinn in July 2013. The Estonian Academy of Art is preparing a workshop on Japanese textile art. Estonian Record Productions is preparing a long-term collaboration project with Dutch and Japanese musicians.
Many collaborative projects occur through Estonia-Japan cooperation frameworks.