1867 – 2017

Denmark and Japan celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations in 2017 but the history between the two countries actually dates back more than 400 years to 1616. Below you can learn more about the sailors, traders, diplomats, writers and royals that helped create and shape the Danish-Japanese relations as they are today.

Denmark and Japan

1616
Jan 03

The Danish East India Company forms

The Danish East India Company is formed under King Christian IV – one of its goals is to reach Japan to establish trade. However, despite several missions, such as Munk’s and Pessart’s in 1619 and 1644, the Company never achieves this goal.

1619
May 03

First Danish attempt to reach Japan

As part of the Danish East India Company, Danish-Norwegian Jens Munk is sent out to try to reach Japan via the North West Passage. Unfortunately Munk ends up stuck in the ice at Hudson Bay. He barely survives, but returns to Denmark, where he is thrown in prison for losing his ship.

1644
Jan 03

Second Danish attempt to reach Japan

Dutch trade officer Behrent Pessart attempts to reach Japan under Danish flag to establish trade but is killed by natives in the Philippines. Image kindly provided by courtesy of the Maritime Museum of Denmark.

1645
Jan 03

First recorded awareness of Denmark in Japan

A Japanese world map depicts Denmark for the first time under the name ‘Tania’ – it even offers a picture of Danes. This is the first recorded awareness of Denmark in Japan.

1674
Jan 03

Royal letter from King Christian V never reaches Japan

A royal letter from King Christian V, which seeks to promote trade between Denmark and Japan, is intercepted by the Dutch and never reaches Japan.

1676
Jan 03

Danish ships are denied entry to Japan

Danish ships are denied entry into Japan by the Shogunate – despite the fact that no Danish ships have entered Japanese waters yet.

1739
Jun 16

First Dane to reach Japan

Martin Spangberg becomes the first recorded Danish person to visit Japan. Spangberg is a part of Vitus Bering’s expeditions to explore the Far East and lands in Sendai Bay. Although Spangberg is too cautious to actually go ashore, he manages to trade with Japanese fishermen on board his ship. He describes the Japanese as very polite and quite generous as they brought both food and clothes for the sailors.

1803
Aug 20

First Japanese to visit Denmark

Th e Russian ship Nadezhda lands in Copenhagen with 4 Japanese sailors on board. The Japanese sailors suffered shipwreck in Siberia in 1792 and had since tried to return to Japan with help from the Russians. When they land in Copenhagen, the Japanese sailors are finally en route home, almost 10 years after their shipwreck. These four sailors are the first recorded Japanese to visit Denmark.

1846
Jan 03

First Danish attempt at negotiating trade relations in Japan

Rear Admiral Steen Bille lands in Japan on his way around the world. Bille is not supposed to visit Japan, but to negotiate trade relations in China. However once at sea, he decides to sail to Japan. He arrives to find that he is not allowed to dock his ship in Uraga harbour, let alone go ashore. The Japanese think that Bille is short-tempered and a pestilence – and Bille thinks the Japanese are rude and disrespectful. Needless to say, nothing fruitful comes of this very short encounter. Based on his travels, Bille is the first Dane to write about Japan in Danish. His books are published in 1849-51 and are very influential for future Danish accounts about Japan.

1867
Jan 12

The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation is signed

After a long negotiation process through Dutch intermediaries, Japan and Denmark sign the “Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation”. Denmark is the most interested part in signing the treaty, after unsuccessfully attempting to establish trade relations with Japan since 1616. After losing Slesvig in 1864, Denmark is committed to rebuilding its international image to the rest of the world by establishing connections to even distant countries like Japan. For Japan, the treaty is a way to gain international legitimacy as a sovereign nation and government. The treaty is the last treaty the Shogunate ratifies with a foreign nation before the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

May 01

First – and only – Dane meeting a Shogun

Edouard Suenson (son of famous admiral Edouard Suenson) is the first and only Dane ever to meet a Shogun as he accompanies French admiral Roze to an audience with Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in Osaka. Suenson is also the first Dane to stay in Japan for a prolonged period of time, which he later describes in the book “Sketches from Japan”. Even though Rear Admiral Bille is the first to write about Japan in Danish in 1846, Suenson’s descriptions are longer and based on his observations of everyday life. Suenson also has a better impression of Japan than Bille. In 1900, Suenson accompanies Danish Prince Valdemar to an audience with the Emperor Meiji, making him the only Dane to meet both a Shogun and an Emperor.

Jul 01

Dannebrog is hoisted for the first time in Japan

The Dutch consulates in Yokohama and Nagasaki, who are also representing Denmark, hoist the Danish flag Dannebrog for the first time in Japan.

Jul 05

First Danish consul in Japan

Until July 1867, Denmark has only been represented by Dutch diplomats in Japan but this change when John Henry Duus becomes the first Danish consul in Japan. He is stationed in Hakodate and mostly deals with trade disputes. In the following one and a half years, Denmark establishes consulates in Yokohama, Nagasaki, Osaka and Kobe.

Dec 16

The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation is ratified

The Japan-Denmark treaty is ratified in Copenhagen, making the Japanese-Danish friendship and partnership official.

1869
Jan 03

First depiction of Dannebrog in Japan

Dannebrog is depicted waving in Japan f or the first time by ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artist Kuniteru Utagawa. A copy of this historic piece of art is framed and displayed at the Residence of the Danish ambassador in Japan.

1870
Jun 21

First Danish diplomatic mission to Japan

Chamberlain Julius Frederik Sick arrives in Japan to negotiate terms for installing telegraphic cables from Russia to Japan by the Danish company, Great Northern Extension Telegraph Company. While officially not a diplomat, Sick’s mission can be seen as the first diplomatic mission from Denmark to Japan.

Sep 13

First Dane to meet a Japanese Emperor

Julius Frederik Sick is the first Dane to be granted an audience with a Japanese Emperor, Emperor Meiji. Prior to the audience, Sick has sent the Emperor a letter from the Danish King Christian IX and during the audience, the Emperor Meiji replies to this letter. Sick is very satisfied and proud that the Emperor answered – it is the first time any Emperor have answered a letter from a European king.

1871
Jan 03

The first telegraphic lines in Japan is built by a Danish company

The telegraph lines from Vladivostok to Nagasaki open for the first telegraphic connection between Japan and mainland Asia. The lines are built by Danish Great Northern China & Japan Extension Telegraph Company – thanks to the diplomatic negotiation skills of Julius Frederik Sick. The telegraph lines contribute to bringing Japan into the modern era of communications, and Great Northern has monopoly in the industry in Japan until 1912. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Bill Glover, www.atlantic-cable.com .

1873
Apr 18

First Japanese diplomatic mission to Denmark

The first modern Japanese diplomatic delegation to the West, the Iwakura Mission, travels around the world from 1871 to 1873 to visit countries with which Japan have signed friendship and commerce treaties. The delegation’s mission is to learn more about Western societies and technologies in order to modernize Japan. In April 1873 the Iwakura Mission briefly visits Denmark where it focuses on learning about public education and naval logistics. Upon arrival, the Japanese are greeted by Julius Frederick Sick, who led the first Danish diplomatic delegation in Japan. The highlight of the visit is on April 19th where the Japanese have audiences with King Christian IX and Queen Louise, followed by a royal banquet to celebrate the good relations between the two countries.

1885
Jan 03

Japanese art and craftsmanship popular in Denmark

In the latter half of the 19th century, Japanese art and craftsmanship become very popular in Europe – the trend is referred to as Japonism. Europeans are in love with the mystic and poetic world of ukiyo-e – and less interested in the actual country Japan. Japonism is introduced in Denmark by art historian Karl Madsen who writes the book “Japanese Art”. The book is popular and introduces the Danish audience to traditional Buddhist paintings, ukiyo-e and Hokusai, one of the most famous Japanese artists.

1886
Jan 03

Dane inspired by Japanese art to design Royal Copenhagen porcelain

Inspired by Japonism and Karl Madsen’s book, Arnold Krog designs a collection of porcelain tableware inspired by Japanese art and especially Hokusai’s famous “36 Views of Fuji”. Krog works for The Royal Porcelain Factory, now Royal Copenhagen. His Japan-inspired designs help boost the company’s popularity both in Denmark and abroad. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Royal Copenhagen.

Jan 03

First royal visit between the two countries – first Japanese royal visiting Denmark

Prince Fushimi of Japan visits Denmark on his tour of Europe, which marks the first royal visit between the two countries.

1887
Jan 03

Dane helps modernise the Japanese navy

Balthasar Münter travels to Japan to work for the English arms manufacturer Armstrongs. For the next 11 years, Münter plays a big part in modernizing the Japanese navy as he helps it to equip its fleet with the latest technology.

Apr 29

First Japanese royals on a longer visit in Denmark

On their tour around the world, Japanese Prince Komatsu and Princess Yoriko visit Denmark and are greeted by Danish King Chrisitan IX and Queen Louise. Prince Komatsu is awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog and King Christian IX is awarded the Supreme Order of the Chrysantemum.

1888
Jan 03

First Japanese translation of H. C. Andersen

13 years after his death, H. C. Andersen’s fairy tales are translated into Japanese for the first time. The first fairy tale to be translated is “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. However, much has been altered in the translation to make it more easily accessible to the Japanese audience.

1891
Jan 03

First Danish translation of Japanese literature

Through Johan Grove’s translation of the iconic tale of “Momotaro,” Danish readers are introduced to Japanese folk tales and literature for the first time. Grove, however, has changed a lot in the folk tale in order to make it more understandable and enjoyable for the Danish readers. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Gads Forlag.

1898
Jan 03

First Lutheran Danish priest enters Japan

Danish priest Jens Winther enters Japan to work as one of the very few Lutheran missionaries in the country. Winther was originally going to China but ends up staying 66 years on-off in Japan where he works with education of Japanese priests and preaching. In 1958, Winther is awarded the Order of the Rising Sun – the highest Japanese order a foreigner can be awarded. Winther is also awarded the Order of Dannebrog and is seen wearing both Orders in the picture. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Dansk Luthersk Mission.

1900
Jan 03

Increasing Danish interest in Japanese culture

Johanne Münter, wife of Balthasar Münter, publishes her first book about Japan, followed by three other books in 1901, 1902 and 1905. She is inspired to write her books after staying in Japan with her husband from 1895 to 1896. The first two books are introductions to Japanese culture, the third is translations of some of the works of the famous Lafcadio Hearn and the forth from 1905 is an account of her time and travels in Japan. Münter is the first female Danish writer to convey both Japan and Japanese culture to a Danish audience. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Gyldendal.

Feb 24

First Danish royal to visit Japan

Prince Valdemar of Denmark arrives in Yokohama and is the first member of the Danish Royal family to visit Japan. He is granted an audience with the Emperor Meiji and meets Prince Komatsu again – they had met 13 years earlier when the Japanese prince visited Denmark. Prince Valdemar spends a month in Japan as a guest of the Imperial family and visits several sights in Japan – including Hakone and Nikko.

1902
Jan 03

Japanese translation of H. C. Andersen becomes popular

When working in Germany, Ōgai Mori reads “The Improvisator” by H. C. Andersen and is so fascinated he decides to translate it into Japanese. Unlike previous translation of Andersen and most translations in general at the time, Mori “japanises” the book’s Western logic and imagery to make it easier and more enjoyable for Japanese readers. It works – the book is a success and inspires many great novelists of the time.

1905
Jan 03

Growing Danish interest in Japanese technological advancements

Japan has long been popular for its culture in Denmark and following Japan’s technological advancements since the 1870s, Danish interest in trade and commercial collaboration with Japan increase as well.

1911
Jan 03

Japanese fascination of Danish philosophy

Author Kanzo Uchimura holds a lecture about Denmark and how the country spiritually recovered after the loss of Slesvig and Holstein in 1864. He celebrates Denmark as a country of peace and praises Enrico Dalgas for saying; “What was lost outward, shall be gained inwards”. The quote and Danish spirit of rebuilding a nation from the inside rather by conquest is very inspirational to Uchimura and other educational pioneers of the period like Shigeyoshi Matsumae and Kuniyoshi Obara. Uchimura’s speech makes Dalgas famous in Japan. It is only recently that it has become clear that Dalgas in fact is not the source of the famous quote, but the Danish poet H.P. Holst is.

1912
Jan 03

The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation is ratified again

Japan and Denmark ratify the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation in 1912, abandoning the 1867-treaty, which unequally favoured Denmark. The new treaty is important for Japan, as it gains control over the tariff rate. Further, Danish extraterritoriality is terminated and Danes could be judged by Japanese law and vice versa. The ratification is part of a bigger context of Japan and Western countries ratifying their treaties and strengthening Japan’s position internationally.

1913
Jan 03

First Japanese to receive the Order of Dannebrog

Hideyo Noguchi receives the Order of Dannebrog as the first non-royal Japanese. Noguchi is a professor of bacteriology and researches to find cures for yellow fever and syphilis. During his research, he worked at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen in 1903. While professor Noguchi’s research and work might not be widely known in Japan, his face definitely is – he is on the 1000 yen bills.

1921
Mar 01

First Danish embassy in Japan

The embassy is located in Yotsuya and later moves to first Aoyama, then its current position in Daikanyama in 1979. All of the locations are in Tokyo.

1924
Feb 18

First Maersk ship to Japan

The general cargo vessel Leise Mærsk calls Yokohama with a cargo of asphalt in barrels. Four years later, incidentally that same vessel inaugurates Maersk Line’s service from USA with calls to Yokohama, Kobe and Moji. Maersk Line has served Japan since 1928. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Maersk.

1926
Mar 21

The first flight from Europe to Japan and back is performed by a Dane

Anders Peter Botved takes off on his journey from Copenhagen to Tokyo by airplane. Several pilots have flown to Asia before but no one has taken the journey back. Botved wants to prove that the journey is possible and promote Danish aviation skills. Botved flies to Tokyo via the Middle East and China and after various delays he arrives on July 1 st . His journey back is much quicker – it takes around 20 days. Botved is honoured for his efforts with the Royal Medal of Merit by King Christian X. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Gyldendal and Yoichi Nagashima.

1930
Mar 03

Japan-Denmark Society forms

The society’s purpose is to foster and promote friendly relations between the peoples of Japan and Denmark, which it still does today. The society is based in Japan and has the honour of having Prince Masahito Hitachi as their patron. Japan-Denmark Society is a co-organiser of the 150 years anniversary. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Japan-Denmark Society.

1931
Sep 08

Japanese interest in Danish gymnastics

World famous Danish gymnast Niels Bukh arrives in Tokyo to present Danish gymnastics. He is invited by educator Kuniyoshi Obara, who is very inspired by Kanzo Uchimura’s view of Denmark and the thoughts of Danish philosopher N. F. S. Grundtvig. Obara wants to include non-competitive physical education into the Japanese school system to improve national health and sees Bukh as a potential role model. During their tour in Japan, Bukh and his company of gymnasts even perform in the residence of the Japanese Prime Minister. Gymnastics have already been gaining popularity in Japan since 1928 when NHK started broadcasting radio gymnastics. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Gymnastik Galleriet.

1934
Jan 19

Japanese interest in the Danish system of folk high schools

Shigeyoshi Matsumae arrives in Denmark, where he visits several folk high schools. Matsumae is very inspired by Kanzo Uchimura and Grundtvig, and visits Denmark to study the spiritual and public education of folk high schools. Matsumae uses his time in Denmark as inspiration for establishing Tokai University in Japan in 1942, which is based on the same ideals of promoting spiritual strength in the students and the nation. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Tokai University.

1937
Apr 03

Niels Bohr works in Japan

Danish Nobel Prize laureate in physics, Niels Bohr, visits Japan to help fellow physicist and close friend Yoshio Nishina develop the cyclotron, a particle accelerator. Although Nishina himself never wins the Nobel Prize he mentors Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese ever to do so. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Emilio Segre Visual Archives.

1947
Dec 01

Maersk Line Limited opens office in Japan

Mitsubishi Soko Kaisha had been acting as Maersk Line’s agent since the start in 1928, but to support the rebuilding of Japan, the Maersk Line Limited, Japan Branch, opens on 1 December 1947. The image shows the preparation of a shipment of train cars on Herta Mærsk from Japan to Thailand in the 1950’s. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Maersk.

1950
Jan 03

Danish commercial interest in Japan leads to the formation of the Danish Chamber of Commerce Japan

The post-war economic growth in Japan leads to renewed Danish commercial interest. In the late 1950s, a small group of Scandinavian companies located in Japan start meeting on a regular basis. The group serves as a forum to exchange experience and knowledge of business opportunities in Japan, and works as an advisory board for new companies entering the Japanese market. By the mid 1960s, increased interest leads to the companies splitting up nationally, and the Danish Businessman Club is formed. Changing its name to Danish Chamber of Commerce Japan in 1990, the organization still works to promote Danish business opportunities in Japan. The Danish Chamber of Commerce Japan is a co-organiser of the 150 years anniversary. Image kindly provided by courtesy of the Danish Chamber of Commerce Japan.

1956
Jan 03

Danish missionary in Japan

Danish missionary Harry Thomsen arrives in Japan, where he helps establish a Christian centre in Kyoto and later a church in Shizuoka. The centre carries out various kinds of social work, most notably support for socially vulnerable teenagers. Image kindly provided by courtesy of DanMission.

Jan 03

Visa Exemption Agreement between the countries

Japan and Denmark agree on the Visa Exemption Agreement, boosting the number of people able to travel between the two countries.

1957
Feb 10

Danish sailor drowns trying to save Japanese sailor

On his way from Nagoya to Kobe, Johannes Knudsen, chief engineer on the ship Ellen Maersk, spots a Japanese ship on fire near Wakayama. Knudsen goes into the water in an attempt to save a shipwrecked sailor, but sadly, both Knudsen and the Japanese sailor drowned. Knudsen has become a local hero in Wakayama for his sacrifice – already in 1958, the local government opens a memorial site in his honour and his actions are still celebrated till this day. The images show the memorial of Johannes Knudsen in Wakayama and the Danish ambassador, Freddy Svane showing his respect. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Wakayma Prefecture.

Feb 24

First direct flight between Denmark and Japan

SAS opens a new route from Copenhagen to Tokyo. The route is the first direct flight from Europe to Japan. By flying over Alaska, SAS manages to decrease the travel time between Scandinavian and Japan from 50 to 32 hours. The maiden voyage transports distinguished guests – Japanese Prince Mikasa and Danish Prime Minister H.C. Hansen are on board. Images kindly provided by courtesy of SAS.

1958
Jan 03

The Denmark-Japan Society is formed

The Society works to promote knowledge about Japan in Denmark and to strengthen the cultural ties and connections between the countries. The Society hosts several cultural events each year. Unlike the Japan-Denmark Society, the Denmark-Japan Society is based in Denmark and has the honour of having Princess Elisabeth as protector.

Apr 01

First Japanese Embassy in Denmark

The first Japanese Embassy is established in Denmark. Before 1958, Japanese interests in Denmark were represented by the Japanese embassy in Sweden

Aug 26

Makoto Shimazaki introduces Japan to Danish design

Makoto Shimazaki enters Denmark to study furniture design at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Ole Wanscher. During his time in Denmark, he meets with great Danish furniture designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen and Poul Kjærholm. Later, Shimazaki introduces Danish furniture design to the Japanese market and has helped bring about the popularity Danish design enjoys in Japan even to this day. Even at age 84, Shimazaki is still active and promotes the good design relation between the two countries. The photo shows his visa from 1958.

1961
Mar 03

Danish Danfoss starts up in Japan

Danish energy company Danfoss enters a joint venture with Japanese company OTP and establishes a factory in Kodaira, Tokyo. Danfoss is still present in Japan today, currently in a joint venture called Daikin-Sauer-Danfoss which employs 275 people in Japan. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Danfoss.

1962
Jan 03

Shunsuke Takaki introduces Japan to Danish pastries

Japanese baker Shunsuke Takaki visits Denmark in 1959 and has his first encounter with Danish pastry which impresses him so much that he in 1962 is the first to introduce Danish pastry to Japan. He opened the first store of the retail bakery ‘Andersen’ in 1967 to sell authentic breads and cakes, and has since expanded the business throughout Japan. The photo shows the first bakery in Hiroshima and is kindly provided by courtesy of Andersen Group.

1963
Mar 01

First Toyota in Europe on display in Copenhagen

Crown de Luxe, the first Toyota car imported to Europe, is on display at the annual car exhibition in Bella Center, Copenhagen. SAS’s direct flight route connecting Copenhagen and Tokyo has played a big role in making Denmark the first European market for Japanese cars. Photograph: “Exhibit by Erla Auto Import A/S, Denmark (1963)” © Toyota Motor Corporation

1966
Apr 01

First university program in Danish in Japan

Osaka University of Foreign Studies (now Osaka University) is the first university in Japan to offer a degree in Danish Studies. The university celebrates the 50 years anniversary of Danish Studies in 2016. The photograph shows some of the first students and teachers at the Danish program and is kindly provided by Osaka University.

1967
Aug 28

Royal Copenhagen starts up in Japan

Royal Copenhagen opens its first brand office and store in Japan, which still sells Danish porcelain today. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Royal Copenhagen.

1970
Jul 03

First Little Mermaid-statue in Japan

The first copy of sculpter Edvard Eriksens world-famous statue of the Little Mermaid is installed in Japan, in an aquarium in Oita. Currently 12 copies are installed in Japan, making it possible to see the mermaid princess from Kyushu to Hokkaido. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Edvard Eriksen’s heirs. www.mermaidsculpture.dk

1971
Jan 03

First university program in Japanese in Denmark

Copenhagen University is the first university in Denmark to offer a degree in Japanese Studies. Students have been able to study Japanese at the University since 1968, however a degree is only offered after 1971. Currently, Danes can study Japanese at both Copenhagen University and Aarhus University.

1977
Mar 12

Danish Velux starts up in Japan

The Danish company VELUX has been providing lights for the Japanese since 1976 via their roof windows. On March 12 th 1977, VELUX-JAPAN Ltd. is founded and to this day the Danish company is still serving Japan. Images kindly provided by courtesy of VELUX.

1979
Jan 03

The Royal Danish Embassy moves to its current position in Daikanyama

The building is designed by famous Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, who wins the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1993 for his fusion of Eastern and Western design. Before 1979, the Royal Danish Embassy was located in Yotsuya and later Aoyama – both parts of Tokyo.

1980
Jan 03

“Shogun” is on Danish TV

The TV series Shogun is shown on Danish television and is hugely popular. For many Danes, this is their first experience with Japanese culture and history.

1981
Jan 03

Academic interest in the Danish-Japanese relations

The Japanese DNP Professor Yoichi Nagashima is employed at Copenhagen University and starts publishing books and articles about the Danish-Japanese relations and history as one of the only scholars in both Denmark and Japan. Much of this timeline is built on his research.

Apr 03

First Danish Queen to visit Japan

Queen Margrethe II is the first Danish Queen and head of state to visit Japan.

1986
Jan 03

Japanese Suntory starts brewing Carlsberg beer

Japanese brewery Suntory starts producing and distributing Danish Carlsberg beer. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Suntory.

1988
Jan 03

Japanese boarding school opens in Denmark

Matsumae Shigeyoshi opens Tokai University Boarding School in Præstø. At the time, many Japanese are stationed in Europe for business and there is a need for a school where they can send their children to get a Japanese education. The school exists until 2008. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Tokai University.

Jan 03

Japanese foundation donates 50 cherry trees to Queen Margrethe II

Queen Margrethe II and Aarhus Municipality are given 50 cherry trees from the Japanese Sakura Foundation to celebrate the Queen’s 25th wedding anniversary and the relations between Japan and Denmark. The trees are planted in 1992 at the Queen’s summer residence, Marselisborg Palace, in Aarhus and are a local attraction every spring during their bloom.

1989
Jan 03

First Japanese-Danish sister cities

Odense and Funabashi become the first Danish-Japanese sister cities. The two cities have a strong relationship to this day – in 2014, several representatives from Denmark travel to Funabashi to celebrate the cities’ 25 years anniversary. In 2000, Gladsaxe and Taito become sister cities and later, Kolding and Anjou, Faaborg and Noboribetzu, and Lolland and Higashi-Matsushima.

1990
Jan 03

Japanese interest in the Danish welfare system

Denmark is famous for its welfare system and solutions, which attracts Japanese delegations from various levels on study tours to Denmark. The delegations study everything from the daily routines in Danish retirement homes to the pre-school education system.

Jan 03

Japanese bakery named after Danish baker

Japanese Tetsuya Wada travels to Copenhagen to receive his certificate of apprenticeship as a baker and be come member of Københavns Bagerlaug, the Copenhagen bakers’ guild. He returns to Japan and opens his own bakery named after his mentor, Stockholm Jensen. Bager Jensen is still selling delicious Danish pastry and baked goods in Tokyo with the taste of Danish “hygge”.

Nov 11

Queen Margrethe II attends Emperor Akihito’s coronation

Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik visit Japan again to attend the coronation of Emperor Akihito.

1996
Apr 01

H. C. Andersen theme-park opens in Japan

Funabashi Andersen Park opens. The park is a combined Hans Christian Andersen-theme park and playground and is home to several replicas of Danish houses built in Andersen’s lifetime. The interest in Andersen comes from Funabashi’s sister city relationship with Odense, Andersen’s hometown. The park celebrated its 20 years anniversary in 2016 and is hugely popular – according to Tripadvisor, it is Japan’s third most popular theme park.

Sep 11

First Japanese royals to visit Greenland

Japanese Prince and Princess Takamado are the first members of the Japanese Imperial family to visit Greenland. The Royal couple travels from Uummannaq to Qaqortoq and experience both traditional and modern Greenlandic lifestyle. Prince Takamado is rewarded with the Greenlandic Medal of Merit and the couple are given a number of Tupilaqs (totems) as a gift. Princess Takamado later lends the Tupilaqs to the Royal Danish Embassy where they will be on display.

1997
Jul 18

A Tivoli-replica opens in Japan

Tivoli Park opens in Kurashiki. It is an almost exact copy of the original amusement park in Copenhagen but also includes a copy of the statue of the Little Mermaid and a castle resembling Rosenborg Castle. The park is open until 2008.

1998
Jan 02

First manga (Japanese comic) published in Denmark

Katsuhiro Otomo’s legendary manga “Akira” is the first manga to be published in Danish. The Japanese comics, however, only begins to gain momentum and popularity with the publication of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball in 2000. Dragon Ball is hugely popular and the animated series are shown on TV from 2003. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Forlaget Carlsen.

May 31

First Japanese Emperor to visit Denmark

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are the first Japanese reigning Emperor and Empress to visit Denmark.

1999
Jan 03

Pokémon-mania hits Denmark

Denmark is, together with the rest of the world, smitten by Pokémon-mania. Pokémon becomes an introduction to Japan for an entire generation and 11 years later, the numbers of students applying for Japanese Studies at Danish universities increase drastically.

2001
Jan 03

Haruki Murakami’s books gain popularity in Denmark

Haruki Murakami’s “Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” is published in Danish. While it is not the first of Murakami’s books to be translated into Danish, it is the first time his works are translated directly from Japanese. Translator Mette Holm goes on to translate many other Murakami books, making the author accessible to Danish readers and extremely popular. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Forlaget Klim.

2003
Jan 03

Cherry tree donation and Copenhagen Sakura Festival

Seiichi Takaki, honorary consul in Hiroshima and President of Andersen Institute of Bread & Life, and son of Shunsuke Takaki, donates 200 cherry trees to Copenhagen municipality to celebrate the 200 years birthday of H. C. Andersen. The trees are planted at Langelinie in Copenhagen and bloom for the first time in 2007. Since then the trees and their bloom have served as the scene for Copenhagen Sakura Festival.

Oct 10

Mainstream breakthrough of Japanese animation in Denmark

Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away opens in Danish cinemas. It only sells 55.000 tickets but becomes the commercial breakthrough for Japanese anime in Denmark.

2004
May 14

Crown Prince Naruhito attends the Danish Crown Prince couple’s wedding

Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan visits Denmark to attend the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary.

2008
Jan 03

Glory days of manga in Denmark

The biggest publisher, Forlaget Carlsen Manga, publishes over 20 titles in Danish. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Forlaget Carlsen.

2009
Sep 01

Japanese interest in Danish happiness and lifestyle

In relations with Denmark being praised as the happiest country in the world, Chiba Tadao publishes “Denmark, the World’s Happiest Country”. Chiba has lived in Denmark for decades and works on Nordfyn’s folk high school. In the book, he introduces a Japanese audience to his take on what makes Danish lifestyle pleasant and Danes happy. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Chiba Tadao.

Sep 08

Folk high school with Japan as speciality opens in Denmark

The folk high school Bosei opens in Præstø in the buildings that used to house the Tokai University Boarding School. The buildings are donated by Tokai University in the honour of its founder, Shigeyoshi Matsumae’s, admiration and respect for the Danish folk high school traditions. The school specializes in teaching Japanese language, as well as karate and judo.

2010
Jan 03

Rapid increase in Danes studying Japanese

The Danish Pokémon-generation has reached university age and the applicants for Japanese Studies at Danish universities skyrocket from 2009 to 2010. 150 students apply for the only 25 available seats at Copenhagen University.

2011
Jun 13

Crown Prince Frederik visits areas affected by nuclear disaster

Crown Prince Frederik is the first foreign royal to visit the areas affected by the tsunami on March 11 th . He visits the village Higashi-Matsushima and in gratitude, the villagers have since 2015 sent their first batch of harvested rice to the Danish royal family.

Oct 26

Queen Margrethe II’s artworks are exhibited in Japan

The exhibition Wild Swans opens in Daikanyama close to the Royal Danish Embassy. The exhibition contains several of Queen Margrethe II’s art works including decoupages and costumes.

2012
Jan 30

A replica of designer Finn Juhl’s house is built in Japan

House of Finn Juhl – a copy of the designer’s house in Denmark – opens in Takayama, Gifu, marking the 100 th anniversary of the designer’s birth. The Japanese furniture production company Kitani is behind the reconstruction of the house. Originally, Kitani repaired furniture including several from Danish designers and since mastered the craftsmanship to such an extent that they today produce parts for Danish furniture designs, which is sent to and assembled in Denmark. Among this furniture are designs of Finn Juhl. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Kitani.

Jul 21

Flying Tiger Copenhagen opens in Japan

Flying Tiger Copenhagen opens its first Japanese branch store in Osaka and eager customers line up outside the store. Flying Tiger Copenhagen now has 25 stores in Japan. Image kindly provided by courtesy of Flying Tiger Copenhagen.

2013
May 17

Japan becomes an observer to the Arctic Council

The council works towards protection of Arctic wildlife and the sustainable development of Arctic areas. Despite Japan not having arctic territory, the members of the council, including Denmark, agree that Japan has many interest areas in the Arctic.

Dec 20

Søstrene Grene opens in Japan

The Danish retail store chain Søstrene Grene (The Grene Sisters) opens its first shop in Japan – which is also Søstrene Grene’s first shop outside of Europe. In November 2016, the second Japanese shop is opened.

2014
Mar 04

Strategic Partnership Agreement between Denmark and Japan

Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt visits Japan and attends political meetings with Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo. The two countries agree upon a Strategic Partnership Agreement to promote collaboration in series of areas including foods, sustainable energy & green-tech and health & welfare technology. See the partnership agreement here .

Apr 06

25 years anniversary of the first Japanese-Danish sister cities

Odense and Funabashi celebrates 25 years anniversary as sister cities in Funabashi with attendance from Prince and Princess Hitachi of Japan.

Sep 27

Joint-venture between Vestas and Mitsubishi

Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries make a joint-venture focusing on offshore wind energy and establish a new headquarter in Aarhus. Images kindly provided by courtesy of MHI Vestas.

2015
Jan 03

50 years anniversary of Danish Studies at Osaka University

Osaka University celebrates 50 years anniversary of its Danish Department.

Mar 26

Increased Japanese interest in Greenland

Increased Japanese interest in Greenland and the Arctic leads to a Greenlandic visit in Tokyo with attendance of the Danish Crown Prince couple, Princess Takamado and Greenlandic Premier Kim Kielsen. Kielsen is the first Greenlandic Prime Minister to visit Japan. The mission of the visit is to promote Greenlandic culture and products and to showcase investment opportunities in Greenland for Japanese companies. The photograph depicts Greenlandic Minister of Culture, Education and Equality, Nick Nielsen, showing Princess Takamado around at the National Museum of Ethology in Osaka. 

Sep 18

Japanese-Danish research partnership on art

Japan’s National Institute for Polar Research (NIPR) and Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR) enter a research partnership on arctic environment and sustainability. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Japan’s National Institute for Polar Research.

2016
Jan 03

Rasmus Klump Café opens in Chiba

Rasmus Klump is a popular Danish children’s book character created by Carla and Vilhelm Hansen in 1951. In Denmark, most children know the character and his appetite for adventure and pancakes. Of course the café in Chiba serves pancakes. Images kindly provided by courtesy of the Rasmus Klump Café in Chiba.

Apr 02

Kengo Kuma designs the new H. C. Andersen museum

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma wins the project competition for designing a new H. C. Andersen museum in Andersen’s hometown, Odense. The new museum will start construction in 2018 and open in 2020.

Oct 30

Haruki Murakami wins H. C. Andersen Literature Award

World-famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami is awarded the H. C. Andersen Literature Award for his stories which are full of magical images like Andersen’s stories are. Murakami attends the award ceremony in Odense, despite his normal dislike for press events.

2017
Apr 01

Legoland opens in Nagoya

Lego opens its 8 th Legoland theme park and its third in Asia. The hugely popular blocks originally come from Denmark, where the first Legoland was built in Billund in 1968. Images kindly provided by courtesy of Legoland Japan.

As this timeline shows, Denmark and Japan celebrate a long history. But it does not stop here! The two countries will continue to build on the good relations and make the next 150 years as exciting as the previous – starting from 2017. You can read more about the events celebrating the anniversary on our Event Calendar page.