Eight Goodwill Ambassadors have been appointed for the 150th Anniversary of Japan-Denmark Diplomatic Relations. Each of the Goodwill Ambassadors are exceptional individuals within their field, and will be contributing to the celebrations through their close relationship to both Denmark and Japan.

Makoto Shimazaki

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Architect and designer, has been a key figure in introducing Danish design in Japan.

“When I finished my studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and returned to Japan in 1960, I assigned myself two missions.

The first was to convey to Japan the spirit and craftsmanship of Danish furniture, which I had learned under Professor Ole Wanscher and in my encounters with great Danish designers such as Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, and Poul Kjærholm.

My second mission was to tell the Japanese about the Danish way of life: the rich and comfortable lifestyle that harmonized with their beautiful design. This was a way to express my appreciation for the warmth of the Danish people who had welcomed me, even though I was from a faraway country which was at that time still an imitator of Danish design.

Today, half a century later, I believe my first mission has been accomplished through my publications and teaching on Danish and other Scandinavian furniture.

The second mission, however, is still only half complete. I have much yet to do to inform Japan about the Danish way of life and their harmonization of design with everyday living.

 I will take this anniversary year as an opportunity to pursue this mission with renewed enthusiasm.”

Erika Tachihara

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Fairy-tale writer and H. C. Andersen-expert.

“It was around the end of my teen years that I felt the strong desire to become a fairy tale writer. I thought my dream would come true if I went to Denmark, met the statue of The Little Mermaid and visited the grave of Hans Christian Andersen. Because I loved Andersen’s fairy tales so much, I tried hard to save my money. Two years later, I was on a plane to Denmark and soon arrived in Copenhagen, where the sky was light blue and street vendors sold raw green peas. I was touched by people’s smiles. They gently chided me for being so single-minded in my goal.

“You don’t have to be so gung-ho. Just enjoy life as it comes.”

I still visit Denmark whenever I miss those smiles. Their heart-marked coins have become one of my treasures.”

Millie Okada

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Brand adviser for various Danish companies and leader of Higashi-Matsushima’s Stitch Girls.

“Congratulations on the 150th Anniversary of Japan-Denmark Diplomatic Relations! The wings of my imagination spread widely when I think about Japan 150 years ago, when hotels and western-style restaurants began to open one after another. What did Danish visitors see and feel when they landed in Japan and first met Japanese in kimono? When I imagine people of the two countries getting along naturally, one where guests are welcomed with “hygge” (the art of comfortable conviviality) and the other with the tea ceremony, I think of my grandparents. My Danish grandmother here in Japan baked Danish pastries with fresh butter she churned herself from cow’s milk. She lived in Jingu Gaien, a venue for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, and supported her household by working as a nanny for the families of Danish ambassadors.

Today, as a goodwill ambassador, I am planning exhibitions of Danish embroidery in Tokyo and Kobe and presentations of embroidered Danish streetscapes. Although they are small exhibitions, I believe they will make my grandparents extremely proud.”

Hiroshi Sambuichi

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Architect and external lecturer at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

“My ties with Denmark go back about ten years, when I accepted an architect intern from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Later I became a lecturer and then a professor at the Academy. During that time, I invited 50 students and professors annually, hundreds over the years, to Setouchi to tour islands such as Miyajima, Naoshima and Inujima to view my work, and I was able to give workshops within the genuine Japanese environment. I have also been actively communicating with Danish architects, especially young ones who are future creators.

I was also given various opportunities in Denmark. For example, I was invited to an architecture symposium at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2011, and I cooperated on a project with the Danish national broadcasting corporation (DR).

Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I was invited to the Danish Embassy in Tokyo to discuss reconstruction support, and I greatly appreciated their concern.

The retrospective of my work published for my first solo exhibition at TOTO GALLERY·MA in 2016 was created by an all-Danish team throughout the editing, design and layout process. It also led to an exchange with natural scientists from Greenland. In 2017, another exhibition will be held simultaneously in the Cisternerne museum in Frederiksberg and the DAC (Danish Architecture Centre) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japan-Denmark diplomatic relations.

My relationship with Danish culture deepens and expands every year, through education, art, publications, media, natural science and architecture. The theme throughout these exchanges is Nature.

What I want to emphasize most in this text is the wonderful personal qualities of the Danish people. Above all, I love people who love nature. I felt an appreciation and respect for nature from everyone I interacted with, regardless of their profession, whether they were architects, artists or media personnel. Non-discriminatory, friendly communication seems to be the basis of the country’s character, enabling interdisciplinary collaboration on an intimate scale. Danes are confident that protecting nature leads to a stable, peaceful life. Living in a similarly small country, we Japanese have much to learn from them.

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, an important opportunity to think about our future relationship. I truly hope that together we can lead the world view on nature and peace, appreciating the good relationship our forefathers have built.”

Yuki Pallis

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Curator and author of several books on Danish traditional crafts.

“My Danish friend, who is an architect, was told in university ‘there are 2 countries in the world who use plain materials to make simple and beautiful things; Denmark and Japan’. You can find minimalism you can find in Zen or wabi-sabi.  You can find it in Denmark’s minimalistic and refined design.  Although Denmark and Japan are far apart, there are so many common things shared by the two countries. 

On the other hand, there are lots of differences as well. When Denmark and Japan compete in international sport tournaments, I cheer for both as I was born in Japan, but lived in Denmark for more than half of my life.  On such occasion, I don’t feel any distance between the two countries. People’s feeling can actually shorten the physical distance. 

So, we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship.  I wonder how much time did it take for people to travel and communicate between the two countries back then.  Today, we only need to fly 9.5 hours and e-mails are instantaneous.  As a Goodwill Ambassador, I too, would like to further promote understanding and friendship between Denmark and Japan.”

Kazuyoshi Akiyama

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Conductor, has conducted several compositions by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.

“I am very pleased to be appointed a goodwill ambassador for the 150th Anniversary of Japan-Denmark Diplomatic Relations in 2017. I have visited Denmark several times to perform with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, and I was greatly impressed by the natural beauty and streetscapes of Copenhagen and the warmth of its people.

Denmark’s iconic composer Carl Nielsen is one of my favorite musicians. I have conducted his symphonies in many different countries, including Japan, of course. To me, his music, with its hint of longing for brief summer even in a melancholic piece that conjures an image of harsh Nordic winter, represents Denmark.

I will be very happy if I can communicate the attractions of Denmark to everyone through music.”

Rika Yukimasa

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Cooking expert with a big interest for Danish interior design.

“It has been almost 18 years since my first encounter with Denmark on a cold winter day when I was a company employee on a business trip. I am always charged with energy when I work in Denmark. I admire how well the Danes communicate and interact with others and how comfortably their work spaces are furnished and lighted. Over nearly twenty business trips, meeting a lot of people, I have realized that our values are similar, especially in basics such as our views of society, what we cherish, what we find beautiful, what we prioritize in our lives, and how we communicate with our families.
Danish products suit Japan surprisingly well. When I see Danish architecture, I feel that it would not look out of place in Japan. This is probably because we both have a philosophy of “less is more” in design and everyday life.”


I think it is only natural that our countries have strong ties and show mutual respect. I hope we continue to learn from each other and improve ourselves. 

 

Nicolai Bergmann

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Flower artist and entrepreneur.

“I am Danish, yet I have proudly called Japan home since moving here as a 20 year old. I find the diversity and cultural differences between the two countries very exciting and have built my career in floral design by weaving these differences together, using this synergy to create my own style of work. As different as Denmark and Japan are, there are also many similarities to be celebrated; our deep appreciation of art and design, our love of seasonality and nature, and our respect for harmony and peacefulness.   

I am honored to have been elected as a goodwill ambassador for the 150 years anniversary of Danish-Japanese relations, and I look forward to share my knowledge through the many exciting projects and events planned for 2017. I hope that through sharing my experience, my love of both Denmark and Japan, I can encourage awareness and understanding of the two countries and continue to strengthen the bond between us.

Congratulations Denmark and Japan on 150 years! I look forward to a future of continued friendship, collaboration, and understanding.”