With the centennial anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Finland coming up in 2019, the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo has nominated six Japanese personalities with special ties to Finland as the Friendship Envoys for the celebratory year. They are: lighting designer Motoko Ishii, ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, actress Satomi Kobayashi, pianist Izumi Tateno, idol singer Ayane Fujisaki and designer Akira Minagawa. A press conference and appointment ceremony were held at the Embassy of Finland located in Minato-ward, Tokyo on Wednesday December 12th where the Friendship Envoys shared their experiences with Finland and their expectations for the future bilateral relationship. Noriaki Kasai, the only Friendship Envoy who couldn’t join the event due to the ongoing ski season, greeted the guests with a video message.
“I am very happy that these prominent personalities accepted the role of the Friendship Envoy. I hope they continue to have strong connections with Finland, and act as bridges between our countries,” noted Ambassador of Finland to Japan Pekka Orpana.
Introduction of the Friendship Envoys and their connections with Finland:
- Motoko Ishii
As Japan’s pioneer for illuminations for sceneries and architecture, Ishii is famous for her illumination works of Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge among other landmarks. She learned the basics of lighting design in Finland in the 1960s.
- Noriaki Kasai
Still active as competing athlete at the age of 46, Kasai is known globally as the “legend” in ski jumping. His ski team “Team Tsuchiya” has had Finnish coaches for more than 10 years, and trains every year in Finland.
- Satomi Kobayashi
Kobayashi was the leading actress in “Kamome Shokudo” (“Ruokala Lokki” in Finnish) in 2006, a film about a Japanese woman running a café restaurant in Helsinki. The film became a surprise hit; although it has been more than 10 years since it was released, many Japanese still talk about the film as the reason for travelling to Finland.Izumi Tateno
- Izumi Tateno is known as the “left hand pianist,” performing actively around the world. Ever since he started living in Finland in 1964, he has exerted efforts in enhancing the bilateral relationship in the music field.Ayane Fujisaki
- Ayane Fujisaki a.k.a. Pinky! is a member of a popular Japanese pop idol group “Dempagumi.inc.” She formed a separate idol group with sisters Noora and Petra from Tampere, Finland, under the name “Pinky! Noora&Petra”, debuting in August 2017. She’s also a big fan of the Moomins.
- Akira Minagawa
Minagawa is designer and founder of a popular fashion brand “minä perhonen.” Having travelled to Finland often since the age of nineteen, he chose to use Finnish language for his brand name because he wanted to use words from a country he is attached to.
Also some of the main centennial Anniversary events and projects planned for next year were introduced at the press conference held at the Finnish Embassy in Tokyo on 12th December. These include a film shot in Finland titled “Snow Flower”, hitting theaters on February 1st, Japan’s first “Moomin Valley Park” opening in Hanno City, Saitama Prefecture on March 16th, a large-scale Moomin Exhibition touring around Japan from April 9th, “Feel Finland” celebrative event where the Embassy will open up to the public for them to experience Finnish culture, food and music on April 14th, among other things. The Centennial Anniversary website includes an Event Calendar where all the Anniversary events and projected are listed, with many more to be uploaded in the days and weeks to come.