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The Japanese love Finland – or is it just a myth?

How could Finland grow its fan base in Japan? Irma Patala from Finpro tells us her suggestions.

On my recent visit to Tokyo, I once again ran into true fans of Finland with an interest going beyond our flagship brands Marimekko, Iittala and the Moomins. However, these superfans are still a niche segment, and although their love for Finland is surprisingly deep, it does not make Finland broadly known to the masses.

When enquiring what they like in Finnish design and Finland, several interesting things both Finns and Japanese share were recognised. Respect for nature as a power exceeding that of human’s is deeply rooted in the Japanese, who are living with earthquakes and hurricanes. Nature is also in the DNA of Finns, living in extreme weather conditions in a sparsely populated country. Finns perhaps aren’t as polite as the Japanese, but we still share a reserved nature and an avoidance of a boastful attitude.

In design, simplicity, clean clines and respect for detail are characteristics both nations cherish. Finally, similarly to Finns, Japanese have a great sense of humour under their serious surface. They love all things cute and with a playful twist, so no wonder Eero Aarnio, Klaus Haapaniemi, Kauniste and Finnish graphic design in general appeal to the Japanese audience.

It’s safe to say, Finland has all the means to transform from being loved by a niche fangroup to becoming known and loved more widely in Japan. However, this can only be achieved with visibility that exceeds the few key brands. A lot of transformation is already happening, with Finnish brands being showcased in Japan and collaborations with local retailers.

Throughout this year, Finland’s global visibility has been strong. This is mainly thanks to the centennial celebration activities, which have been a powerful tool for the promotion of Finland. Now, we have a prime opportunity to continue sharing the story of Finland in a big way, as in 2019 Finland and Japan will celebrate our 100 years of diplomatic relationship.

Let’s not settle for what we have already achieved, but see it as a good start and put even bigger effort in helping Finnish design brands to markets where a strong base for success has already been built.


Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Finpro.

Published on 30.11.2017