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.

Curly Strings has also had numerous successful concerts in Japan.

Neeme, Paavo, Kristjan Järvi and Anu Tali have conducted several leading Japanese orchestras. In 2013, Kanazawa Symphony Orchestra and Eesti Kontsert collaborated on a project, resulting in Kanazawa Symphony Orchestra performing in Tallinn and Narva, as well as chamber choir Voces Musicales giving a concert in Kanazawa. Estonian composer Urmas Sisask’s works has been performed in Japan in 2014 and 2015. Another frequent performing guest in Japan is Vox Clamantis, taking part in the biggest classical music festival in Japan called La Folle Journee au Japon.

As of 2015, Paavo Järvi is the head conductor of the Tokyo NHK Symphony Orchestra. The Estonian National Male Choir attracted audiances during their concert tour in ten different Japanese cities in 2018, in the Tokyo concert they performed together with the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi. Estonian Festival Orchestra similarly toured Japan in 2019 with Paavo Järvi as the conductor.

The Art Museum of Estonia has collaborated with Japanese curators and artists over a long periood of time. The most recent project was the mythological graphic artworks of Kaljo Põllu being exhibited in Okuni temple in Saku in 2018, and in the Modern Art Museum of Saku in 2019.

Rally drivers Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja, both signed for Toyota, have gained recognition in Japan. Estonian Saku’s long-time Sister City Saku in Nagano prefecture helping host Estonian judo athletes in preperation for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Japanese culture has also reached Estonia. Japanese Animation Film Festival has been held in Estonia annually ever since 2007. Japanese movies are also usually represented at the Black Nights Film Festival. Theatre Centre Vaba Lava’s programm “The Golden Week of Japan“ offers Estonians a glimpse into Japanese culture, as it features dance, music, calligraphy and food culture of Japan.

Many other numerous collaborative projects occur through Estonia-Japan cooperation frameworks.