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Finland + Japan: Why These Countries Have a Magical Connection?

The Finland – Japan connection is real. I understood it the moment I arrived in Japan.

It is such a strange (and awesome!) feeling when someplace you have never been before feels like home. It is like a tilted dream, a gentle déjà vu, an Alice in Wonderland-moment.

The spell of Japan has been with me ever since. The connection between Finland and Japan is undoubtedly there but how to explain it? I started reading about Japanese culture and luckily stumbled upon The little book of Ikigai by Ken Mogi.

The examples in the book resonated with my own experiences. I was able to put my feelings into words. Somebody has said that Finland is the Japan of Europe. I couldn’t agree more.

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Here are the five main similarities between Finland and Japan that I have found!

Finnish and Japanese Power Words

It is natural that we Finns have a specific word for each type of snow. With one word (such as kantohanki in Finnish – meaning ‘snow that you can walk on without it breaking’) one can make all sorts of decisions (e.g. what to wear or how cold it is).

On the other hand, it is understandable that in many languages there is not a one-word translation for this type of snow, as snow, in general, might be a rare phenomenon.

This logic doesn’t only apply to nature-related and visual things; it is also within abstract concepts. I like to call these words cultural power words.

Japanese have a single word, ikigai, to describe the meanings of life.

The purpose or pleasure of your life isn’t something necessary related to your work or success. Ikigai relates to small everyday things as wells as big goals. It is a common word used quite casually.

In Finnish, we also have a cultural power word. It is sisu.

It means courage and determination topped with most likely the position of the underdog. Having sisu is an admirable trait. It is a widespread, motivating and positive concept.

We Finns wouldn’t be us without the concept of sisu. I feel like the Japanese have the same situation with ikigai. Finland Japan connection lives actively within these words.

Beautiful Japanese garden

Approach to Quality in Finland and Japan

I have learned that the Japanese have a high standard of excellence, originating internally. Just fine is not enough and they expect a lot from themselves.

This is the same in Finland. If we have promised or agreed on something, we will do whatever it takes to fulfill that promise. This means things big and small. You can for sure get a text message from a Finn reporting that he is five minutes late.

The same goes for doing crafts or manufacturing products in Finland. A Finn would be devastated if a product of his was found low-quality, not meeting the customer’s expectations.

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Finnish and Japanese Flags are Visualizations

Both counties boast their core nature traits in their flags. This is one of the most visible signs of the Finland Japan connection.

The national flag of Japan is a visualization of the idea of the land of the rising sun. The Finnish national flag is a visualization of snow and water.

In Finnish, we don’t have a word with ‘fin…‘-anything. We have the word Suomi for Finland and Suomalainen for Finn. As you can see, these words are entirely different from other languages.

What came to me as a surprise is that the word ‘Japan’ is in fact also an exonym. In Japanese, the name of the nation is Nippon or Nihon.

Finnish summer weather at a park with flowers and plants

The Four Seasons in Finland and Japan

Japanese see beauty in change.

Every spring, the Japanese salute the blossoming of cherry trees. They don’t only adore the gorgeous perky pinkness, they celebrate the end of the blossoming too.

Japanese enjoy the wind dragging all those flowers down and the faded flower mat on the streets. It is all about accepting the inevitable change.

We Finns cherish our four seasons.

The new landscape is greeted with love even when it is bald and gritty. The weather change is embraced. Indeed, there is also a Finnish saying about it: Weather is just a question of appropriate clothing.

Finnish and Japanese Forests are Spiritual Places

We Finns have a close relationship with our nature. Many feel that forests give power and peace. There is clear scientific evidence about this.

Also Japanese hold Mother Nature in high regard. Doctors even describe forest bathing to patients.

All that being said, it’s no wonder that there’s such a strong Finland Japan connection! The two countries genuinely are soul sisters.

Gorgeous Finnish forest with a stream

Do you feel a connection with some other country than your own? Do you think countries can be soul sisters? Comment below!

Looking for more information about Finnish culture? Check out some of my other posts: 


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About Varpu
I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love cultural tidbits, aha moments, Finnish folklore, and cinnamon buns. My newest interest is learning bird songs. Read more about me..

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Sunday 3rd of January 2021

I am a Finnish woman and I had the opportunity to work with Japanese people in MIlan, Italy 40 years ago. I can confirm you all that there really is a connection between Finnish and Japanese people. I really, really enjoyed being with our Japanese customers and I felt that I was very much liked, too. Unfortunately I have never been in Japan..maybe in my next life:). Nowadays I watch Japanese films on YouTube and dream about this beautiful land and its people:) Thank you Varpu for the interesting article and Happy New Year 2021 to everybody:)


Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Hei Riitta! Thank you so much for sharing your insights, it is so helpful! Kiitos tosi paljon <3


Tuesday 24th of November 2020

Nice article. I also find the love for public baths common for Japanese and Finnish. What do you think?


Wednesday 2nd of December 2020

Yes! That is such a great addition to this list. As a Finn, I absolutely love the public baths in Japan! <3


Thursday 5th of September 2019

Hi there! I'm doing some Alzheimer's research and noticed that Japan and Finland don't seem to have many cows. Is that true? I was thinking that Japan doesn't eat much dairy and that's why there's low incidence of Alz., and Finland probably has a lot of dairy from reindeer --- and, cows? Maybe that's why their incidence is so high.

Any help here?

Varpu Pöyry

Thursday 5th of September 2019

Hei Laura! I'll try to help as much as I can. I'm not sure if the amount of cows is considered big or small, but there are 857 000 cows in Finland. 260 000 of that amount are providing milk. Here's a helpful graph (in Finnish), the amount of cows is the orange line.

**Edit: I tried to send you an email but for some reason, it didn't work. I'd love to introduce you to the health specialists in Finland who work related to the disease:

They are able to give you the latest results, research and answers related to Finns. Hope this helps!


Friday 12th of July 2019

Wow this post just confirmed a lot for me. My father was born in Finland, however, like many moved to Canada. But when I became older and started decorating my living spaces I found that I wanted both the Finnish contemporary with Japanese influences in my home, whether I was owning or just renting an apartment. Now I understand. A niece of mine told me that her grandfather (my uncle but I don't remember ever meeting him) used to tell her very emphatically that some of the Finnish origins came from the Ainu people of Japan. This was just told to me within the last few years. My father never spoke of this but his brother did. So interesting.

Varpu Pöyry

Saturday 13th of July 2019

Hei Susan! I'm so happy to read your comment. Yes, there are so many similarities when it comes to Finnish and Japanese cultures! You have found them very intuitively. <3


Thursday 11th of July 2019

Hello, My mother’s family comes from Finland settled in Northern Minnesota they are from Espoo and Seinajoki. Last names were Kotka and Kumpalienen. I grew up with Sauna and homemade dishes. Always nice to see a site such as this to learn more from today’s trends.

Thank you.

Varpu Pöyry

Saturday 13th of July 2019

Hei Aaron, thank you so much for your lovely comment. You made my day! Kiitos!

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