The enduring partnership between Sweden and Japan is a testament to the strong bonds and mutual admiration shared by the two nations. As Sweden celebrates significant milestones, such as 500 years since King Gustav Vasa’s election marking Sweden’s independence and the 50th jubilee of HM The King, it reinforces the resilience and longevity of their relationship. Additionally, this year marks the remarkable 155th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sweden, further highlighting the deep historical ties between the two countries. From academia to space exploration, sustainable industries, and cultural exchange, Sweden and Japan have fostered a diverse and fruitful collaboration that has stood the test of time.
The Sweden-Japan Foundation has played a crucial role in promoting connections and knowledge exchange between the two nations. Edvard Fleetwood, Secretary-General of the Sweden Japan Foundation, reflects on the foundation’s journey, stating, “We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2021 since our establishment in 1971. Initially, our focus was on establishing contacts and studying various fields in Japan. In the late 80s, we prioritized facilitating opportunities for young Swedish students to visit Japan individually, often collaborating with Japanese professors and companies on thesis projects. In the 90s, as exchange agreements became more common, universities signed agreements with Japanese counterparts, leading to an increase in applications for exchange and study abroad programs. We continue to organize events like ‘Meeting Point Japan,’ providing a platform for industry and academia to interact.”
The enduring partnership between Sweden and Japan is a testament to the strong bonds and mutual admiration shared by the two nations.
The foundation’s impact goes beyond fostering connections. They administer scholarships across three foundations, supporting diverse programs in Japan. As Fleetwood explains, “We currently offer administrative services to three foundations: Sweden-Japan Foundation, Scandinavia-Japan Sasakawa Foundation; and the Foundation for the Study of Japanese Society. Annually, these organizations award approximately 120 scholarships. Very few organizations manage such a significant number of scholarships. These grants cover shorter visits and events, up to a few weeks, as well as longer studies up to one year.” These scholarships have proven instrumental in shaping the future of Swedish-Japanese collaboration. Fleetwood emphasizes, “We select individuals with the best merits and performance. We have seen success in Swedish companies dealing with Japan, with many former scholarship recipients now working for Japanese companies in Sweden or even in Japan.”
The foundation’s remarkable efforts have garnered recognition, including the prestigious Foreign Minister’s commendation. “We have received recognition for our work, including the Foreign Minister’s commendation, which is a prestigious recognition from Japan for organizations involved in exchange programs,” shares Fleetwood.
With a shared commitment to innovation, sustainability, and cultural appreciation, Sweden and Japan are poised to continue their journey of partnership, unlocking new opportunities and achieving even greater heights in their collaborative endeavors.
The collaboration between the two countries extends beyond academia and into various industries. Stefan Gardefjord, CEO at Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), highlights the thriving partnership between Sweden and Japan in the field of space exploration. Gardefjord affirms, “As a premier space nation, Japan has always been a natural and important partner for Swedish Space Corporation (SSC). Over the years, there have been many successful examples of close collaboration – both institutional and private sector partnerships.” The Swedish Space Corporation actively supports ambitious Japanese space missions, collaborating with valued business partners like Japan’s national space agency JAXA and Hokkaido University.
Moreover, the business realm showcases the potential for fruitful collaborations. Andrew Cowan, Managing Director of Shimano Nordic AB, expresses his optimism about sustainability in Sweden, stating, “We are extremely proud to be operating in one of the most sustainable sectors. Shimano is known for its high-quality products, and together with the Swedish government’s plans to decrease the CO2 output and stimulate carbon-neutral commuting, we see a strong future. Swedish bike manufacturers, such as Cycle Europe and Skeppshult, are leading the way towards an even greener future.
“As a premier space nation, Japan has always been a natural and important partner for Swedish Space Corporation (SSC). Over the years, there have been many successful examples of close collaboration – both institutional and private sector partnerships.”Stefan Gardefjord, CEO at Swedish Space Corporation (SSC)
Cultural exchange is also flourishing, with companies like Forgood Co., Ltd. working to introduce Swedish tea to Japan. Toshiharu Chiba, CEO of Forgood Co., Ltd., shares his vision, saying, “We are a distributor of ‘The Tea Centre of Stockholm,’ a Swedish tea brand in Japan. We are working to spread the wonderful tea, which is also enjoyed by the Swedish royal family, to as many people as possible in Japan.” In their efforts to strengthen gift sales, initiatives such as e-commerce sales and event promotion are being implemented.
Looking forward, Fleetwood emphasizes, “Building trust and strong relationships takes time, but the Swedish and Japanese people can enjoy each other’s company and work together effectively.”
With a shared commitment to innovation, sustainability, and cultural appreciation, Sweden and Japan are poised to continue their journey of partnership, unlocking new opportunities and achieving even greater heights in their collaborative endeavors. As these significant milestones are celebrated, the bond between Sweden and Japan grows stronger, setting the stage for a future marked by even more remarkable achievements and strengthened ties between the two nations.