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Thoughts on similarities between the Japanese and the Finnish

<Introduction of Activities at Sendai-Finland Wellbeing Center R&D unit>

 Riikka- Teperi-san, a wife of Juha Teperi-san, the head of R&D Unit, Sendai Finland Wellbeing Center, kindly accepted to write a column about the theme “Thoughts on similarities between the Japanese and the Finnish”. Through one and half year life in Sendai, she described the unexpected similarities between two countries.

After living more than a year in Japan I feel that Japanese and Finnish people are soul mates. Unlike Japan with thousands of years of city culture, the Finns come from forests at the edge of Europe. The metropolitan area of Helsinki, capital of Finland, is the home of one million people. It is the same amount of people than in this compact city of Sendai where we live. Even if Japan has 127 million inhabitants, it is a surprisingly harmonic place to live in. People seem to look for esthetics whatever they do, be it daily routines or formal ceremonies. When touching, smelling or tasting something, the Japanese seem to do it with all senses. It is a bit like when Finns listen to sounds of nature, or admire a landscape. I believe enjoying tranquility is essential in both Japanese and Finnish cultures. We also look at things surrounding us in a similar way, seeing beauty in simplicity.

Photoed by Riikka-san (in Finland)
 Are the Japanese reserved? No, they are not. Everywhere I can see people talking and laughing with each other – happiness is here. The polite manners and gentle behavior between people is one side of this harmony. Bigaku (Japanese word for harmony) is an enormous area, which I have studied enthusiastically. In Japan, beauty anywhere creates admiration. Looking for beauty is a way of observing anything, including communication with each other. In Japanese culture, old things seem to be adored. Also, old people are respected, which I find a good basis for any society.

Photoed by Riikka-san (in Sendai)

Even after the huge catastrophe of March 2011, people have been looking ahead instead of looking back. Working together for the future after the disaster has been an inspiring process to follow. It has also been an honor to get a small part of that work.

Our two countries both have four seasons, and they all have associated celebrations. Finns tend to spend seasonal feasts like Christmas and Midsummer together with families.  It seems that Japanese have even more common feasts, noting every change of seasons.  They are prepared and celebrated also with wider networks than just with your closest ones.

For a Finn, it is easy to communicate with the Japanese, since much of the exchange in both cultures happens without words. After mutual trust has been created, we can start talking even bigger issues quite openly. However, I have to admit that the joyful journey of learning Japanese language properly would take a whole lifetime.

If I could give a present from Japan to my Finnish countrymen, it could be an attitude like this:  only think of the best side of life, and never forget hope. What you need is here and now, so do enjoy it.


Tahtoisin näyttää

vuoristokylän kevään

pälvien ruohon

sille, joka odottaa

vain kirsikankukkia

Fujiwara no Ietaka

(In Finnish by Kai Nieminen)

Riikka Teperi-san
She has moved to Sendai in 2011 with her husband’s new post.

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