Japanese culture appears to be found 'everywhere' in the West today. Sushi, sudoku, origami, sumo, manga, anime, and pokemon have become familiar idioms, especially among younger people. Norwegian interest in Japan, however, is not a recent phenomenon. In spite of the geographical and cultural distance, Norway and Japan have developed relations in a number of fields since the turn of the twentieth century, and even before. When the first Norwegian missionaries arrived in Japan after the Second World War, other Norwegians had long since become acquainted with the country. Japanese aesthetic trends were known in Europe from the second half of the nineteenth century, and influenced Scandinavian artistic expressions. There was, as well, considerable Norwegian interest in the commercial potential of Japan's expanding whaling and shipping industry. Shortly after Norway's independence, the country opened its first legation in Tokyo. Although the Second World War disrupted the diplomatic relations, contact between the two countries has steadily increased since the 1950s. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Japan had become Norway's most important trading partner in Asia.
This book is based on rich empirical material and examines some of the fascinating stories that form the basis and background for today's close and cordial relationship between Norway and Japan.
Eldrid Mageli is Historian and Assistant Professor at Oslo University College, SEFIA.