Timeless Designs

The Danish/Japanese Connection: A Tale of Two Cultures


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By Helen Russell

Japanese-born Copenhagener Aya Okamura specialises in helping internationals understand her native land through business consultancy Ayanomimi. Here, Okamura and her team offer their advice for navigating the differences – and similarities – between the two nations.

The Danish/Japanese Mind-set

“Whereas Danes value openness and respect for the individual, the Japanese are all about the collective in their approach to professionalism and attention to detail,” says Okamura. But there are some areas that both nations agree on: “Danes and the Japanese have a huge respect for craftsmanship, quality, authenticity, minimalism, functionalism, innovation, nature, and the idea of being able to improve life through creativity.” From February-March 2015, Tokyo will be hosting a Danish lifestyle and technology exhibition and seminar.

A Shared Aesthetic

"In many ways, Japan and Denmark share a common appreciation of nice design made from good materials,” says freelance consultant at Ayanomimi, Kosuke Shinozaki. “But Japanese manufactures produce a wide range of traditional handicrafts that are yet to penetrate the Danish market. At the same time, there is more and more interest in Japan around Danish urban design, so future collaborations in this area hold great potential."

"Denmark and Japan both advocate balance and harmony with nature,” adds fellow freelance consultant Sherry Wang. “Both nations value the co-existence of cutting-edge style and comfort.”

Everyday Etiquette

“There’s less physical contact in Japan than in Denmark,” says Okamura, “– we nod and bow as a greeting but the handshake isn’t so common. Japanese people tend to keep a distance from each other, but this isn’t a cold thing - it’s respect. We’re considerate. For instance, when you see pictures of Japanese people wearing surgical masks at airports, it’s because they’re ill and they don’t want to infect others. You don’t talk on your phone on public transport as it disturbs your fellow passengers – we’re all about functioning in harmony with one another.”

“By contrast, Danes are more individualistic. They don’t tend to go in for so much detail and etiquette either – it’s more about the ‘big picture’ way of doing things and they are very informal.”

Getting Around

“Japanese people are always surprised to see how much we bike in Denmark (especially in Copenhagen) and by the fact that you can bring your bike on the train,” says Okamura. “We don’t do that so much in Tokyo, but there’s a great metro system that’s fast, safe, cheap and clean that can connect you to all districts. Most of the signs in Tokyo’s metro are also in English so visitors can find their way around. It’s easy to take a taxi as well – just hail one of the yellow cabs on the street.”

"Two countries one boat"

“At Ayanomimi, we ran a networking event with a focus on the similarities between Denmark and Japan. We invited designers, architects, business people, cultural organisations etc. to join our one-hour boat tour through the canals of Copenhagen and talk about the things that surprise Japanese people coming to Denmark, the cultural similarities and differences, and how we see potential in connecting the two worlds. The event was held on the day of Copenhagen Sakura Festival [link to Little Black Book feature], so the guests could continue exploring the Japanese culture at the festival.”

www.ayanomimi.com | +45 28263134