Saturday, 12 July 2008

Finnish-Japanese Couples

A small Northeast-European country with only 5 million inhabitants has small chance to make an impression on an East Asian superpower with 127 millions. Regardless of that, Finnish-Japanese contacts have generally been positive, and as a result, both Finns and Japanese (but especially Finns) sometimes imagine that there is a special relationship between Finnish and Japanese mentality. After all, they are only separated by one country...

Never mind the imagined relationships, here are some very real unions between Finns and Japanese, which I find inspiring and also very cute.

Siiri Pitkänen and Tadao Watanabe, sometime in the Taisho period (1910's). They met when he came to Finland to study to become a missionary. They lived in Japan and Finland in the 1920's, often far apart, and their longing letters to each other have been published in the book "Kirsikankukkien vuodet" (Cherry Blossom Years). Some of their correspondence reflects family tragedy and marriage arguments, but there are many sweet and longing letters to the "dear quarrel-partner". The article where I found the photo is available online in Finnish.

Here is another handsome couple from the ladies' magazine Hopeapeili (1962/5). The marriage of Miss Pirkko Päiwiö and embassy attaché Minoru Yamashita was a big event in Finland's small society circle. The little article about the "great adventure" describes Mrs Yamashita's future as a challenge. Just the thought of moving to Japan and studying the language makes the reporter's "tongue tie a knot" (pelkästä ajatuksesta kieli solmuun), but "apparently Japanese isn't that difficult". A bigger challenge is the cuisine: Mr Yamashita "has somewhat shown appreciation even of kalakukko and pirogues. A Finnish wife will undoubtedly make sure that also lighter Finnish delicacies will not be missing from the young couple's table, even in Japan." Oh, that old-time food nationalism... I hope they were happy even without the kalakukko.


Tinet said...

The Yamashitas look so cute!

Uchimizu said...

May it be that Fins and Japanese are both ethnically related. At least, it seems their language both belong to the uralo-altaic group. Japanese people seem also to get along fine with turkish people.