Partizipative Projekte aus dem Bereich der Japanologie

History of Austro-Japanese Relations

An overview of the most important events and developments of the Japanese-Austrian relations

1625: First Austrian in Japan: Christoph Carl Fernberger

1869: Friendship, trade and seafaring contract signed in Tokyo by rear admiral Anton Freiherr von Petz on October 18th

1871: Contract is signed by the Austrian emperor and Japanese tennō

1873: Vienna World’s Fair with Japan as one of the exhibitor countries as part of the Iwakura-Mission

1907: Austrian-Hungarian legation promoted to the rank of embassy, Japan dispatches an embassy to Vienna

1914: Diplomatic relations are put to a halt with the start of the First World War

1935: Formation of the Japanese-Austrian Community in Tokyo by Baron Mitsui Takaharu

1953: Resumption of diplomatic relations

1955: Japan is the first country to recognize Austria’s neutrality on November 15th

1957:  New delegations in Tokyo and Vienna get promoted to the rank of embassy

1965: Founding of the Institute of Japanese Studies in Vienna

1999: Austrian Federal President Thomas Klestil visits Japan

2002: Japanese imperial couple visits Japan

2009: 140-year anniversary, state visits of Federal President Heinz Fischer and Prince Akishino and his wife



Text: Alexander Kuhn



The Iwakura Mission

Japan discovers the West. The Iwakura mission in Austria-Hungary.

On December 23rd 1871, a high-ranking Japanese delegation embarks on a journey from Yokohama to the USA and Europe. After the country’s opening after approximately 250 years of isolation, Japan wants to become acquainted with “the Western civilization,” gain know-how for the modernization of their own country and achieve a revision of the current unequal trade agreements it was forced to concur with. The Austrian-Hungarian mission arrives in May of 1873.

Japan’s departure into modernism with a grand cast

Education, law, medicine, military, industry and technology – the Japanese delegation is hoping for new insights in these areas, which are supposed to further their country’s modernization and development. For instance, there is no railroad in Japan at the time of the delegation’s departure. All the more exciting, therefore, are the rail connection between San Francisco and New York as well as the mountain railway across the Semmering. Led by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, vice president Tomomi Iwakura, the namesake of this mission, half of the government travels to twelve Western contracting member states. Among this group of 40 people are government officials, scholars, students and the chronicler Kunitake Kume (1839 – 1932). Kume’s extensive travel log is published in 1878. This contingent of people shows the great importance that Japan attributed to this endeavour, notes Japanologist and historian Peter Pantzer, professor emeritus at the University of Bonn.
With this mission, the leadership of the Meiji government was able to get an idea of the effects of modernization. In cooperation with his team, Peter Pantzer translated the passages regarding Germany, Austria and Switzerland from Kume’s travel log.

Text: Judith Brandner

Translation: Leonie Krösslhuber and Adam Gregus

The Image of Japan in Austrian Popular Music


No Edelweiss on Fujiyama

Geisha, cherry blossoms, sukiyaki, Fujiyama, Tōkyō, Yokohama, Nagasaki…those are only some of numerous stereotypes to be associated with Japan in the West, and which were used in popular music since the end of the 18th century. In Austria, Japan drew much attention with its presentation at the 1873 World Exposition in Vienna. Japonism found its place within the fine arts through Japanese motifs and styles. In the world of music, Japan was hyped through operas and operettas. Because of their popularity, Japanologist Sepp Linhart subsumes them under ‘popular music’. Emeritus Professor and Head of the Institute of Japanese Studies, Sepp Linhart, researched about Japan’s image in western popular music.

Due to the enormous success of operettas and operas such as ‘The Mikado’, ‘The Geisha’ or ‘Madama Butterfly’ (the most-performed opera worldwide) even more “Japan operettas” were created and “Japan songs” were written, having become very popular in the 1920s. They shaped our image of Japan. The 1920s and early 1930s were the heyday of Japanese popular songs, many of them composed by Austrians until the political situation terminated the production.  After 1945, Germany and Austria avoided Japan because of their alliance with Japan during World War II. This had impact on music production – as a topic, Japan did not exist at all. It was not until just before the 1960s that hits about Japan started appearing – utilizing old clichés and stereotypes. As Japan grew economically, her image in popular songs changed. In the 1980s, hit songs describe Japan as a “model” and as “Nr. 1”. There is even a reversion of the ‘Madama Butterfly-motif’ when western women sentimentally sing about Japanese men who deserted them… Sepp Linhart interprets this as a shift in paradigm.


Text: Judith Brandner


Ongaku no Miyako

Vienna as a romantic place of desire and longing for young Japanese


If one is a more or less regular visitor of classical concerts and operas in Vienna, they have surely caught one’s eye: Japanese tourists, who make out a significant amount of the audience. Vienna is being marketed in Japan as the “Ongaku no Miyako” – the capital of music. It is, of course, no wonder that Viennese clichés are at the center of the marketing strategy; that’s simply how most of tourist marketing is being done. Vienna’s image of the world’s music capital is visible, if one looks at the city’s music academies. There, a high number of mainly female Japanese students is enrolled. For some of those schools, the admission of Japanese students has become such a big economic factor that even Japanese translators are being employed in order to secure smooth education.

Gregor Wakounig has interviewed Japanese students of different ages who came to study music in the “Ongaku no Miyako”. How much of the romanticized clichés of the music capital come true after settling in Vienna? How do Ottakring and Favoriten fit into this romantic image? And is it really music that’s in the centre of their lives after having lived in Vienna for a few years?

How Kyūdō Came to Vienna

Hitting the bull’s eye: About Japanese Archery in Vienna 

For more than a few years, there has been a wonderful way to get in touch with Japanese culture and practicing it in Vienna: kyūdō. One can translate kyūdō with “the way of the bow” and it describes shooting an arrow with a bow, two meters in length, at a black and white target called mato. The target is positioned 28 meters in front of the archer. Traditionally, the bow was made out of bamboo, today fiberglass or carbon is used as well.

In old Japan, archery was not only a tool for wartime but was also used during ceremonies at the imperial court. Therefore, many schools and shooting techniques can be found throughout the past centuries and so it is no wonder that even today different styles of kyūdō can be found in Japan. Although they differ in form, Japanese archery describes the art which embodies the spirit of budō. Budō can be translated as “martial arts” and is connected with the term bushidō, the “way of the warrior.” The main point in drawing the bow is therefore to train one’s body and mind continuously. This is much more important than actually hitting the target. The person’s own focus, to train “yourself” is what makes kyūdō “the way of the bow.”

Yuse Ayako is drawing the bow. ©Photo: Kobayashi Norio.

Today, in Austria kyūdō is not only practiced in Vienna but also in cities like Graz, Linz or Salzburg. What is more, there is an active exchange with professors of Japanese universities which already started in the eighties. Every year there are seminars in Austria, where Japanese teachers train with European archers, meanwhile Japanese students have the opportunity to visit Vienna during a field trip. Thus, over time the friendship between Japan and Austria deepened over the practice of archery, and even today the relationship between both countries is a very active one in regard to kyūdō.

But how did Japanese archery find its way to Austria in the first place? By asking this question, Elena Koblizek is going to give more insight into the Austrian kyūdō history and its situation today.


Text: Elena Koblizek

Translation: Adam Greguš, Leonie Krösslhuber

Floridsdorf and Katsushika

A friendship built for the ages:
A report on efforts and achievements from the cultural exchange which has bonded the districts of
Floridsdorf and Katsushika
for over three decades now

The wonderful tradition of the so-called ‘partner cities’ links together a myriad of cities, towns, and districts of a great variety of countries; however, it is often the case that their representatives never actually meet in person and therefore remain partners only on paper. Still, there are exceptions to this trend. One such example of a rather active cultural and personal exchange is the partnership between Floridsdorf, the 21st district of Vienna, and the Katsushika district in Tōkyō, Japan. Led by the districts’ heads, Georg Papai from Austria and Katsunori Aoki from Japan, the delegations travel to their respective partner’s country relatively often, given the immense distance between them, in order to visit their districts. During their short trips, they try to learn as much as possible from their partner in terms of culture as well as administration and work in the district.

But how did it come to this fruitful, yet unlikely friendship? Legend has it, the former mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, has had a major role to play in the forging of their strong bond. One of his many business trips led him to Japan, where he stumbled over a Tora-san film in the in-flight entertainment system. This film series’ iconic protagonist is a man, who lives in the Katsushika district in Tōkyō and is frequently plagued by the desire to flee his boring life. And so, he loves to travel around Japan, and promptly falls in love with a beautiful local woman who doesn’t ever feel the same. Finally, however, he gets so homesick every single time that he is glad to come home again. Upon seeing that film, an interesting idea pops into Zilk’s head. The Viennese mayor immediately sees parallels between Tora-san’s home district and the district of Floridsdorf back home, for example that both are situated on the outskirts of the city, dotted with huge green spaces, and are traversed by a wide river.

As soon as the former mayor returns back home, Zilk suggests a partnership between the two districts. On November 2, 1987, a treaty of friendship is signed, which proclaims that the partners want to learn from each other in order to “improve the friendly relationship between Austria and Japan, and to sustain world peace.” Two years later, Tora-san travels to Austria and explores Vienna in the 41st episode “Tora-san Goes To Vienna.” It can hardly be considered coincidence that this is also the first time that he travels to a place outside of Japan. To this day, Tora-san stays in our minds as an important linking element in the friendship between the two districts.

The delegation in the Tora-san Park: Sascha Göbel, Yūko Akiba, Aoki Katsunori (mayor of Katsushika), Ilse Fitzbauer (vice mayor of Floridsdorf), Tsutsui Takahisa, Tsuchiya Toshiaki, Noriko Weiß © Olivia Weiß

The fact that the partners still have such a good relationship with each other after more than 30 years is undoubtedly due to the regular personal contact as well as the constant efforts of both sides to keep in touch. And so, the delegation from Katsushika returned to Vienna from the 7th to the 11th of November 2018 in order to visit their friends in Floridsdorf again.

Olivia Weiß reports directly from this eventful visit.

Text: Olivia Weiß

Translation: Adam Greguš, Leonie Krösslhuber

Robert Jungk and Hiroshima

Warning from the Ashes

A Japanese-Austrian correspondence through which the heart of Hiroshima lives on.

6th August 1945 – in an instant, a lively commercial city was transformed into a nuclear desert. What exactly had happened? What was to come?

The Austrian journalist Robert Jungk felt an urgent need to document the voices of the survivors of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima so as to leave an eternal warning for coming generations. On his first visit to Hiroshima in 1957, he saw people busily engaged in reviving the city and striving to re-establish their lives despite great grief, uncertainty and fear of the afftereffects, which were still unclear at the time.

A Japanese interpreter named Ogura Kaoru supported him not only during his visit, but also afterwards through painstaking research, in which he documented the social circumstances of the time, reporting them to Jungk in 213 letters.

This close collaboration and the resulting deep friendship between two people from Austria and Japan pursuing the same goal, produced the book Children of the Ashes. It should always remind us of the enormous importance of peace and the work towards it.


Text: Yoshie Kagawa

Japan at Weltmuseum Wien


In light of the Vienna World’s Fair 1873

The East Asia Curatorial Department of the Weltmuseum Wien consists of 28.500 objects. About half of it, ca. 15.000 objects, are just from a single country, namely Japan. The majority  of the Japanese collection comes from the 19th century. This huge amount of interest for Japanese culture can be traced back to 1873, the year of the Vienna World’s Fair.

Japan participated in the World’s Fairs in London and Paris, but it was the first time that Japan participated in a World’s Fair as a nation, and not only some domain of it. They did not shy away from any efforts. Much thought and work were put into their collection. The World’s Fair was an event at which countries had the chance to demonstrate their power through the display of cultural, scientific and industrial advancements. It was a competition between nations. Therefore , Japan wanted to show itself in the best possible light. Their exposition was an enormous success, and, in its wake, brought Japonism to Austria , inspiring many artists, such as Gustav Klimt.

The exposition shows a diverse collection of Japanese objects, starting with relics from Jōmon culture (14,000-300 BCE), Nō-theater properties, religious artifacts, Samurai swords, and armor, as well as a brick collection from Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It also features many objects that were shown at the Vienna World’s Fair, which lets the visitor get a glimpse into the Japanese contribution in 1873. The main object of the Japan exposition is the model of a daimyō (feudal lord) residence, which was shown at the Vienna World’s Fair. When curator Dr. Bettina Zorn decided to use it as the central object, it was in poor condition after decades of storage. It took years of restoration and 14.000 small bricks of different kinds to return it to its former beauty, but thanks to that the long-time hidden gem can now be admired by everyone again.

The daimyō residence model, 1872. Exhibited at the Vienna World’s Fair 1873. © Weltmuseum Wien.

The Weltmuseum’s Japan exposition leads from the Edo period (1600-1868) to the 21st century. After taking a walk through the room, visitors can take a seat in a cinematic cube and watch a few scenes from the movie Miss Hokusai (2015). This movie focusses on the daughter of Hokusai, O-Ei, who helped her father many times with his artistic work – a fact that is practically unknown. It also shows a connection between Japanese tradition and its interpretation in the 21st century. Furthermore, one can listen to Mamba Masayuki, successor to the Musashiya model builder workshop that built the daimyō residence model, to learn more about it.

As shown above, many things are to be discovered and there is much to be learned, as one travels through the different periods of time. A highly recommended visit for anyone, who wants to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and an important part of history for the relations between Japan and Austria.

Text: Claudia Stoica

Translation: Adam Greguš, Leonie Krösslhuber

Dōmo Arigatō, Mr. Roboto

Austrian-Japanese cooperation in the field of robotics

Robotics has been a rapidly growing part of the technical field in the last couple of years, with great research efforts all across the globe. Japan is among the leading nations the field of robotics, making it an appealing trade and research partner.

Robotics is an important field in Austria too. Austria is one of the nations in Europe that have the highest annual expenses for research and development.  According to a report from the Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA), Austria’s strengths in the robotics research field are excellent training opportunities for specialisation, as well as the great research interest of research centres and their close cooperation with small and large companies in Austria.

Over the years, due to the large research interest of both nations, partnerships were established between Austrian and Japanese universities and companies. TU Wien and their Japan Austria Science Exchange Centre (JASEC), Ars Electronica and Johannes Kepler-University in Linz are in close cooperation with Japanese institutions such as the Nara Institute of Science and Technology and University of Tōkyō. Even the governments of the two nations work together closely with the common goal of advancing research in the field of robotics. Austrian companies such as Ferrobotics Compliant Robot Technology GmbH even export their technologies to Japan.

In this article, Alexander Kuhn will introduce recent research and cooperation in the field of robotics through research and interviews from both the Japanese and Austrian viewpoints.


Text: Alexander Kuhn

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