Letter from Ambassador in June “Brother Troll, salmon, handball and the Faroe Islands”


Dear Friends,   

   “I am much interested in Japanese films.” It was Mr. Gudmund Helmsdal, Director of Faroese films who told me so. At the end of February 2020, Mr. Helmsdal with his friends and family came to see the 6th Japanese Film Festival in Torshavn. He did just what he said, and not only saw almost all the Japanese films during the two days, but also kindly agreed to specially showing “Brother Troll”, his short film about brothers’ different minds with an impressive and wild nature of the Faroe Islands surrounding them. The day after that special screening, I had the honor to pay a courtesy call to respectively Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen and Foreign and Cultural Minister Jenis Kristian av Rana, and took the opportunity to report this Faroese and Japanese film exchange, saying that “I was deeply moved to see Mr. Helmsdal’s “Brother Troll” and its depiction of Faroese value for life and its way to communicate mutually with nature.” Foreign and Cultural Minister Rana told me that he had also seen the film and agreed amicably that it was a masterpiece. “Brother Troll” has been featured at various short film festivals in many countries and highly appreciated by the audience and the experts. https://www.facebook.com/trollabeiggi

Brother Troll ‘Trøllabeiggi’ Directed by Gudmund Helmsdal

   The Faroe Islands is self-governing country in the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroese society has its own culture, language and history. The official language is Faroese, whose spelling system was elaborated by Venceslaus Ulricus Hammersheimb, a Faroese Lutheran minister in 1846. The language has its origin in Old Nord, and thus are closely related with Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish. In 1524 when the Faroe Islands were under the joint governance of Norway and Denmark, the offer was made to concede the Faroe Islands and Iceland to Henry VIII of England as collateral for a loan. Henry declines the offer. It is believed that this saved the Faroe Islands from losing it’s language. At schools and churches Danish had been used until 1938, when the Faroese and Danish languages were made equal. The Faroese language became the main language of the Faroe Islands in 1948. Now Danish is the second official language and many people speak English as well.

   If we look back the Faroese history briefly, around 300, some inhabitants already settled in the Faroe Islands. In 6th century, Irish priests and in 9th century, Norwegian farmers started to live there. In 900, Faroese Alting (parliamentary council/assembly) was formed. In 999, Sigmundur Brestisson, with orders from the King of Norway, introduced Christianity to the Faroese and the religion was adopted by the Faroese Alting. In 1035, the Faroe Islands became a province of Norway, and in late 14th century, Norway and Denmark joined to form a double monarchy. In 1814, Norway was ceded to Sweden, but the Faroe Islands remained under the Danish rule. After the Second World War, in 1946, a small majority voted in favour of independence from Denmark in a referendum, however, the parliamentary elections in 1946 resulted in a majority of parliament members who decided to remain under Danish rule. Nevertheless, in response to growing calls for autonomy, the Home Rule Act of the Faroe Islands is passed in 1948, cementing the Faroe Islands’ status as a self-governing country within the Danish Realm. The Act allows for the vast majority of domestic affairs to be controlled by the Faroese government, except for some areas, such as military defense, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs.


Photo: Visit Faroe Islands


   Japan and the Faroes Islands have developed cooperation and exchanges in various areas such as economy, culture, education, Arctic, whaling among others. For example, the Faroese export to Japan in 2021 amounted to more than 9 million US dollars, mainly consisting of salmon, trout, herring and other fish. In the same year, the Faroese rower and marathon runner participated in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Besides, the sister cities exchanges between Taiji, Wakayama prefecture and Klaksvik, both whaling towns continue. And we see the ongoing cooperation for scientific studies through Arctic Council to which the Faroe Islands is a full member and Japan is an observer.

   About five years ago, we decided to draft a document to facilitate such cooperation even more deeply and widely, thus consultations at various levels of both governments have continued. In April 2022, after the negotiation reached conclusion, Foreign and Cultural Minister Rana visited Japan and met Ms. SUZUKI Takako, State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan and signed the Memorandum of Cooperation, which covers (1)trade and investments, (2)promotion of exchanges of people in such areas as tourism, education and culture, (3)customs cooperation; (4)promotion and expansion of exchanges between sister cities; and (5)promotion of cooperation in academic research in areas of mutual interest, in particular, oceanography, climate issues, renewable energy and other areas that may be of interest for the two Governments to cooperate. https://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/100330386.pdf


In April 2022 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign and Cultural Minister Rana and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Suzuki

 In May, Mr. WAKAMIYA Kenji, Minister for the World Expo visited Denmark and met Foreign and Cultural Minister Rana to discuss possiblity of participation of the Faroese Islands to the Osaka Kansai Expo 2025. I hope that Faroes salmon dishes served during the working luncheon at the residence of Japanese Ambassador would also promote the friendship relations between Japan and the Faroese Islands in future. In August, there will be the 7th Japanese Film Festival after two years’ absence, and in due course resumption of youth exchanges between high schools and universities are expected as before.

   Incidentally, in the Faroe Islands, handball is also a popular national sport like in Denmark. At the Japanese Film Festival two years ago, I happened to meet the Japanese handball players who played actively in the Faroese women handball league. Prime Minister Nielsen of the Faroe Islands, who plays handball as goal keeper knew the Japanese handball players’ activities. In May 2021, when I met Mayor Johansen of Klaksvik, sister city of Taiji, I came to know that the Mayor had an extensive experience of playing handball on top of being a qualified whale hunter. As handball is gaining popularity in Japan as well particularly after the Tokyo Olympic, I look forward to seeing more handball exchanges between the Faroe Islands and Japan.

   As the summer solstice is just over and it is becoming warmer, I wish you well. See you next month on this page or somewhere in the Kingdom of Denmark.

Yours sincerely,     



Embassy of Japan in the Kingdom of Denmark


In February 2020, at the radio station in Torshavn