Ambassador Jukka Siukosaari attended the Ceremony of the Presentation of Credentials as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Finland to Japan on September 20. Even the drizzling rain did not dampen the festive occasion, as 6 diplomats accompanied the Ambassador to the Imperial Palace in elegant burgundy horse carriages with golden wheels. "The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, riding to the Palace in a horse carriage built more than 100 years ago just for Ambassadors," said Ambassador Siukosaari. "The Palace itself, with its simplicity and humbleness, left a strong impression on me."
Diplomats dressed for the occasion (from left): Markus Kokko, Miia Rantanen, Pekka Sommarberg, Heli Sommarberg, Ambassador Siukosaari, Tiia Rakkolainen, Juha Niemi
Japan's long tradition and immense history have been sources of admiration for Ambassador Siukosaari. "Japan has always been my dream destination," he says, now setting foot as a diplomat on his 4th continent and 6th country at the age of 50. His previous post was in South America, as Ambassador of Finland to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Japan is his first Asian country, and he eagerly welcomes the new change.
Ambassador Siukosaari has firm grounds to start on, with the image of Finland exceptionally good in Japan. The impressions the Japanese have of Finland and the Finns- be it the Moomins, design, education, start-up culture, childcare services- all are positive. "I would like to use this positive image to expand new areas, to increase new business contacts and promote investment and trade in both ways, and not just one-way," he says. Businesses he has in mind are as tourism, food industry and Arctic cooperation, as Finland prepares to be the Chairman of the Arctic Council in 2017. These conform to the joint statement of strategic partnership issued by President Niinistö and Prime Minister Abe this March, which referred to closer cooperation in the areas of the economy, science and technology. Mutual co-operation will be important as Finland and Japan together approach the upcoming 100th Anniversary of diplomatic relationship in 2019.
Having expertise in international marketing and economics, Ambassador Siukosaari has worked at embassies in Ireland, Italy, South Africa and UK, handling everything from EU policy, economic and development issues, EU institutional affairs and international environmental policy. Before heading to Argentina for his first Ambassadorial post, he was Director of the Unit for Northern Europe at the Foreign Ministry. He took leave from 2006 to 2009 to assume the position of International Affairs Officer at the Finnish Medical Association, which made him knowledgeable about health economics and policies. He is fluent in English, Swedish and Spanish, and also speaks some French, Italian and German.
His busy, cosmopolitan lifestyle is supported by what he warmly calls a "circus," with his wife Mariella and their three children aged from 16, 13 and 10, two big dogs and a cat. The family looks forward to climbing Mt. Fuji, skiing at the snowy mountains in Hokkaido and trying out water sports in Okinawa. They rejoice at everyday life in Tokyo as well, touched by the friendliness and hospitality of the Japanese in this tidy and well-organized megacity. "The Japanese are shy yet willing to interact. When we were lost in a metro, the person who helped us didn't speak much English but still tried to make sure we reached our destination safe."
"I find these characteristics similar to the Finns, we also want to be friendly to foreigners but don't often know how," smiles Ambassador Siukosaari. His background in business studies of course makes him want to explore further the mechanism of the Japanese economy, but these common national traits intrigue him likewise. "The Finnish and Japanese people share the same values, even though we live far apart with cultural differences. Why do we find it so easy to get along and communicate? These are some of the things I'd like to experience and find out more during my tenure."
Video of the Ceremony of the Presentation of Credentials