Jan Vapaavuori made his first visit to Tokyo as the Mayor of Helsinki on March 27-29, promoting the city to local authorities, companies and journalists as an attractive investment and tourist destination . He made a buzzing stop at Slush Tokyo, the startup event originating from Helsinki, before heading to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to meet Governor Yuriko Koike.
Mayor Vapaavuori's visit to Tokyo was on a whirlwind. Having arrived from Beijing to Haneda Airport, he rushed to the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo to speak at the press gathering about Helsinki's success story with Slush, how the startup culture evolved and the city's attractions in the eyes of investors and entrepreneurs. The message that in today's unstable world, Finland is "predicable, reliable and functional" also resonated with 60 or so participants who attended the business seminar right after. After all, Finland has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe, best access from Japan with 38 direct weekly flights and reasonable and high quality labor force among other things. "According to the recently published United Nations' report, Finns are now also the happiest people in the world," Mayor Vapaavuori concluded with a smile. "I invite you all to build your company's success story in the functional city together with us."
The next day brought a glimpse of the Mayor's hometown at Tokyo Big Sight, where Slush Tokyo was held for the 4th time in Japan. The original Slush was founded in Helsinki in 2008 run mostly by student volunteers, which grew to a mega-event of 20,000 attendees. Mayor Vapaavuori chatted at the Finland's Booth exhibiting 10 AR/VR companies among the laser beam and rock music. "This is just great," exclaimed the Mayor. "There are a lot of similarities compared to Slush in Helsinki, of course with Japanese flavor. Slush is not just a startup event, it's involving the youngsters to become interested in entrepreneurship. It's great that they were able to build the event to this scale (of 6,000 attendees) run by volunteers. "
Another highlight of the day was the meeting with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike. The topics of discussion were of course the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but also the possibility of holding the Helsinki Week in Tokyo next year, when Japan and Finland will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations. "Cooperation is not just between countries, it's also growing among cities," said Mayor Vapaavuori. It looks like Helsinki's presence in Tokyo might become larger in 2019.
Mayor also participated in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medal Project by donating old mobile phones to be recycled and utilized in the Olympic Medals. Governor Koike encouraged Finnish athletes to win back the donated materials in the form of golden, silver and bronze medals.