On Saturday 26th May the first "Suomi-alumni" event for those having lived half a year or more in Finland, was held at the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo. Participants included both exchange students just recently returned from Finland and working people who lived in Finland during the 80's. The event, originally proposed by ambassador Siukosaari, was relaxed and fun: the program included live music, barbeque and Finnish summer games.
The day started with a welcome speech by ambassador Siukosaari. Siukosaari told the audience that the idea for the event was born from a hope that people who have lived in Finland would have a common network where to share experiences and stories and keep up good relations of Finland and Japan. Siukosaari announced that this first alumni event would not be the last, and that the embassy would continue to support the alumni activities in some way – for example through annual gatherings.
After Siukosaari's speech an embassy representative briefly introduced different ways to keep up with Finland – be it news, events or travel suggestions. Director of the Finnish institute in Japan, Anna-Maria Wiljanen introduced the institute's activities, and musician Maija Kauhanen gave a kantele performance of Finnish folk music and even taught the audience to sing along.
Majority of the event was spent in the embassy garden, where everyone was invited to enjoy summer cottage-like barbeque and games of mölkky and tikka-darts. Exclamations of joy could be heard when old friends found each other's and many new friendships were formed as people shared their experiences of Finland. Antti Paalanen created a real feeling of Finnish summer with his accordion music, and there was even a possibility to enter a sauna in virtual reality with the embassy mascot Fintan.
An important part of the program was finding a name for the Suomi-alumni network. The alumni present in the event voted for the winning name out of their own suggestions, and the network was named Suopani – a combination of Finnish words for Finland and Japan, 'Suomi' and 'Japani'. Mizuki Someya, who came up with the winning name, told the participants that she wanted the name to be something that symbolizes the cooperation and closeness of the two countries.
The best score in tikka-darts game went to Nanako Ueda, who had studied as an exchange student in Lahti University of Applied Sciences. She came to the alumni-event all the way from Toyama, bringing her husband and 8-month-old daughter to Tokyo with her. Ueda thought the event was a great success and hoped there would be other similar opportunities in the future. She confessed to always missing Finland in her daily life. Before the day, Ueda had played tikka-darts once in a summer cottage in Finland.
The embassy of Finland thanks all the participants for a wonderful event. Future events will be announced in the embassy's social media channels and Suopani email contact list.
All the Japanese who have lived in Finland for half a year or more are welcome to join the Suopani Suomi-alumni network here.