France–Japan relations

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Franco-Japanese relations
Map indicating locations of France and Japan



The history of relations between France and Japan goes back to the early 17th century, when a Japanese samurai and ambassador on his way to Rome landed for a few days in Saint-Tropez and created a sensation. France and Japan have enjoyed a very robust and progressive relationship spanning centuries through various contacts in each other's countries by senior representatives, strategic efforts, and cultural exchanges.

After nearly two centuries of seclusion by "Sakoku" in Japan, the two countries became very important partners from the second half of the 19th century in the military, economic, legal and artistic fields; the Bakufu modernized its army through the assistance of French military missions (Jules Brunet), and Japan later relied on France for several aspects of its modernization, particularly the development of a shipbuilding industry during the early years of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Léonce Verny , Émile Bertin), and the development of a Legal code.

France derived part of its modern artistic inspiration from Japanese art, essentially through Japonism and its influence on Impressionism, and almost completely relied on Japan for its prosperous silk industry.


Chronology of Franco-Japanese relations[edit]

17th–18th centuries[edit]

17th-century account of Hasekura's visit to France

19th century[edit]

  • 1808. The French language is taught to five Japanese translators by the Dutch chief of Dejima, Hendrik Doeff.
  • 1844. A French naval expedition under Captain Fornier-Duplan onboard Alcmène visits Okinawa on April 28, 1844. Trade is denied, but Father Forcade is left behind with a translator.
Leonce Verny directed the construction of Japan's first modern arsenal at Yokosuka from 1865.
  • 1864. Arrival of Leon Roches in Japan.
  • 1864. Bombardment of Shimonoseki by allied ships (9 British, 3 French, 4 Dutch, 1 American).
  • 1864. In November Leonce Verny arrives in Japan for the construction of the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal.
  • 1865. Shibata Takenaka visits France to prepare for the construction of the Yokosuka arsenal and organize a French military mission to Japan.
  • 1865. On September 12, 1865, the Messageries Maritimes passenger liner ship Dupleix was the first to call at a Japanese port to start a new service with France, both for passengers as well as for cargoes such as Japanese silk.
The first French military mission to Japan in 1867. Jules Brunet in front, second from right.
The first automobile in Japan, a French Panhard-Levassor, in 1898

20th century[edit]

21st century[edit]

Franco-Japanese relations today[edit]

French embassy in Tokyo, Japan
Japanese embassy in Paris, France

Recently France has been very involved in trade and cultural exchange initiatives with Japan; some people see this as a result of former French prime minister Jacques Chirac being a Japanophile. Chirac has visited Japan over 40 times, probably more than any other world leader outside Japan, and is an expert on the country. France has started the export promotion campaign Le Japon, c'est possible and the international liaison personnel exchange program JET.

In June 1996, in Lyon, as part of the G7 summit which took place thanks to the crucial role played by the Consul General of Japan, Louis Michallet, Ryutaro Hashimoto and Jacques Chirac decided to organize "The Year of Japan in France", from April 1997 to March 1998 in order to correct the superficial and sometimes inaccurate understanding of Japanese culture;[7] the start of that year coincided with the inauguration of the House of Culture of Japan in Paris. "The Year of France in Japan" followed "the Year of Japan", the combination of these two events inaugurating Franco-Japanese relations for the 21st century.[8]

France and Japan have also worked together to improve dire health situations from HIV and underdevelopment in Djibouti, Madagascar, Uganda and other countries.

Japan and France are also known to share ideas with each other in the realms of art and cooking. Japan has been heavily influenced by French cuisine within the past few decades, as seen on the television show Iron Chef. Anime and manga are popular in France: manga represents 1,400 of the 4,300 annual book publications and 40% of the comics sales (95 Million € in 2008). The movie Interstella 5555 was a collaborative motion picture with Japanese anime writer, Leiji Matsumoto and the French house band, Daft Punk. French historical figures and settings from medieval, Renaissance, Napoleonic and World War eras have served as models for certain popular stories in Japanese entertainment; the purity of Japanese painting and illustration and likewise the modernity and elegance of French visual arts has resulted in hybrid styles in those creative fields.

The two countries have been collaborating closely in the area of nuclear energy generation. In September 2013, two years after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan has officially accepted help from France for the decommission and dismantle of Fukushima's reactors.[9] Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a Japanese corporation and France's Areva began cooperating on constructing a nuclear reactor in Turkey in 2013.[10]

In June 2005, France and Japan announced a collaboration to build the next generation supersonic commercial aircraft, a successor to the Concorde. Commercial service is not expected until 2050.[11][12]

Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a courtesy call during a visit to Japan from 5 October to 6 October 2014;[13] the meeting included Abe expressing his condolences for the ISIL beheading of French backpacker Hervé Gourdel and both agreed on future meetings on defense cooperation and tackling global warming.[14]

On December 8th, 2014, during public ceremonies under the aegis and presence of authorities[15] Japan recognised the Niten Ichi Ryu Memorial[16] which recalls history and Japan-France link.[17]

French in Japan[edit]

Japanese in France[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thierry Mormane : "La prise de possession de l'île d'Urup par la flotte anglo-française en 1855", Revue Cipango, "Cahiers d'études japonaises", No 11 hiver 2004 pp. 209-236.
  2. ^ Source and [1]
  3. ^ Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 68, pp. 236-239.
  4. ^ Nanba Chizuru, « Kokuritsukôbunshokan-shozô no "Saigon-bansai" kankeishiryô ni tsuite » (On the documents related to the Saigon trials kept at the National Archives of Japan, Kitanomaru, 41, December 2008, pp.79-81 難波ちづる, 国立公文書館所蔵の「サイゴン裁判」関係資料について, 北の丸:第41号 (平成20年12月)
  5. ^ "A burst of fireworks for 'Japan in France'". The Deseret News. 12 May 1997. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Statue illumination kicks off 'Year of France' event". The Japan Times. 28 April 1998. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Louis Michallet".
  8. ^ Yamata, Kikou (1998). Le mois sans dieux. 5, rue Bugeaud 69005 Lyon: Jacques Andre Editeur. pp. 1–11. Foreword and prefaces. ISBN 2-907922-61-0.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Japan, France to enhance nuclear, defense relations". Hurriyet Daily News; the Associated Press. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  11. ^ Zaun, Todd (June 16, 2005), France and Japan hope Concorde's successor is in the wings, N.Y. Times, retrieved 2014-08-01
  12. ^ EADS reveals hypersonic successor to Concorde, France 24, 2011-06-20, retrieved 2014-08-01
  13. ^ "Courtesy Call on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by H.E. Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, France". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 5 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Japan-France Foreign Ministers' Meeting". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 5 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Russia and ASEAN". Le Progrès. February 12, 2017.
  16. ^ "Dojo Miyamoto Musashi".
  17. ^ Le Progrès (December 12, 2015). "A symbolic bridge to Asia".


  • Maurice Pinguet, Voluntary Death in Japan (1984), Polity Press, 1993.
  • Maurice Pinguet, Le Texte Japon, introuvables et inédits, Seuil, 2009.
  • Polak, Christian. (2001). Soie et lumières: L'âge d'or des échanges franco-japonais (des origines aux années 1950). Tokyo: Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie Française du Japon, Hachette Fujin Gahōsha (アシェット婦人画報社).
  • __________. (2002). 絹と光: 知られざる日仏交流100年の歴史 (江戶時代-1950年代) Kinu to hikariō: shirarezaru Nichi-Futsu kōryū 100-nen no rekishi (Edo jidai-1950-nendai). Tokyo: Ashetto Fujin Gahōsha, 2002. ISBN 978-4-573-06210-8; OCLC 50875162
  • Michael Ferrier, La Tentation de la France, la Tentation du Japon : regards croisés, éd. Picquier, 2003 ISBN 2-87730-663-1
  • Michael Ferrier, Japon, la Barrière des Rencontres, éd. Cécile Defaut, 2009 ISBN 9782350180748
  • Michael Ferrier, France-Japan: The Coral Writers (From stereotype to prototype, in favor of rethinking a critical approach to Japan), Contemporary French & Francophone Studies, Volume 21, 2017 - Issue 1: France-Asia, pp. 8–27.

External links[edit]