150 years ago, on 6 February 1864 in Tokyo, the first Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Switzerland and Japan was signed. This anniversary celebrates the diplomatic relations to which that treaty gave rise.
But it wasn\’t all plain sailing: Switzerland was on the cusp of an industrial revolu- tion and strong economic growth – and the Swiss watch industry in particular was seeking new markets. Japan, by con- trast, was in turmoil. The country, which was resisting openness, had been “per- suaded” since the arrival of Commodore Perry\’s fleet in 1853 to sign a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the USA in 1858, which was followed by similar agreements with the Netherlands, Russia, Britain and France. In response to this, in 1859 Swiss industrialists called on the government to dispatch the Rudolf Lan- dau mission to Japan, a mission that proved futile. But Switzerland was unde- terred. The Federal Council instructed former member of the Council of States (and President of the Société Horlogère) Aimé Humbert-Droz to hammer out a treaty with Japan. The Swiss delegation reached Nagasaki on 9 April and Yokoha- ma on 27 April 1863. The negotiations – brokered by the Dutch to whom the Japa- nese were favourably disposed – were protracted. It was nine months later, on 6 February 1864, that the treaty between Japan and Switzerland was signed at the Dutch embassy in Tokyo.
After Portugal and the Netherlands, which had long established a foothold in the Far East, and the newly emerging in- dustrial powerhouses, Switzerland was thefirst smaller country to seek closer re- lations with Japan. Economic ties flour- ished; by as early as 1880, a dozen Swiss companies were present in the Yokoha- ma region.
Over the years, a kind of “special rela- tionship” has evolved. The Alpine, land- locked country of Switzerland and the far eastern island kingdom may be polar opposites geographically but, at times of upheaval, Switzerland has served time and again as a model for Japan.
Johann Caspar Bluntschli\’s “Allgemeines Staatsrecht” (General Constitutional Law), the philosophies of Heinrich Pestalozzi, the Red Cross, neutrality and the militia system are held in high esteem in Japan and not least Johanna Spyri\’s “Heidi” did much to consolidate the over- ly romantic and idealized image of Swit- zerland that prevails among the Japa- nese. In 1955, the Swiss-Japanese Society was founded with the aim of fostering understanding between the two coun- tries and raising awareness among the Swiss about Japan\’s utterly beguiling cul- ture.
Today, Japan and Switzerland – both heavily dependent on exports – share the same values with regard to free trade and the same concerns about their own agri- cultural economies.
Anniversary events will be taking place right across Switzerland throughout 2014 – as an expression of gratitude for the last 150 years and as an incentive for the next period of peace and friendship between Japan and Switzerland.
Issue Date: 06.02.2014
Designer: Stefanie Haberli-Bachmann Zurich
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: 28 x 38.5 mm