160 years of diplomatic relations with Japan

Matsumoto Castle Japan

Matsumoto Castle Japan, © Zoonar.com/Marco Brivio

20.01.2021 - Article

On 24 January 1861, Japan and Prussia signed a treaty on friendship, shipping and trade which laid the foundation for 160 years of diplomatic relations. We have become close partners who are committed to working for peace, disarmament, multilateralism, democracy and free trade.

Historic ties

When Japan and Prussia signed the first German-Japanese treaty on 24 January 1861, the Japanese capital was still called Edo. One hundred and sixty years have now passed, shaped by in-depth dialogue and collaboration from the very beginning, particularly in the fields of medicine and the legal system. However, our bilateral relations were also defined by the horrors of the two World Wars and the development of democratic, pluralistic structures in both countries in the second half of the 20th century.

Close and trusting partnership

Japan is now one of Germany’s most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Our excellent relations are based on close cooperation between our two countries’ civil societies and political institutions as well as on shared interests and values. Today, these revolve around a shared commitment to a rules-based, multilateral international order. Japan and Germany are partners in the G7 and G20 and work closely together within the United Nations – including on efforts to reform it. The two countries are also among the UN’s top contributors. Economically, Japan is Germany’s second-largest trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade worth approximately 44 billion euro in 2019. Free and fair trading conditions are extremely important to ensure prosperity for the people of both countries.

Joint challenges

Japan is a key partner in efforts to strengthen multilateralism and overcome shared challenges – first and foremost the effects of climate change. Beyond this, Japanese and German society are facing similar challenges, from the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic to demographic change to issues of future energy policy, connectivity and digitalisation. The long-standing, robust cultural relations between Germany and Japan also create an important foundation for cooperation. With over 800 bilateral university cooperation agreements and a tightly woven network of cultural and scientific institutions, our two countries collaborate closely in a spirit of mutual trust to find answers to the questions that will define our future.

Focus on the Indo-Pacific

On 2 September 2020, the Federal Government approved new policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific, which define the key strategic considerations of its foreign policy in the region. Germany aims to diversify and intensify relations both in and with the region; it has a great deal of common ground with Japan in particular, including a shared focus on strengthening the rules-based international order in the region. Other key issues are the fight against climate change, efforts to strengthen free trade, and collaboration on science and research as well as on security policy.


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