Hamburg Important Base for Japanese Companies

Japanese Foreign Minister lauds Hamburg’s Business Development Corporation

Hamburg Important Base for Japanese Companies

Home to some 100 Japanese companies, including 25 European and 35 German headquarters, that provide approximately 6,000 jobs, Hamburg is one of the preeminent European locations for Japanese enterprises. In all matters related to being based in Hamburg, the Japanese companies can count on the HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation for tailor-made support. Its proven reliability has earned the HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation an official Commendation from the Foreign Minister of Japan. Awarded to individuals and institutions for extraordinary achievements in the international field, the Foreign Minister’s Commendation recognises their contribution to building cordial relations between Japan and other countries.

Welcoming guests from business and politics, including Hamburg’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Ian Karan, to a formal reception at his Leinpfad residence, Japanese Consul General Seisuke Narumiya today presented HWF CEO Uwe Jens Neumann with the award certificate on behalf of the Foreign Minister of Japan. The certificate reads: "Your organisation has worked to advance the mutual understanding between Japan and Germany, and has thereby contributed to strengthening our country’s bond of friendship with other nations. I deem your accomplishments in this regard to be of extraodinary merit. It is with the utmost respect that I hereby award you this commendation."

The Japanese Consul General, Seisuke Narumiya, noted that "Hamburg was ahead of the times: As early as 1859, and thus two years before Prussia and Japan signed their treaty of amity and commerce, what was to become the Hamburg trading firm C. Illies & Co. was founded in Nagasaki. Since then, relations between Hamburg and Japan have flourished. And for the past 25 years Japanese companies have found the HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation to be a partner blazing a trail for the further expansion of our business relations. We are here today to recognize this commitment."

"Trade relations between Hamburg and Asia have been a central interest for us for decades," as Hamburg’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Ian Karan, pointed out. "We have maintained friendly ties with Japan for more than 150 years. Expanding this relationship is a core concern of my economic policy. I am indebted to HWF for their dedicated work in this area." And Uwe Jens Neumann, CEO of the Hamburg Business Development Corporation, adds: "Being honored by the Japanese Consulate General is both recognition and an incentive for us to convince even more Japanese companies of the advantages Hamburg can give them as a bridgehead in Europe."

Japan in Hamburg

Some 100 companies from the Land of the Rising Sun, among them 25 European and 35 German headquarters, make Hamburg one of the leading locations for Japanese enterprises in Europe. The 1960s already saw the first Japanese companies arriving in Hamburg: Panasonic came in 1962, Olympus followed in 1963 and today is the biggest Japanese employer with approximately 1,300 staff in the Hamburg metropolitan region. Various companies produce locally: Dolmar, subsidiary of Japanese power tool maker Makita Corp. manufactures chainsaws, Makino builds machine tools, Hosokawa Kreuter produces specialised machines for the sweets industry Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe (formerly Olympus Winter & Ibe) supplies the world market with endoscopy equipment. The world of finance has been represented for 56 years by the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Overall, Japanese enterprises have created some 6,000 jobs in and around Hamburg. The majority of the resident companies come from Tokyo and the Kansai region, i.e. from Hamburg’s sister city Osaka and its neighbouring areas.

The Nihonjinkai, which was established as early as 1959 and counts many Japanese decision-makers in Hamburg among its members, also represents the interests of the Japanese entrepreneurs and is a place where the resident Japanese can meet. Likewise, the Hamburg-based Ostasiatischer Verein OAV and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce have been dealing with Japanese business issues for decades and are a valuable information resource for German companies. In 1988 the Deutsch-Japanische Juristenvereinigung e.V. (DJJV) initiated a dialogue ragarding legal matters in both countries. The Deutsch-Japanische Gesellschaft zu Hamburg e.V. was formed in 1963 and one of its tasks is organising the nomination of one of Hamburg’s pre-eminent representatives in Japan.

Approximately 2,300 Japanese nationals live in Hamburg. The official representation, the Japanese Consulate which opened in 1883 (Consulate General since 1910), supports Japanese companies’ local business activities and cooperates closely with the institutions and ministries of the State of Hamburg. A regular shipping line between the port of Hamburg and Japan has existed since 1898.

Hamburg in Japan

The Land of the Rising Sun, in turn, has attracted many Hamburg-based companies. Some 35 enterprises from Hamburg have established offices or subsidiaries in sister city Osaka alone. Japan is an essential target market for more than 500 companies. One of them is the trading firm C. Illies & Co., known in Japan as Irisu Shokai K.K. and successfully doing business there for more than 150 years.


Relations between Hamburg and its sister city, the Japanese seaport town of Osaka, since their official inception in 1989 have not only flourished on the economic level, but also given rise to a fruitful cultural partnership. The port partnership between Hamburg and Yokohama has been just as successful since its establishment in 1992. Even individual city districts have become engaged in a direct exchange: Ottensen in Hamburg and Mukojima in Tokyo (1991), joined by Hirano in Osaka in 1991. In addition, the Hamburg Business Development Corporation maintains an office in Tokyo and the HamburgAmbassadors programme has been able to enlist members of the Japanese business world to speak for and promote Hamburg in Japan. All these networks have contributed to the vibrant and multifaceted development of Japanese enterprise and culture in Hamburg.


Opened in 1981, the Japanese School guarantees its students full compatibility with the Japanese educational system. The longest tradition of Japanese studies in Germany can be found at the University of Hamburg, with a chair established in 1914. German courses for Japanese nationals are offered as well. The University of Hamburg cooperates with Osaka City University in Hamburg’s twin city. Hamburg-based research institutes such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Asienkunde e.V. and the GIGA Institut für Asien-Studien also have an in-depth focus on Japan.

The Cherry Blossom Princess is appointed every other year, and on her trip to Japan meets high-ranking business and political representatives, even including the Prime Minister. Outside of Japan, Melbourne and Washington D.C. are the only cities besides Hamburg allowed to choose a Cherry Blossom Princess. Every year in May, the splendid sight of 5,000 Japanese cherry trees in bloom is a major attraction on the Alster, culminating in the Cherry Blossom Festival with its traditional fireworks display. Since 1968 this has been how the Japanese community in Hamburg express their gratitude to the city and its citizens for welcoming them. Another feast for the eyes is the Japanese Film Festival, organised annually by Nihon Media e.V. since 1999.

Japanese culture is a presence also felt all over town, beyond the associations and institutes, for instance, in the numerous museums and art galleries. The Japanese Teahouse in Planten und Blomen hosts events on a regular basis. The 18,000-sqm Japanese garden surrrounding the teahouse was designed by renowned landscaper Yoshikuni Araki from Osaka – it is the largest of its kind in Europe. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is known for conducting traditional tea ceremonies on its premises. And the ranks of Japanese restaurants, including such well-known names as the Hokkai and the Matsumi, are augmented steadily, the Zipang and the Kitsune Izakaya being among the most recent openings. Together, they are ensuring that the full breadth of Japanese cuisine is appreciated in the Hanseatic City.

150 years of Japanese-German relations

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of bilateral relations. On 24 January 1861, Japan and the Prussian state concluded a treaty of amity, trade and shipping in Edo, known today as Tokyo. Both countries will commemorate this beginning of official ties between Japan and Germany by publishing special issue stamps and organising events spanning politics and business, as well as research, culture and sports. More on 150 years of Japanese-German relations at: