Danish Language Blog

Denmark in Tokyo Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

(All photos by Bjørn A. Bojesen.)

(All photos by Bjørn A. Bojesen.)

Coming from et lille land (a small country), many Danes worry what foreigners – especially Americans – think about them. Whenever the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki or another Danish kendis [KENN-diss] (famous person) gets ”big in the U.S.A.”, Danish journalister [shoor-] (journalists) seem to get really busy. 🙂 But some Danes get, as the saying goes, ”big in Japan”. Being on a family visit in Tokyo, I was surprised to find the following LEGO-mand in the busy Ikebukuro station:


I have no idea whether the customers at the Andersen bageri [bakery] know the meaning of the word HYGGE, but it did appear throughout the shop as a kind of magical formula, apparently. 🙂 De ansatte [dee ANNsatteh] (the employees) were wearing little Dannebrog flags on their red uniforms, while receiving betaling (payment) for vaguely ”Danish-ish” brød og kager (breads and cakes). When the lady at the kasse (counter) got aware of the nationality of my companion and myself, she smilingly offered us an extra bow. As far as I can tell, the Tokyo concept of ”Danishness” (danskhed) seems to be linked to creamy cakes and søde ting (sweet things):


A Japanese woman in her twenties told me that most of her compatriots know Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid), often from the Disney version of the H.C. Andersen eventyr (fairytale). Other than that, few Japanese know anything about Danish culture or Denmark, bortset fra at det ligger i Europa (besides that it’s situated in Europe). Some may have heard though, she told me, that Denmark is a ”very happy” country. Of course, dansk design is also found in Tokyo’s butikker (stores).


The next time you’re in Copenhagen, cross the street in front of hovedbanegården (the central station). With a bit of house-scanning, you should find a Japanese Andersen bakery! There you can read the fascinating story about a young Japanese man who went to Denmark and forelskede sig i landet (fell in love with the country). When he later returned home, he founded his own Danish-style bakery chain and branded it with the most famous Danish efternavn (surname) on earth. With an outlet in København, the story has come full circle. 🙂

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.