The Swiss-Japanese Society was founded through a committee of Swiss and Japanese personalities on 4th June 1955 in the Hotel St. Gotthard in Zurich. The leading persons were Mr. Richard Müller (Uebersee Holding) and Heinz Vischer (Swiss Re).
The foundation meeting was held with the attendance of the Japanese Minister T. Hagiwara in Bern and consul general K. Tatsuke in Geneva. The meeting was attended by seventy Swiss citizens as well. The assembly approved the constitution and elected both Japanese Ministers and Julius Müller as presidents of honor. The governing body was elected and the managing director appointed was Alfred F. Kunz (until 1996). On April 1st 1957 René Vodoz, director at Brown Boveri & Cie, was elected as the first president. To support the board, a patronage committee was elected with representatives from major Swiss companies, including the firms that founded the society.
Initially the Swiss-Japanese relationship was established in 1864. But with this initiative a new dynamic was re-established in different areas. This included first of all a new direct flights to Japan. Other areas like tourism, Japanese martial arts, flower and gardening art, calligraphy, Zen Buddhism, Japanese musicians in our orchestras and finally the Japanese cuisine, became very popular.
Both countries are successful because they share hard working, inventiveness, efficiency and a lack of raw materials.
In the words of Martin Hürlimann, our president from 1964-1977: the two countries, the big Japan as the small Switzerland can always refer back to a magnificent wealth of intellectual goods. In the amicable exchange of one side of the globe to the other, it can be seen as the most important duty of the Swiss- Japanese society, as a necessary counterbalance to the fierce competition of the economy.
The society rented and operated for many years in Zurich its own unique banquet venue. For the time being at the Bolleystrasse (1962) and from 1967 at Florastrasse 17 in Seefeld, which unfortunately had to be abandoned in the 90s.
The section Romande was founded in 1975 on the initiative of Swiss and Japanese personalities in Geneva as Association Suisse Japon. The section Suisse Romande promotes the same objectives in the French- speaking part of Switzerland.
Since 1955 the board invites its members to speeches, presentations, films and concerts according the constitution. These events provide an insight in the cultural, spiritual and social life of Japan.
Presidents of the Swiss-Japanese Society:
1957 – 1960 René Vodoz, Brown Boveri & Cie.
1960 – 1964 Charles A. Staehelin, J.R. Geigy AG
1964 – 1977 Martin Hürlimann, Publisher
1977 – 2003 Alfred Hartmann, Schweiz.Bankgesellschaft/Roche
2003 – Herbert Haag, Swiss Re/PartnerRe