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Relations between the two countries started in the 19th century. A foundational event was the Ertuğrul incident in 1890. The Turkish frigate Ertuğrul sank off the coast of Wakayama, Japan, after having an audience with Emperor Meiji. The surviving sailors were taken back to Istanbul by two Japanese frigates.
While Turkey had declared war on Japan in February 1945, it was entirely symbolic. So in 1985, the almost century old gesture of kindness was reciprocated during the Iran-Iraq war. As hostilities escalated to an extent that all aircraft were threatened with being shot-down, Turkey sent an aircraft in to rescue 215 Japanese nationals who were living in Tehran at the time. The Turkish government issued a statement: "We have not forgotten the rescue of the sailors of the Ertuğrul. Thus, once we heard there were Japanese citizens in need of help, we went to their rescue."
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Following the founding of the Republic of Turkey, diplomatic relations were established in 1924 and first embassies were opened in 1925.
Japan was also involved in a plot with Young Turk exiles to set up a puppet state in Central Asia with a former Ottoman Prince as its monarch in the 1930s. During the Kumul Rebellion some Japanese secret agents were captured.
2010 marked the 120th anniversary of Turko-Japanese relations with over 186 events held throughout Turkey during the year. In this year, Turkey held the "Japan Year 2010 in Turkey."
On July 10, 2010, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, cousin of the emperor, attended the opening ceremony of the Kaman Kalehöyük Archaeological Museum. The museum was built with funding from Japan. The prince has often engaged himself actively to promote Japanese-Turkish relations.
Moreover, in the wake of Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and the earthquakes in Turkey's eastern part in October and November 2011 respectively, both countries provided each other with support, which strengthened the relationship between the two nationals. 
Turkey and Japan are both members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Also Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Japan is an observer.
The Japan-Turkey Society was established in 1926 and has since been promoting amicable relations between Japan and Turkey through seminars, the arts, language and cultural exchange and even culinary exchange activities. 
The Turkey-Japan Cultural Dialog Society was founded in 2006, but records cultural and other types of exchange activities between Japan and Turkey since 1873. 
According to the public survey in Turkey conducted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in 2012, 83.2% of respondents answered that the relations between Japan and Turkey are "friendly" or "almost friendly". 
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There have been various exchanges of visits by eminent persons, such as the visits of Crown Prince Naruhito in March 2009 and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in January 2010. On the occasion of visit to Turkey by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May 2013, "Joint Declaration of the Establishment of Strategic Partnership Between Japan and the Republic of Turkey" was signed and on the occasion of second visit in October 2013, "Joint Declaration by the Government of Japan and the Government of the Republic of Turkey on cooperation in the field of Nuclear Energy and Science and Technology" was signed between Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 
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- TURKEY'S DECLARATİON OF WAR ON JAPAN AT THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Rona Aybay
- Japan-Turkey Relations
- F. Şayan Ulusan Şahin - Türk-Japon İlişkileri (1876-1908) s.122
- Turkey´s Political Relations with Japan / Rep. of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- "Japonya Türk Toplumu (Turkish Community of Japan)" (in Turkish). Embassy of Turkey in Japan. Retrieved 2008-06-11.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: Japan-Turkey relations
- Japanese embassy in Ankara
- Japanese consulate-general in Istanbul
- Turkish embassy in Tokyo