The core creative team, headed up by Yasumichi Oka, the creative director, president and co-founder of Tugboat, will remain in Tokyo while Kan Taniguchi, Tugboat's marketing director, will be stationed in the Clerkenwell office when it opens next month.
The agency is one of the few independent hotshops in Japan, which is dominated by the big advertising groups Dentsu and Hakuhodo.
Tugboat was established in 1999 with a mission to transform Japan's media-driven advertising industry to a more creatively focused one. At the time, it was the only agency in Japan that looked at advertising from a purely creative angle.
The Tugboat name was chosen because the agency sees its mission as hauling Japanese clients
out into the wider world and its move to London is part of that.
One of Tugboat's most popular ads, for the Japan Snow Project, depicted skiing ostriches to popularise train travel to eastern Japanese snow resorts. These ads developed a cult-like status.
The ads featured three ostriches synchronised snowing down the Japanese slopes and shouting with the slogan "We Want Snow". The last ad in this series showed the unhappy birds wandering down a snowless street until they find their way back onto the slopes.
Taniguchi said: "There are more and more projects coming in from the global market so we decided to set up a contact point in London for better international support. London was selected due to being the inspiring creative market for us and the convenience of the time zone which can cover east coast US, Europe and Japan.