Since taking the position 15 September 2019, what have been some of your highlights during your time in the Netherlands?
There is a warm friendship between the Japanese Imperial House and the Dutch Royal House which forms the basis of the good relations in various fields such as politics, economy, culture and exchanges of people between Japan and the Netherlands.
When I presented my credentials, I had a personal talk with His Majesty the King and for the Amsterdam Palace Symposium held at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam in June this year; only the British Ambassador and I were invited. During this occasion, I had the honor to talk again with His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix, the former Queen.
This kind of contact with the members of the Dutch Royal House is something truly special in my life and career as a diplomat.
How did the pandemic impact the work of the Embassy?
Going out and meeting people is an important part of my job, but that is exactly what is restricted at the moment and it hinders the Embassy’s operations. However, making the most of this situation, we are trying to come up with ways to actively utilize online platforms. For example, while we were not able to organize any face-to-face events that introduce Japanese culture for more than a year, the Embassy has been uploading videos on Facebook in which I myself introduce a variety of Japan-related topics in Dutch and we try to find new ways to be active on the internet.
How important is the Japan – Netherlands relationship in terms of business, culture and people to people exchanges?
Approximately 600 Japanese companies are based in the Netherlands. After Brexit, the number of companies relocating to the Netherlands has been growing and therefore the importance of the Netherlands as a business hub in Europe is increasing.
Furthermore, advanced technology, a strong point of the Netherlands, is a very attractive field for Japan and we would like to further strengthen our economic cooperation with the Netherlands. Culturally speaking, particularly the historically unique position of the Netherlands as the only Western country that was allowed to trade with Japan during the Edo period formed the basis of our precious heritage.
This resulted in the foundation of the cultural exchanges between the Netherlands and Japan that continue today in addition to the collaborations in both the public and the private sectors which are flourishing.
Regarding exchanges of people, the number of tourists to Japan, which had been on the rise previously, has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since April last year, a working holiday program between Japan and the Netherlands has been launched. Therefore, once the spread of COVID-19 subsides, we hope that this program will further encourage exchanges between the people of Japan and the Netherlands.
How is the Embassy contributing to the Dutch-Japanese partnership?
The partnership between Japan and the Netherlands is built by the power of both the public and private sectors of our countries. The Embassy contributes to it by paving the way and by creating a framework for the partnership. In terms of economic affairs, we participate as much as possible in events organized by for example the Japanese Chamber of Commerce or the Dutch & Japanese Trade Federation of which Japanese companies are members.
By listening to the voices of business people of both our countries, I try to think about what the Embassy can do to support them. From a somewhat larger perspective, I consult with Tokyo about what the Japanese government can do and the Embassy strives to realize that framework I mentioned before.
An example of the framework is the ‘Joint Statement on the Establishment of Strategic Partnerships for Sustainable Peace and Prosperity’ issued at the Japan-Netherlands Summit Meeting in 2015.
The Japanese and Dutch people have a great respect for one another. How important is this in 2021 and beyond?
Japan and the Netherlands have a long history of exchanges spanning more than 400 years. In due course, we recognized each other’s strong points, learned from them, and through working together we flourished.
This is not a relationship that can be built overnight. Having this historical relationship where we recognize and respect one another as the foundation, we are partners that share basic values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
That is why I believe that Japan and the Netherlands can also work together on global issues that we are currently facing, such as climate change. This, I think, will not only contribute to the stability and prosperity of both Japan and the Netherlands, but to the world as a whole.
What message do you have for our readers regarding the future work of the Embassy in the Netherlands?
COVID-19 has significantly changed our lives and work as well. Above all, it is my hope that after things get back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, people-to-people exchanges in various fields such as the economy, business, tourism, the academic world, studying abroad and culture will be once again revitalized.
As the Embassy, we also want to make the necessary efforts to regain those kinds of exchanges. I think it will also be essential to build a new post-corona era. From a historical perspective, it is said that the post-pandemic world will not return to the state that it was before. This is not necessarily just a bad thing. COVID-19 prevented physical interaction between people, but at the same time gave them the chance to connect with people all around the world online.
It can certainly also offer opportunities. For example, the Japanese government is stepping up its efforts in digital transformation and cooperation with the Netherlands in the digital field has big potential. It would be great if Japan and the Netherlands could work together based on their shared history and their shared common values in order to lead the post-corona society.
To that end, my colleagues and I at the Embassy of Japan in the Netherlands will do our utmost best with the cooperation of people from industrial, governmental, academic and various other fields.