Bridges: How do you see the current relationship between Japan and the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and what are some recent developments or milestones in this partnership?
Ambassador Minami: The current bilateral relationship between Japan and the Netherlands is very good. The basis of the relationship is the good relationship between the two peoples, as well as the good relationship between the Dutch Royal Family and the Japanese Imperial Family.
In addition, recently, the two foreign ministers of the two countries have been on very good terms, having met three times in the past nine months. This is an extraordinary thing for the Japanese foreign minister.
In terms of the economy and private sector business relationships, after Brexit, Japanese companies have been moving their headquarters or branches to the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. There are currently about 700 Japanese companies operating in the Netherlands, which is a very large number. In terms of investment, both outbound and inbound are large and the Japanese outbound investment to the Netherlands is the second largest, only after the United Kingdom in Europe.
Earlier this year, a trade commission to Japan was led by the Dutch Foreign Trade Minister with the agenda focused on energy transition and semiconductors
I believe that cooperation in these sectors will be developed, and hope that concrete projects by Dutch and Japanese corporations will be implemented, further strengthening our bilateral relationship.
In terms of trade and investment, what sectors do you see as having the most potential for growth and collaboration between Japan and the Netherlands in the coming years?
The Netherlands is focusing on the importance of energy transition. They are currently dependent on natural gas power stations, but they would like to transform the energy industry to zero-emission industries. In that sense, the Dutch industries and government are placing much importance on oxygen and how to utilize it for the energy industry. Right now, the Netherlands is trying to create a hub for oxygen supplies to European countries and some Japanese companies are cooperating with the Dutch to work for pilot projects for the transportation of liquid oxygen. So, the energy transition is a very important area for future cooperation between the two countries.
How did the pandemic affect the relationship between Japan and the Netherlands? Are there any collaborations in healthcare?
The pandemic was a disturbance for the bilateral relationship, but it was not a very big obstacle to the two countries’ relationship. The pandemic is a global health issue, and I believe that these global issues can be areas where the two countries can work together. Recently the Dutch government hosted an international conference on Water and disaster in New York. Water-related challenges can be another area where Japan and the Netherlands can work together.
Are there any recent successful joint projects or collaborations between Japan and the Netherlands that you want to highlight?
Mitsubishi Corporation and Chubu Electric Power company currently own an energy supplier in the Netherlands called Eneco, which has a huge supply chain over the energy in the country and heavily invests in offshore wind power energy. That is another very good example of the two countries’ cooperation. In addition, the Dutch side is very interested in high technologies such as photonics and nanotechnology, and I believe that those areas can be other possible areas of cooperation between the two countries.
What cultural exchanges or collaborations between Japan and the Netherlands do you find particularly interesting or promising, and how can they contribute to strengthening the overall partnership between the two countries?
The Netherlands and Japan have a very long and rich history of cultural exchanges dating back over 400 years. I would like to highlight two interesting points in terms of our cultural relationship. Firstly, in the 19th century, a German medical doctor by the name of Dr. Philipp Franz von Siebold was part of the Dutch mission to Nagasaki. He brought with him a lot of medical books and treatments for the Japanese people and also gave lessons to Japanese medical doctors. During his stay in Japan, he also made significant contributions to the study of Japanese plants and animals, which are now preserved in collections exhibited in museums and libraries in the Netherlands. This is a remarkable legacy left by a foreigner who landed in Japan.
Secondly, I would like to talk about the recent developments in the sports arena. There are a number of Japanese athletes in the Netherlands, especially in football and ice skating, but I recently met three young women who are now playing hockey in the Netherlands. As you may know, Dutch hockey is currently ranked number one in the world, and I hope that these three young women will be able to contribute to the sport in Japan and raise the level of play there. I wish them every success in the future, not just in Japan but also in the Netherlands.
How do you envision the future of the partnership between Japan and the Kingdom of The Netherlands, and what opportunities do you see for further collaboration in areas such as sustainability, innovation, and culture?
In the current uncertain and opaque international situation, I believe that Japan should work with many countries, not just big ones but also medium-sized ones like the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a member of the European Union and it is a very skilful country in diplomacy. It has a strong and competitive industry and shares the same values as Japan in terms of democracy and human rights. I believe that there are many promising areas for us to work together, not just in the private sector but also in government-to-government relations. We should have more serious dialogues so that we can develop greater projects together.