How important is the Japan-Dutch relationship in terms of culture, trade and people to people exchanges?
Through the 421-year history of Japan and the Netherlands (except for the Pacific War 75 years ago) the Netherlands has always been open and free in the exchange of information and culture with Japan. Many fields such as diplomacy, trade, astronomy, medicine and civil engineering were revitalized by the Dutch with new knowledge from the West.
This laid the foundations for the start of modern Japan through education and civil engineering and began at the Nagasaki Training Center (Dejima) before the Meiji Restoration and during the 260 years of isolation. Also, after the war (Pacific War), the Netherlands supported the reconstruction of Japan indirectly and the creation of a Dutch ‘playing field’ in Europe to become a world leader with its many advantages.
The natural beauty of Japan is completely different from that of the Netherlands. However, they share the commonality of education zeal, honesty, curiosity, imagination, challenging spirit and effort. Japanese people long for the individuality, self-development, logic, insight, action and independence so highly valued by the Dutch. People from the Netherlands strive for delicacies, aesthetics, nature, morality and a modest attitude.
It would be a waste if serious and hardworking people from Japan and the Netherlands walked alone. If these two countries work together for the well-being of humankind, they can provide the earth with more happiness than the world expects.
With even greater cooperation, as in that powerful speech by former President Mujica of Uruguay, “We were born to be happy,” the two countries will be able to work closer in terms of culture, trade and person-to-person interaction. Cooperation can provide humankind with happiness and the important Japan-Netherlands relationship is not only for Japan and the Netherlands, it is for the world.
The Netherlands – Japan: A brief history
In 1600, a Dutch ship took nearly two years to reach Japan and trade officially began after Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa handed the ‘red seal’ to the Netherlands in 1609. Exchange between the two countries has a 421-year history. The Netherlands is a land of hellish conditions which even Caesar of the Roman Empire could not improve. The Dutch created their home over a long history with their sweat and tears.
On the other hand, Japan has some of the world’s most fertile forest and soil. A paradise blessed with four seasons, where agriculture and culture were born. In the 17th century, the small country of the Netherlands showed momentum in seizing world trade while being jealous of the great world powers at the time.
Japan’s only exchanges with the world were at the Dutch trading house in Dejima, Nagasaki, Japan. The fact that the Netherlands was Japan’s window to the world for 260 years is incredible. From the feudal era of the Samurai in the Meiji era, to becoming a modern nation in 1868, Japan had a great impact on the history of the world.
The enthusiasm of both people lies in education and the economy. Dutch and Japanese people are well quipped to find things which initially don’t exist well with one other, process them and apply them to new systems and policies.
Comparing the people as a whole, there is a big difference in the content of education. Practical education is immediately useful while and ideological theory and traditional ‘non-practical’ education are different however; the goals of both people are the same.
What can be done to strengthen the Netherlands-Japan relationship?
Japan is a very important partner for the Netherlands. While the Netherlands has a long historical relationship with Japan, not too many people are aware of this and Japanese people associate ‘foreign countries’ with the United States, Canada and Southeast Asian countries.
Relations between friendly countries and indeed sister cities are highly dependent on politics: the rest is private sector diplomacy. It is necessary to convey to the Japanese people the historical relationship and achievements between Japan and the Netherlands, the abilities and techniques of the Netherlands and the possibilities and personalities.
In 1983, I launched Japan Euro Promotion in Amsterdam to help promote cultural, trade, media and people exchange between Japan and the Netherlands. The result contributed to the establishment of Nagasaki Holland Village and Huis Ten Bosch projects in Nagasaki Japan.
In Amsterdam in 1971, there were less than 10 Japanese-related companies, but today there are nearly 400 companies registered with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands. Collaboration with the private sector is indispensable as the voice of the private sector is strong and persuasive. In the future, it will be necessary to clarify the simplification of joint works between the private sector and government administrations.
Future culture, trade and the traffic of people will be a fusion that transcends exchanges. Only when they are united will their energy increase. However, fusion requires a considerable relationship of trust and this has been built up between Japan and the Netherlands.
An introduction to the Netherlands – the gateway to Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Dutch people are open, fluent in English and well educated. The Netherlands is safe, has good transportation and logistics links and very advanced infrastructure. World-leading human resources are gathered in the Netherlands from all over the world as housing, education and social facilities are very good. Japanese people can easily start a company if the business benefits Dutch society.
The Netherlands has many innovative and competitive businesses in various fields such as trade, logistic, agriculture, care and welfare, information technology, high-tech, creative business, architecture, art design, energy related, and pharmaceuticals.