Oud-burgemeester Jan van Zanen Kagami-birakiceremonie Japanse stand op Vakantiebeurs 2019

Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen

Utrecht, Jaarbeurs, 12 januari 2019


Inomata-san, your excellency, dearest Zoë, dear all,

Konnichiwa. The word to welcome you to our city, in the heart of the Netherlands. Konnichiwa is one of the Japanese words, next to sake and sushi, Dutch people know. Three important words… For Dutch people, Japanese is among the most difficult languages to learn. All the differences: the writing, the grammar... Finding the right words to express yourself can pose a real language barrier. Maybe Dutch and Japanese are the most non-alike languages. And I can imagine the Japanese feel the same about Dutch.

But, distinguished guests and dear friends: despite that language barrier, there is something truly striking going on with our languages. This could already have started when the first Dutch ships arrived in Japan in 1600, shortly after which the Dutch trading post of Deshima was founded. ‘Konnichiwa’ was maybe the first Japanese word the Dutch heard…

From then, a number of Dutch terms found their way in the Japanese language. Japanese words that Dutch people possibly understand, are for example: Kokku (cook), koppu (cup), kohu (coffee) and, of course, birru (beer). Symbolizing that, despite all differences (and good times and bad times), our two countries established and still maintain strong ties, far beyond Miffy (Nijntje), sushi, haiku and Anton Geesink.

One of the moments the fruits of this long lasting friendship come to surface, is the Holiday Fair. And there is no better way than celebrate a long lasting friendship with a drink. Sake. And some fine food. Sushi. Sake and sushi: two Japanese words the Dutch know very well. A drink and food we love. Just like kohu and birru. From a country I love. And many other Dutch people love.

Dear all, as a longstanding friend of Japan and the Japanese community in the Netherlands, it is always a pleasure and an honour to be here at the Japanese booth. Please have a pleasant stay at the Vakantiebeurs. And may this stand be the stepping stone of numerous future journeys to the Land of the Rising Sun. Arigato gozaimas.


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