Burgemeester Opening exhibition 'Japan and the Netherlands'

Speech Mayor Jan van Zanen

Utrecht, City Hall, 7 April 2017

Mrs Kawahara-san, Mrs Schiermeier, Mr Zwaga, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Utrecht City Hall, here in the heart, the very heart of the Netherlands, for the opening of a fascinating photo exhibition. Its theme is two-fold: what traces of Japanese culture do we find in Dutch public space and what traces of Dutch culture in Japan?

This double theme implies that these pictures can be looked at in two basic directions. An example of the first direction is a picture showing tulip flowers against the background of Fujiyama Mountain.  An example of the second direction is a picture of a group of very Dutch boys, who are trained in hajime, the first steps to any of the Japanese martial arts. In a certain sense, ladies and gentlemen, the pictures in this exhibition are a sort of picture puzzle: sometimes one wonders if: is this Japan in the Netherlands or the Netherlands in Japan?

After the photo competition had been proclaimed, last year, there were in all 270 entries. A jury, of which I had the pleasure to be one of the honourary members, made a selection of the 20 best pictures. And let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it was very interesting to do because of my strong personal bonds of friendship with Japan and its people since the nineteen eighties. These started after I had won an essay competition of which the prize was a stay of two weeks in Japan, with other prize winners from Western-Europe. This was my first acquaintance and it was unforgettable. My love for and interest in Japan has remained since.

I hope that this exhibition will reinforce the mutual awareness of friendship and congeniality between our two nations. It's great to know that these pictures will also be exhibited on the little island of Dejima, where the people of Nagasaki have re-created the historic Dutch Dejima Trade Post. Where the special relations between our two countries began in the 17th century.

I wish you a lot of pleasure viewing this exhibition, which I have the honour to declare open officially now.