Burgemeester Samurai Art Expo

Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen

Utrecht, Jaarbeurs, 16 juni 2018

Dear all,

Welcome to Utrecht, the heart of The Netherlands. Yōkoso. Utrecht has played host to countless foreigners throughout the years. These included not only announced visitors, but also unwelcome guests in turbulent times. We have never been invaded by samurai, however. Until this weekend, at least… And these ones are harmless, thankfully. It is a stunning exhibition. My compliments. The equipment worn by samurai never fails to impress me. Equipment which: instils fear. Just imagine coming face-to-face with such a trained warrior, in full battle-dress, armed to the teeth…

However, these imposing suits of armour also command admiration and respect. As Mayor of Utrecht, I am truly honoured that the Samurai Art Expo has opted to exhibit in our city. Particular thanks are due to you, Mr Milius, Mr Wertheim, who made it all possible. This is a first for Utrecht. The first time that the Netherlands has hosted a Samurai Art Expo. And it really was time, too… Why? Well, because international relations between Japan and the Netherlands extend back centuries. The story of Deshima is, of course, a familiar one to you. The Dutchmen who struck a deal with their Japanese partners in the seventeenth century. The Dutch were then permitted to trade with Japan from the man-made island of Deshima. It was a deal which the Dutch would certainly not regret. They gained the exclusive right to trade with the Japanese. Highly lucrative trade at that… And the deal we made with the shogun, four hundred years ago, turned out to be the beginning of a very close relationship that would span several centuries. A relationship that the Netherlands and Japan cherish. One that Utrecht and Japan cherish: Utrecht University has a collaborative programme with the Japanese University of Tsukuba. Utrecht’s Dom Tower also features in the Japan’s Huis ten Bosch theme park. Utrecht also has economic connections, however, and ties to Japan through both Miffy and our judo legend, Anton Geesink. These are ties that I personally cherish. Because I love Japan.

What you may not know, however, is that there was once also a Dutch samurai. Jan Joosten van Lodesteyn arrived in Japan by sea in 1600. He became an advisor to the Japanese government. Married a Japanese woman. Settled in Japan. And was even granted the privileges of a samurai. For example, he was allowed to carry two swords. He is therefore highly regarded throughout Japan. In fact, there is even a district of Tokyo named after Jan Joosten: Yaesu.

As I already mentioned, connections between the Netherlands and Japan are strong. As strong as a samurai’s armour. This exhibition is a great achievement. I therefore congratulate the organisers and all who were involved. I also heard a rumour that it may be repeated next year. Featuring even more items of Japanese art. I eagerly look forward to that. For the time being, I trust that you will enjoy: the lectures. The exceptional works of art. The stunning items that are on sale here. And for those who do not wish to go home empty-handed, I hope that you manage to strike a good deal. Just like the Dutch did four centuries ago. I am convinced that you will not regret it either. Thank you. Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.

Uw mening