Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the meeting of the Dutch & Japanese Trade Federation in the Mauritshuis, 8 June 2022
Mina-sama, konnichi wa (hello everyone),
It is an honour to welcome you all here.
Here, in the Mauritshuis, which we have just enjoyed seeing.
The collection is world famous, and rightly so: with only masterpieces.
Ten years ago, when the major refurbishment of the museum began, part of the collection – including the Girl with a Pearl Earring – went on a world tour.
That tour also visited Japan, a country I feel closely connected with.
Long ago, when I was a student, I was given the opportunity to visit Japan for the first time.
As the winner of an international essay competition, organised by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
You have to remember that travel to such a far away place was much less common in those days than it is now, certainly for a young student from the Netherlands.
I fell in love with Japan from the moment I arrived.
The beautiful landscape, the rich culture, the courteous people, and the refined cuisine.
And that love has remained to this day.
In Amstelveen I got to know the large and active Japanese community that has settled in that city.
In the period that I was Mayor there, as well as during my time in Utrecht, I regularly visited the land of the rising sun.
Often under the expert guidance of Christa de Kemp.
And as I learned more about Japan, so my fascination and respect for the country and its people only grew.
That is why I am so pleased that the Dutch & Japanese Trade Federation has organised this meeting here.
How nice it is that we can be together again, after two years in which the coronavirus made it impossible for us to meet.
The ties between Japan and the Netherlands are old and close: we are already approaching 425 years.
Although the Japanese garden in Clingendael park, owned by The Hague municipality, is not yet that old…
But at over 110 years old, it is certainly the oldest Japanese garden in the Netherlands.
And definitely the most beautiful.
A garden that also has a story to it:
the story of the crane and the stork.
There is a crane that can be found among a group of stones in the Japanese garden.
As you know, of course, the crane is a symbol of long life in Japan.
And happiness too.
Just like the stork, which stands proud on The Hague’s coat of arms.
I wish you all a long and healthy life, and much happiness.
May we continue to build on the good relations between Japan and the Netherlands.
May our friendship grow ever closer with the passing of the years.
Doomo arigato gozaimashita (thank you very much).