Prize-giving Ceremony for the Netherlands-Japan Essay Contest

Your Excellency, Ambassador Horinouchi and Madam Horinouchi,
Mayor Poppens and Alderman Elzakalai,
Professor Geurts,
Distinguised guests,


It is my honour and pleasure to speak on behalf of the panel of judges to illuminate its report on the Netherlands-Japan Essay Contest. A great personal pleasure. Because in my student days early eighties, long ago, I myself once won an essay competition organised by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It brought me my first visit to Japan and my love of the country.

As mayor of Amstelveen I later got to know the large and active Japanese community there and I was able to visit the country many times. Every time I enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the rich culture and the sophisticated cuisine. More than once under the agreeable guidance of Christa de Kemp.

Last summer the Dutch-Japanese Trade Federation (DUJAT) and the VU Amsterdam together launched an essay competition. A competition in which Dutch students from various universities were challenged to write an essay on possible synergies between Dutch and Japanese businesses in the energy transition.

Thirteen students submitted an entry. The standard was extremely high. This led to heated discussions between the judges and initially differing opinions. A leading group of three authors emerged in the second round, but the battle between them was not yet over. A unanimous verdict came only after combining the various scores and further extensive deliberation by the judges.

Finishing in third place is: Suzanne Beckman Lapré from the University of Leiden (MA International Relations). The title of her essay is: Spurring the Green Revolution, how cooperation between Dutch and Japanese smart cities can further economic development, enhance societal life and help reach climate goals.

The judges were impressed by the thorough research and background knowledge that was put to good use in a well-written essay. Most notable was the effective link made between Dutch Smart City innovation and Japanese hydrogen technology, among other things. It was persuasively argued with a strong call for immediate action.

In second place is: Matthijs Hoek from the VU Amsterdam (Mathematics & Physics). The title of his essay is: Reversed Rangaku, Dutch-Japanese cooperation in the hydrogen economy.

A well-thought-out argument based on a reversal of the Rangaku principle. The system by which the closed Japan once managed to benefit from modern Western trade and technology. An essay combining the power of historical connection with contemporary strengthening of shared qualities.

In first place is: Annabel Melhuish, masters student in Environment and Resource Management at the VU Amsterdam. Essay title: A Hydrogen Bond: forging trade opportunities between the Netherlands and Japan.

A soundly structured and persuasive reflection of serious research and original thinking on a complex topic. In a detailed essay, Annabel Melhuish explored her theme in depth. The argument is firmly based on facts and figures, has a clear logic to it and is presented in an effective style.

In the final stage of the battle, Annabel Melhuish narrowly beat Matthijs Hoek into second place in the judges’ final verdict. Congratulations Annabel. Together with the other judges I would now like to present the essay prize.