Speech by Mayor Jan van Zanen at the conferment upon Geert Jan Mantel of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, at the Japanese Residence, 7 October 2021
Your Excellency, ambassador Hidehisa Horinouchi,
It is a great honour and, indeed, a great pleasure, to be able to say a few words to Geert Jan, Inge and invitees on this remarkable occasion.
We are here on the occasion of the conferment of a Japanese Knighthood upon you.
The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.
This award has been made in recognition of your outstanding contribution to promoting economic relations between the Netherlands and Japan.
You were chairman of the Dutch-Japanese Trade Federation (DUJAT) as well as President of Yanmar Europe B.V.
You asked me to say a few words today, which I am more than happy to do.
Not least, because we have shared some wonderful moments together on various occasions.
Since Japanese companies have set up important European offices in Amstelveen, that city has had a sizeable Japanese community.
Which is also why the annual Japan Festival is held there.
In the period that I was Mayor of Amstelveen we had no worries about the coronavirus and could celebrate the Japan Festival on the city’s main square.
You supported that festival and so contributed to its success.
I have fond memories of that time.
What I remember best is our visit to Osaka.
I certainly do not wish to be disrespectful by reducing that visit to just one particular memory. Japan and the city of Osaka are too impressive for that.
But nevertheless, I still vividly remember the stairwell in the shape of a ship’s propeller in the Yanmar headquarters.
An image that will undoubtedly have appealed to you too, as a former mariner.
It is mainly your career at Yanmar which is being honoured today with an award that had already been made more than a year ago but which could not be presented due to the pandemic.
You were one of the first – if not the first – to become CEO of a Japanese company in Europe without an immediate Japanese superior on the spot.
A remarkable token of trust.
And trust, mister Ambassador, dear friends, is the base for the longstanding relations between Japan and the Netherlands, in good times and bad times.
At the same time, when faced with difficult issues you immediately hopped on a plane to make your views known in person at the headquarters in Osaka.
It gave you a special position within the company.
Even after you retired in 2014, in your role on the Advisory Board you continued to be a person with influence at Yanmar.
As Mayor of The Hague and former Mayor of Amstelveen I would like to thank you for supporting the Japanese community in Amstelveen.
I would also like to thank you, personally, for the memorable occasions on which we met.
Therefore, a toast to Dutch-Japanese relations, and to you, Geert Jan.