On August 29, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of the Netherlands to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Aart Jacobi.
links to their websites
Relationship - The cooperation started since the 16 hundred (Kate)
His Excellency Mr. Aart Jacobi started off the interview explaining how Netherlands and Japan have a very special relationship. Our friendship begins back from the 16 hundred when the first dutch vessel, shipwrecked and landed in Kyushu, he explained. During the Edo period, the 250 years of sakoku or isolation, China and Netherlands were the only trading partners. Many dutch books related to science and technology, developed in Europe were transported to Japan and was translated into Japanese by the Rangakusha, or the dutch scholars in Nagasaki. Mr.Jacobi believes that this trade has helped Japan to stay up to date, to latest developments elsewhere in the world.
The 460 years of our history makes a unique relationship and Mr.Jacobi commented: “We are now very proud of this relationship.” Since most of the Japanese people learn about this period of history, when Japan itself closed off the ambassador stated that “It is nice to have people who already know and have an image of our nation. As we do not have to explain about my country we the Netherlands I believe that we have a head start as a country.” Lastly, he mentioned "and of course, as an ambassador, my goal is to try to build it and explain the relationship we have with Japan."
Dutch students are ‘lively’, unique aspect of Dutch education (Kate)
When asked about the unique aspect of education in Netherlands, His Excellency Mr. Aart Jacobi commented that dutch education promotes initiative and creativity. In classrooms, students are expected to think for themselves and to show initiative to participate very actively in classes. His Excellency Mr. Aart Jacobi revealed that classes tend to be quite “lively" with discussions between teacher and students. He believes it is one of the strong points in dutch education as it grows students to be thinkers.
On the other hand, the Japanese education system is very different from the Japanese system is more about learning a lot and remembering materials. However, the needs will not always be the same because lately, it is so easy to find new information on the internet. Mr.Jacobi shared his thoughts on how it would be interesting to see how the hard working Japanese, currently with a lot of reproducing education will change with the advancement of the internet. He has high hopes for future Japanese students as he believes that the Japanese education level is very high, producing influential sciences, leaders and more.
The Netherlands and Japan have a very strong economic relationship. The Netherlands exports to Japan machinery, chemicals, flowers, and agricultural products. H.E. Mr. Jacobi is proud that the Netherlands, a relatively small country in size, is second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the USA . H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us that he is also very glad that his country has been able overcome the many Japanese specifications set on agricultural imports. The Netherlands imports machinery, office equipment, and cars from Japan. H.E. Mr. Jacobi commented that imports to the Netherlands is significant not only for the country itself but also for its neighboring countries since many of the products are exported again to different places such as Germany. H.E. Mr. Jacobi also mentioned that the Netherlands and Japan share various business exchanges (foreign investment). The number of Japanese/Dutch companies and workers are also very important for the relations of the two countries.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us that the people were shaped by the country. The Netherlands is prone to floods, storms, so Dutch people have a strong sense of cooperation. People have “reclaimed” land that was originally ocean, and are making prominent efforts to save the environment. H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained that nature has been very important to the people, especially during the last 30-40 years.
Oftentimes nature had been taken for granted in the country, but now there are increasing reserves so wildlife that are being preserved. There are ecoducts (wildlife crossings) in the Netherlands so animals can travel more in a facilitated manner, allowing for wildlife to travel and expand. There are foundations that are in support of nature, and H.E. Mr. Jacobi noted that the country is doing well to raise consciousness.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi also mentioned that recycling in the Netherlands is doing very well. Paper, glass, plastics all separately recycled neatly and obediently. The country has modern incinerators that burn waste very efficiently that they also accept waste from countries overseas such as England.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi noted various recommended tourist areas in the Netherlands. The City of Amsterdam is a famous destination, with many beautiful canals and a “unique collection of good museums”. While building interiors are very modernized, the streets are maintained beautifully in the style of the Golden Age (17th Century). H.E. Mr. Jacobi commented that the Netherlands has very safe road for cycling, with cycling facilities that are best in the world. The Netherlands is a country with more bicycles than people, he explained. H.E. Mr. Jacobi strongly recommends cycling for tourists for sightseeing.
Cultural Values (Madoka)
H.E. Mr. Jacobi introduced to us a few Dutch cultural values that he noticed to be significant. Firstly, Dutch people tend to be tolerant towards others. H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us that people from all over the world visit the Netherlands, and they have been able to assimilate well. The Dutch nationality is very mixed, and H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained that he is proud of his country to have been able to nurture a culture of tolerance.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us the efforts that his country went through during the Syrian Refugee Crisis. About 70,000 to 100,000 refugees came to the country, which H.E. Mr. Jacobi mentioned was difficult because each person needs shelter and healthcare, and the children needs education, preferably in Arabic. H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us that taking care of many ppl in short time is hard and not always easy but is working well given the current situation. Many people in the Netherlands have welcomed refugees into their homes. H.E. Mr. Jacobi commented that it is important to accommodate new group of “potential Dutch citizens”.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi also introduced to us that honesty and openness is another feature of Dutch cultural values. People in the Netherlands tend to be direct and able to face and openly discuss controversial topics. For example, the Netherlands has made the decision that drug addiction is a health issue rather than a crime, and that those addicted must be treated as medical patients. Another example is euthanasia. Netherlands is one of the first countries to allow euthanasia by law. H.E. Mr. Jacobi hopes that Netherlands can make a good example for other countries to follow.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi mentioned that Dutch cuisine is mostly made at a ”home setting”. The staple food is potatoes, as well as bread. In the morning, people eat bread with tea and dairy products. H.E. Mr. Jacobi introduced that people tend to eat one hot meal per day; typically at noon in the countryside and at dinnertime in the city. This meal usually consists of potatoes, other vegetables, and meat. One famous meal that H.E. Mr. Jacobi described for us is hutspot. It is a meal consisting of potatoes, carrots, onion, and meat. This meal originated 300-400 years ago when the City of Leiden was liberated from the Spanish. Story explains that the dish was originally discovered when the Spanish had left. H.E. Mr. Jacobi is very glad that food in the Netherlands is very healthy. It allows for Dutch people to be the tallest in the world.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi mentioned the strengthening of connections between cultures in order to reach world peace. He mentions that the connections can grow to become a “buffer against conflict”, especially armed conflicts. With more relationships intertwining countries of the world, people will be interdependent both economically and culturally. H.E. Mr. Jacobi believes in the importance of stimulating contacts and intensifying relationships as the first step towards peace between nations.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi explained to us that globalization is an unavoidable phenomenon in the world today, particularly with the spread of the internet and development in transportation. “Distances are getting irrelevant,” he commented. The world has become a “very small planet”.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi believes that globalization is a positive phenomenon, and that people should be in the right state of mind to have the correct idea of what it is. He explained that this is because some people can become protective about their own world, leading to a sense of insecurity that their culture will get overrun by the force that is globalization. Yet H.E. Mr. Jacobi assured to us that this is not the case. Globalization can allow for people to be more aware of different cultures, which allows for them to become more attached and thankful for diversity. H.E. Mr. Jacobi hopes that globalization may contribute to a greater interdependence in the world, and that it may provide people with more hope, stability, and peace.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi believes that tradition in the Netherlands has been well kept. He commented that the uniqueness of the Dutch is well recognizable, and that “traditional cultural utterances” such as festivals and rituals are being kept and passed on to the younger generations. Yet H.E. Mr. Jacobi has noticed that culture is evolving and gradually changing, which he notes is for the betterment of society.
H.E. Mr. Jacobi also mentioned that Dutch people are very internationally minded. He commented that almost everyone in the country at any level can speak English. One great reason why the country is very international is its location being closeby to many other countries. H.E. Mr. Jacobi introduced to us that children in the Netherlands from a young age watch foreign tv shows in their original languages (such as English) with just subtitles, allowing them to be exposed to different languages.
Goals / Dream (Madoka)
As the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Japan, H.E. Mr. Jacobi has the goal of setting higher objectives for strengthening the relations of the Netherlands and Japan. Specifically, he hopes for more cultural exchanges as well as more economic investments and jobs between the two countries and a larger trade of agricultural products.
In the past, H.E. Mr. Jacobi had wanted to become a captain of a ship. He had grown up in the countryside near forests, so he had a “romantic idea” of the tropical sea.
At 17, he got a job at the Java China Japan Lines, where he pursued boarding a Ship. He traveled along Africa, South America, and East Asia (China and Japan). He commented that he spent a lot of time at sea, which was not as adventurous as he had expected as there were little sightseeing opportunities. H.E. Mr. Jacobi fell in love with Japan when he arrived in Yokohama. He was able to stay in the area for 14 days while his ship had been in dry dock, where he was able to gain an interest in the country.
When H.E. Mr. Jacobi first came to Japan at age 17, he was a merchant on a marine ship.
To improve his Japanese language level, H.E. Mr. Jacobi received a Mombusho scholarship to study at Kyoto University for two and a half years. He stated that Japanese is a very difficult language and he is very glad to have been able to study it. To H.E. Mr. Jacobi, Japan is a second home country. He commented that he enjoys being in Japan, and is proud that his two children are fluent in the language.
When asked for a message towards Japanese people, H.E. Ambassador Mr. Jacobi mentioned something simple yet important. “The message is very simple,” he stated, “It is two words: Go abroad”. H.E. Mr. Jacobi expressed his concern for the diminishing interest for Japanese people to travel abroad. He believes that experiencing another culture at a young age is a meaningful experience that allows one to broaden their mind and know of the existence of other cultures that are different from theirs. H.E. Mr. Jacobi finds traveling “enriching”. He mentioned that he is very interested in learning different ideas and experiencing different lifestyles across cultures. He explains that it is “part of [his] job” to settle in different countries and know them better. He therefore recommends and aspires for Japanese people to experience living abroad.
On Febuary 20th, 2015
The International School Network went to the residence of the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Japan, His Excellency Mr. Radinck J. van Vollenhoven, to interview him about his country. The Ambassador’s residence is located at the highest point of Tokyo, and its 1st floor is beautifully designed with Dutch works and museum pieces including vases, porcelain tableware, paintings, and modern furniture and lights. Dutch art has a very strong tradition, and is internationally very well known. The garden of the Ambassador’s residence was of Japanese style. We were able to see an impressive view of Tokyo Tower from the garden in the night sky. It was lit up in bright orange, which is the national color of the Netherlands. Tokyo Tower is located very close to the Ambassador’s residence.
Japan and the Netherlands have had a very close and friendly relationship. The royal family of the Netherlands and the empirical family of Japan have had state visits in 1991, symbolizing the excellent relationship of the two countries at the highest level. The Ambassador commented that the Netherlands and Japan are able to speak to each other as friends.
One thing the Ambassador mentioned as a message to Japanese people was that he hopes the Japanese soccer team does well in world championships. He wished that a Dutch coach would be chosen to coach for the Japanese soccer team.
Another thing the Ambassador commented on was about whaling. Whaling is not justified in the Netherlands, as he does not support the fishing for whales. He believes that Japan should take measures to stop whaling.
The Ambassador also mentioned that Japan should take steps towards the abolishment of the death penalty. In Europe and in many other parts of the world, the death penalty has been and is increasingly becoming abolished. Many countries also issue moratoriums, which stops the implementation of the death penalty.
(Reported by Madoka Nishina)
Madoka Nishina 11th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 11th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 10th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 5th Saint Maur International School
Haruka Shiga 5th Saint Maur International School
Mr. Marius Johan Ooft