It is with great honour and gratitude that we present on the Japan Fans website: an interview with mr. HORINOUCHI Hidehisa, the Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands. We would like to thank the Ambassador for taking the time to answer our questions. きょうしゅくです!
1.) What does mr. Horinouchi like best about his work as an ambassador in general and as the Japanese ambassador in the Netherlands in particular?
I like to visit new places and meet the people from different cultures.
In the Netherlands, I have been amazed by the sceneries from the beaches to the green heartland, ports, creeks and buildings of the cities that keep the historical values including the memory of more than 400 years of friendship with Japan.
2.) The Ambassador has lived and worked in China, the US, Cambodia and the Netherlands. How different was it for him to work and live in these vastly different countries?
I have spent 12 years in China, 6 years in the US, 3 years in Cambodia and 3 years in the Netherlands. Although all of those countries have their unique and wonderful cultures, my role, as a diplomat, is the same; to make friends with people and make more friends of Japan.
3.) We would love to read about the Ambassador’s experiences living in the Netherlands and its culture. What does he enjoy in the Netherlands? What does he miss? How is his life experience compared to Japan?
During the Corona period, my wife & I drove a car to many cities in the Netherlands, like Utrecht, Leeuwarden, Giethoorn, Enschede (my wife’s birthplace), Apeldoorn, Otterlo, Arnhem, Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Alkmaar, Marken, Volendam and many many more. Each city and town has its own rich history and culture that we enjoyed very much. What we miss in the Netherlands is the good weather in winter.
4.) We would also love to read the Ambassador’s thoughts on Dutch-Japanese friendships. Does he have Dutch friends? Is friendship with them different from friendship with Japanese friends? Can he invite Dutch and Japanese friends to his birthday at the same time or are the social unwritten rules too different?
My wife is Dutch.
5.) A bit of a personal question: what does mr. Horinouchi like to do in his free time? Does he have hobby’s or pets? What kind of music and films does he like?
I swim 1 km every weekend. I like country and pop music and play the guitar myself.
6.) A more political question: Japan is in a developing region of south-east Asia. China is growing fast and proliferating not only as an economic power but also as a political and military world power. This results in tensions in the region, for example with countries around the South China Sea and the artificial islands, the developments in Hong Kong and the tensions around Taiwan. The Netherlands also has to deal with the increasing influence of China and the Netherlands is concerned about economic espionage, for example around Huawei and Chinese dissidents in the Netherlands, or sectors where the Netherlands is a world leader (think for example of chip machine manufacturer NXP, currently a very interesting target due to the worldwide shortage of chips). How does the ambassador view the relationship between the Netherlands and Japan in light of these developments?
Japan appreciates the Netherlands’ initiative on a Free and Open Indo Pacific. We share the values of democracy, human rights, market economy and rule of law in the international community.
7.) With their activities, the Japan Fans hope to form a bridge of friendship and inspiration between our two countries. Our goal is to learn from each other and thus develop a common ‘language’ of understanding. We aim to make a positive contribution to society (at this moment for example by helping Ukrainian refugees learn Dutch, with the teaching materials we developed to teach Dutch to our Japanese friends). What does the Ambassador think about such initiatives and does he have any tips for us?
It is great of you to help Ukrainian refugees. They are arriving in Japan, too (more than 1,000 people already). Many local NGOs are helping them to learn survival Japanese. The Dutch language is as difficult as Japanese, so I hope your initiative will make a success.
8.) Does the Ambassador believe that there is such a thing as “authentic Japanese culture”? How does he feel about, for example, tourists wearing kimonos, is that cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation? How can we enjoy things related to Japan in a respectful way, without exoticism?
The 18th International Chopin Piano Competition in 2021 chose Kyohei Sorita from Japan as the 2nd winner. Also the 14th edition of that Competition chose Yundi Li from China as the 1st. I believe that the people all over the world can love and learn different cultures beyond the borders of nations.
9.) We are always very impressed by the level of Dutch in the Ambassador’s videos. Was it difficult for him to learn our language? Does he like language learning in general and learning the Dutch language in particular?
I speak Japanese, English and Chinese. I started to upload a weekly video on the Embassy’s Facebook in Cambodia, where I used Khmer. Now I am doing it in Dutch and feel it is very hard.
10.) Is there anything else the Ambassador would like to say to the members of Japan Fans?
Utrecht is really a lively exciting city! When my wife & I came back to The Hague from Utrecht on a weekend this spring, we missed it a lot.
Thank you so much, Mr. HORINOUCHI Hidehisa, for this interview! We hope you can be there when we manage to open an Utrecht centre for Japanese art and culture.