150 Years of Friendship between
Japan and Belgium

Greetings from Ambassador Ishii for the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium website

Greetings from Ambassador Ishii for the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium website

Welcome to the website for the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium!!!
In 2016, Japan and Belgium will mark the 150th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, which were established in 1866. I would like to take the opportunity of this memorable year to ask all of you to participate in the celebration in order to further deepen the close relationship between the two countries.
In 2016, in Japan as well as in Belgium, numerous anniversary events will be held. In Belgium, starting with the opening ceremony in January 2016, and over the course of one whole year, many projects, events, exchanges and others in various fields and on many levels have been scheduled. In addition to Embassy-sponsored and co-sponsored events, all activities relating to the bilateral relations in such fields as politics, economics, science and technology, culture, art, academic, education and sports can be part of the 150th anniversary. When an event receives endorsement, not only will it be published on the event calendar of this website, the official logo can be used for your event. For more detailed information concerning the endorsement of events, please have a look here.
Currently, the Japanese Embassy continues its cooperation with NIHONJINKAI a.s.b.l. (The Japanese Association in Belgium), the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA) and Friends of Japan, and it furthermore also receives cooperation from many Japanese and Belgian companies, while proceeding with the preparations for the anniversary events. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for everyone’s support and cooperation.
The friendship between the two countries is the result of people-to-people exchanges. I believe that through the participation of a great number of people the relationship between Japan and Belgium can be deepened even further and exist on a high level, continuing for the next 50, 100 and 150 years. Let us launch our joint efforts to that end!

April, 2015

Masafumi Ishii
Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Belgium

Messages from the Celebration Committee

Professor Gilbert Declerck
President, Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA)

Gilbert J. Declerck was born in Oostende, Belgium in 1946. He received the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Leuven in 1972. From 1973 to 1974 he was a post doc researcher at the IC laboratories of the Stanford University. He came back to the Leuven University in 1974, where he became Professor in 1983. In 1984 he joined imec as Vice President and became Chief Operating Officer in 1998. From June 1999 till July 2009 he was President and CEO of imec. He is now an independent executive advisor and Member of the Board of imec International. Dr. Declerck has also been a member of several advisory boards of scientific institutes and companies. He authored and co-authored over 200 papers and conference contributions. In 1993 Dr. Declerck was elected fellow of the IEEE. He travelled frequently to Japan during his professional career, has many friends in Japan, and in March 2014 he became President of the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Tanguy Van Overstraeten
Vice-President of BJA

Tanguy Van Overstraeten is Vice-President of the Royal Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA) and Chair of its Executive Committee. He has been a lawyer for 27 years starting his career at De Bandt van Hecke & Lagae law firm (now Linklaters) and has been a partner at the international law firm Linklaters LLP since 1998 where he heads the Technology, Media & Telecommunications practice in Brussels and is Global Head of Privacy and Chair of the Information System Board globally. Tanguy lived in Japan in the early nineties working for the Tokyo law firm TMI Associates and studying some Japanese at Nichibei Kaiwa Gakuin. After returning to Europe, he became an active member of the BJA in which he created the Legal & Tax Committee back in March 2001. In his professional life, he assists companies in many industry sectors, predominantly but not only from Japan, with a blend of corporate work and a focus on information technology and electronic communications (including outsourcing and privacy). Tanguy also contributes to the Marilo Fund (King Baudouin Foundation) and participates in the organisation of the Fukko concerts. Tanguy graduated from the University of Brussels (ULB, 1987) and holds a Master in Law from the University of Chicago (LL.M, 1991). He is lecturer at the Solvay Business School in data protection. In his leisure time, Tanguy is a dedicated film watcher and a reader of comics. He is a dedicated fan of Jiro Taniguchi.

Anja Oto-Kellens
BJA Executive Director

Anja Oto-Kellens is Executive Director of the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce (BJA) since 2003.
Her interest in international cooperation led her to obtain a Master in Japanese Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, followed with residence and study in Osaka. Upon her return to Belgium, she continued with post-graduate studies of International Relations (Peace Studies) in Leuven, while enjoying an internship at the UNFPA to experience firsthand the difference between theories and the reality of international organizations. At the same time, she started to work for the international Japanese press in Brussels on a frequent basis - leading her through the European institutions, NATO, and others.
When the opportunity arose, she returned to Japan with a scholarship from the Japanese Government to study and do research for three years at Kobe University. She came back to Belgium with a degree of Master of Laws (International Law – Specialization: Conflict Prevention in Southeast Asia), and another experience at UNOCHA, focusing mainly on research regarding the Southeast Asian region.
Currently she enjoys being part of the Board of the Marilo Fund under the King Boudewijn Foundation and of course being part of the Celebration Committee of the 2016 Celebrations.
Next to her job at the BJA that she loves, she is dedicated to mineralogy, creating wearable art and writing poetry.

150 Years Japan-Belgium

150 Years Japan-Belgium

The History of Belgian - Japanese Relations

Professor Willy Vande Walle
Chairman, Friends of Japan / Professor, KULeuven

During the first half of the nineteenth century there was little interest in Belgium for Japan and vice versa. That changed in 1854 when the US as the first Western power concluded a treaty with Japan. The first ‘Belgian’ to travel to Japan probably was the Count Charles Descantons de Montblanc (1833-1894), Frenchman, but also Baron of Ingelmunster. He had close contacts with the fief of Satsuma, and acted as representative of the fief at the International Exposition of Paris in 1867. In the meantime, after painstaking negotiations undertaken by the diplomat Auguste t’ Kint de Roodenbeeke (1816-1878) Belgium had succeeded in 1866 to become the ninth Western state to sign a treaty with the Shogunate. The Meiji Restoration (1868) marked the formal end of the period of Japan’s isolation. The country now embarked upon a far-reaching program of political, social, economic, institutional and cultural modernisation. For the execution of this program it sought inspiration in many Western countries, mostly the major powers, but also smaller countries including Belgium. Japan’s reformers were interested in both the institutional organisation and technological know-how of Belgium. Testimonies to this interest are among others the various Japanese missions abroad which included Belgium in their itinerary. The highest profile mission was the Iwakura mission, which toured the United States and Europe between 1871 and 1873, but there were equally a number of individual students who came to Belgium to study at Belgian scientific institutions. Students were particularly interested in technological know-how, but a few also studied juridical and monetary aspects. Best known is perhaps Matsukata Masayoshi’s aide Katō Wataru, who was charged with the task of studying the history and organisation of Belgium’s central bank. After a three-year stay in Belgium, Katō returned to Japan, and played a seminal role in the preparations for the establishment of Japan’s central bank, the Bank of Japan. Later, he was appointed head of the banking department of the newly founded bank. In the area of technological know-how, Belgium was recognised as a leading power in the fields of gunpowder, steel and glass industry, as well as the cultivation and processing of flax. Conversely, Belgian companies saw in Japan a promising market for their products and opened branches in Japan.

This notwithstanding, it was not until 1898 that both countries opened legations in each other's capital. Japan posted its first minister plenipotentiary in Brussels. Motono Ichirō became the first in a row of Japanese diplomats, among who figured some prominent ones, such as Katō Tsunetada (posted in Brussels from 1902 to 1906), and above all Adachi Mineichirō (legate to Belgium from 1917 to 1927). On the Belgian side the most remarkable diplomats were Albert d’Anethan (legate in Japan from 1893 to 1910) and above all Albert de Bassompierre (legate from 1920/21 to 1939).

On the artistic level Japan served as an important source of inspiration in the form of Japonisme for Belgian artists playing an important role in the Art Nouveau movement, while some Belgian writers, notably Maurice Maeterlinck, Emile Verhaeren and Georges Rodenbach, were avidly read and widely translated in Japan. Although not counted as a major power, before 1914 Belgium enjoyed much esteem with the Japanese authorities as well as the public opinion. With the war, that image would even be strengthened on account of the staunch resistance Belgium put up against the German invasion. In particular the presence of the Belgian king among his troops at the war front, a fact the Japanese press did not fail to report on, struck a sensitive chord among the Japanese public, who hailed him as heroic and chivalric.

The relations between Japan and Belgium generally continued amicably throughout the Meiji and Taishō eras, although there were some minor disagreements. With the exception of the first few years, the first two decades of the Shōwa era were marked by conflict and strife, increasingly isolating Japan from the rest of the world. The Manchurian Incident, which broke out in September 1931, triggered a chain of events which dragged Japan into the quagmire of a desperate war. These events also affected the relations between Japan and Belgium. Due to the tension between Japan and China, Crown Prince Leopold’s visit to Japan, which had been scheduled for the spring of 1932, was cancelled. The Prince did visit French Indochina, but returned to Belgium without visiting either Japan or China. This did not prevent Belgian diplomacy from taking a conciliatory stance when the League of Nations condemned Japan in the Lytton report for its role in Manchuria and the Manchu state.

The absolute low point in Belgian-Japanese relations was the Pacific War, a time when Japan and Belgium found themselves in opposite camps. The upshot was the rupture of diplomatic and, to all intents and purposes, very much all relations between the two countries, which were only gradually restored after the surrender of Japan in August 1945. Japan’s recovery in the post-war period evidently led to the full restoration of bilateral relations and their further development to an unprecedented level in most fields. In the background of this intensified relationship was Belgium’s status as a host country for many international organisations, most notably the European institutions and NATO. While Belgium enjoyed brisk economic growth and prosperity as a founding member of what was to become the European Union, Japan’s spectacular growth catapulted the country to the status of economic world power, a development accompanied by commercial frictions with some major competitors in the international market. Belgium was one of the first European countries to benefit from direct Japanese investment. Notable in this respect is Honda Motor Corporation’s investment in a production plant in Aalst as early as 1962, the first Japanese investment in Europe by any of Japan’s major production companies.

In the cultural field by far the most notable event was the organisation of Europalia Japan 1989. This was arguably the most comprehensive and highest profile cultural fiesta ever organised by Japan in Europe. It included events covering a panoply OF Japan’s high culture as well as a representative selection of popular culture. The last quarter century has not witnessed another event of similar proportions, but in its wake the bilateral relations have steadily grown more robust, and involved an ever increasing number of Belgian and Japanese citizens.

Event Application Guidelines

150 Years of Friendship Between Japan and Belgium Guidelines to Apply for Endorsement of Events

The Embassy of Japan in Belgium, under the conditions written below, takes applications for events related to the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium and acknowledges events as 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium events. The organizers of endorsed events/projects are entitled to use the official logo in publicity materials (i.e. posters, pamphlets, website, signboards, banners, publications etc.).

  1. Eligibility for endorsement
  2. Privileges of endorsed events
  3. Application procedures
  4. Where to submit application forms and inquiries

1. Eligibility for endorsement

  1. The event should take place in Belgium between December 1st 2015 and December 31st 2016 in principle.
  2. The event should aim to promote Japanese-Belgian relations, encouraging exchange and/or strengthening the friendship between Japan and Belgium, in various fields such as politics, economy, education, science and technology, culture, society, sports etc. This includes events related to corporate contributions to society.
  3. The objective of the event should not be to advocate any particular principle, ideology or religion, any political activity or election campaign and must not violate public order or standards of decency.
  4. The logo will not be used for commercial purpose.
  5. Financial costs of the events should be fully borne by the organizer.
  6. The rules and regulations of the event venue should be adhered to and the rights of other persons (including copyright) will not be infringed.

2. Privileges of endorsed events

  1. The organizers of endorsed events are entitled to use the title of the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium the official logo in publicity materials (i.e. posters, pamphlets, website, signboards, banners, etc).
  2. Endorsed events will be listed on the official calendar of the 150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium on the Embassy’s Website.

3. Application procedure

  1. Organizers who wish to obtain endorsement should submit the following necessary documents at the Embassy of Japan in Belgium 1 month prior to the event.
  2. Upon receiving the documents for application, the Embassy of Japan in Belgium will examine the applications on the basis of the present guidelines.
  3. The Embassy of Japan in Belgium will send the results of the decision to the organizer. Upon request, endorsed organizers will be provided with the logo as digital data and a summary of the event will be placed on the event list of the 150 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN JAPAN AND BELGIUM on the website of the Embassy of Japan in Belgium.

4. Where to submit the application forms / inquiries

The Embassy of Japan in Belgium
Rue Van Maerlant / Van Maerlantstraat 1, 1040 BRUXELLES / BRUSSEL
Tel: 32-(0)2-513-2340
Fax: 32-(0)2-513-1556
E-mail: 150logo@bx.mofa.go.jp


  1. Application forms will not be returned. Please make a copy beforehand if needed.
  2. Inquiries regarding the examining process will not be responded.
  3. Organizers of endorsed events/projects will bear the entire responsibility for their implementation including financial costs and public advertisement. The Embassy will bear no responsibility for any consequences related to the event/project.
  4. Should the event/project be cancelled or a substantive change be made, the organizers are required to promptly inform the Embassy of the relevant circumstances. In case of substantive changes, the Embassy reserves its right to withdraw the endorsement.
  5. Organizers of events may not use the logo in other events hosted by the organizer or in any other manner outside the endorsed event or project without appropriate authorization.
  6. After the event organizers are requested to submit a brief report (in free form) on the event including some photos (no video) to the Embassy. Contents of the report may be referred to on the Embassy’s website.



Coming soon...






    with special thanks to

    Celebration Committee