JET Program CIR Report





CIR Report from Kanazawa 3

By Werner Vanhorenbeeck
(Coordinator for International Relations)


A reporter and a cameraman for a famous magazine came to Kanazawa to write an article. I had the privilege of guiding them through Kanazawa together with a colleague from the Kanazawa Tourism Department. Reporters and magazines, two worlds I know little about. It gave me the opportunity to see how articles come to be. The cameraman had already visited Kanazawa last year, but it was the first time for the reporter. I found it funny in a way that someone who lives on the other side of the planet who’s never been in Kanazawa knew more about many aspects of the city than myself. It was a nice opportunity to learn more about the city, its history and its art.

One of the places we visited was the Seisonkaku; a villa which the 12th lord of the Kaga domain had built for his retired mother in the mid-19th century. A well preserved 200 year old building might not sound so special to Europeans, but from a Japanese point of view it is baffling. As a foreigner, at first the establishment seems to be designed and furnished in a traditional Japanese style, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Each room, separated by sliding doors, is designed and decorated differently. Each room has a very feminine touch. It is not as rough and plain as most traditional buildings. One can also notice many foreign elements, such as Dutch glass. Knobs above the doors with the Maeda family emblems hide crosses which show the Christian beliefs and influence on the Maeda lords. Unfortunately, it is prohibited to take pictures in the Seisonkaku villa, but I would recommend anyone to check it out.

One of the most memorable moments of their visit was me watching them trying to capture the twilight on photo at the Suzuki Daisetz Museum.

In Japan, April is the month where people switch services. It seems to be difficult in this country to continue one job for the rest of one’s life. Every few years one has to trade their current position in the company for another position in a different section. It seems rather strange to me; how can someone do their job properly if they are being traded to another section within a few years? Apparently the idea behind this system is to raise ‘generalists’ and not specialists. People who can do a bit of everything are preferred over people who can only do one thing. I guess that sounds somewhat logical. In some cases a big relocation is needed. I honestly don’t know what to think about this system. On one hand, I guess it is a way to prevent monotony and burnouts. On the other hand, it must be hard to learn everything anew and in some cases having to move to the other side of the country.

After a short stay in France, I went to Kanazawa’s sister city of Ghent with my colleague. This trip was in the frame of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Both Kanazawa and Ghent are registered as creative cities, the former for crafts, the latter for music. On April 30th, in many places in the world, the UNESCO International Jazz Day was held. Of course this day was celebrated both in Kanazawa and Ghent. In Ghent, the youth orchestra had the honour to play the opening concert. The mayor of Ghent was kind enough to free some time from his busy schedule to come and see the students play; also the Ambassador took time to come and see the children play.

He was even kind enough to mention them in Ambassador’s Speech #53. Most comments about the band’s performance I heard were positive. I’m sure the children were happy hearing this, but personally, I got the most fulfilment in hearing one of the Japanese jazz band members announce their songs in Dutch.

During their stay in Ghent, they attended workshops which were organised by the conservatory of Ghent. The children were divided in four groups: a group for trombone players, one for saxophone players, one for trumpet players, and a rhythm section.

Of course we did not go all the way to Europe just for this. We also had quite a few meetings with people and organizations in order to look for possibilities for exchanges between our two cities. With a tight schedule, it wasn’t always easy to go from one location to another. But I was quite happy, and also a bit surprised, that so many organizations were willing to work together in a constructive manner with a distant city. Of course, we could not go to Ghent without meeting with the people of GentLoopt, whose president invited us to watch the first running event around the port of Ghent. Of course a trip to Ghent would not be complete without a nice boat ride through the canals of Ghent.

A few months ago the mayor of Kanazawa held a dinner in Tokyo, to which the Belgian Ambassador in Tokyo was invited, in order to promote Kanazawa’s culinary culture. Since Japanese food has been registered as UNESCO world heritage, and because the Kanazawan culinary culture had an important influence on Japanese food and its development, it was a logical step to try promoting it abroad. Seeing the traditional dishes combined with traditional crafts was an interesting way of promoting it. However, after seeing a Japanese restaurant offering Peking duck during my last business trip to Belgium, I realise that there is a long way to go towards promoting Japanese food abroad.

40 years ago, Komatsu Co. Ltd. opened a factory in the Belgian city of Vilvoorde. The opening of this factory was the opportunity for the city of Komatsu and Vilvoorde to become sister cities. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the twinned cities, a delegation from Vilvoorde came to open a rose garden in Komatsu, and a delegation from Komatsu will open a Japanese garden in Vilvoorde later this year. I was asked to help with the interpreting during their visit, so I had the chance to see the garden with my own eyes. The garden is shaped in a V, which stands for the city of Vilvoorde, victory and the Dutch word for friendship. The garden is completed with a plate of a Flemish draught horse, a race of horses that Vilvoorde, and Belgium, are famous for. I don’t think I will have the opportunity to go to Vilvoorde in the near future, but I hope to see their Japanese garden one day.

The annual three-day Hyakumangoku Festival is held on the first weekend June. This is considered the most important festival in Kanazawa. It commemorates the coming of Lord Toshiie Maeda, the founder of the Kaga domain, into Kanazawa castle. It starts on Friday evening, when floating lanterns made of silk will be sent down the Asanogawa River. This is followed the next day by a big parade and Noh theatre performances by a bonfire.