Annemarie Pijl
Secretary Focal Countries Desk
focalcountriesdesk [at] dutchculture.nl

Ian Yang
Advisor - China I Japan I South Korea
i.yang [at] dutchculture.nl

Cultural cooperation Japan-Netherlands 2021-2024

Cultural cooperation Japan-Netherlands 2021-2024

Looking back: new genres & interdisciplinary collaborations
The previous period (2017-2020) of Dutch international cultural policy towards Japan focused on the disciplines of creative industry, visual arts, performing arts and heritage collaboration. The Dutch cultural and creative sector expanded its horizon beyond the Japanese capital city of Tokyo and created new networks, especially in the regions of Kyushu and Kyoto. The Arita project, for example, started in Kyushu back in 2013, but is steadily generating meaningful and sustainable spin-offs. In Kyoto, the Dutch focus in 2019 resulted in a multi-year collaboration with the Kyoto Art Center for an artist-in-residency programme, as well as with the international photography festival Kyotographie.

Dutch artists presented at many major international art events and platforms in Japan in the past 4 years, which firmly strengthened the Dutch cultural profile across the country at large. Dutch cultural practitioners have also tapped into new genres in Japan, such as urban culture. Exchange in this domain has, for instance, flourished between Amsterdam and Tokyo, leading to substantial (inter-)disciplinary collaborations across art, music, fashion and literature. In the field of international cultural heritage, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and Japan Netherlands Architecture Culture Association (JNACA) have built a long-term partnership in knowledge exchange on the pertinent subject of ‘adaptive reuse’.

The Dutch embassy in Tokyo also joined forces with colleagues in Beijing and Seoul, for the initiation of the BeST-NL platform to promote cultural dialogues between the Netherlands and the whole of East Asia. Furthermore, with its main office in Hirado, Japan, the Dutch Trading Post Heritage Network (DTPHN) is supported to develop a Southeast Asian network of former VOC settlements. This has now grown into a network spanning 7 countries and 13 cities in South-East Asia.

Looking forward: crafts & creative industries, regional focus and social inclusion

In the current policy 2021-2024, the ‘demand’ from Japan and the ‘supply’ from the Netherlands will remain appealing. Japan is home to a multitude of local creative industries and craftsmen that produce high-quality goods but are suffering a decline in (market) demand. The Japanese government is dedicated to the preservation and revival of these industries, which provides abundant opportunities to build up ties between the Dutch creative sector and Japanese techniques/crafts. The Dutch embassy in Tokyo and all other stakeholders in the Netherlands for the international cultural policy will remain open to new initiatives and developments in this field.

In 2021 the new policy period will kick off with a focus on Kanto, the populous area around Tokyo, on the (postponed) occasion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics, and will add one further regional focus later on. Candidate regions are Tohoku, Chubu and Hokkaido. The Netherlands will also actively search for new partnerships within Japan with artist-in-residency programmes, local governments and (international) cultural institutions. Collaboration with other Dutch initiatives in the Asia Pacific region, especially in the neighbouring countries of China and South Korea, remains a possibility.

The new policy recognises ‘social inclusion’ as an important theme. Nightlife culture/economy and gender-related subjects are examples of areas where local Japanese seek knowledge from and contacts in the Netherlands. In a post-COVID-19 era, it will also be crucial to engage both Dutch and Japanese cultural practitioners in an exploration of future-proof formats or platforms for sustainable cultural exchange and cooperation. In doing so, the Dutch embassy in Tokyo will focus more on structural issues within the Japanese cultural sector, in order to contribute Dutch experience, such as the promotion of Artist-in-Residencies (AiR) infrastructure in Japan with the help of DutchCulture | TransArtists. Other relevant topics include cultural censorship and the Fair Practice Code.

All layers of Japanese society pay attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Japanese government announced its Expanded SDGs Action Plan at the Osaka G20 Summit in June 2019. Dutch international cultural policy intends to link up with the Japanese commitment to the SDGs with the offer of consultation from the Dutch cultural sector, for instance on sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), climate action (SDG 13), and marine plastic litter (SDG 14). As a follow-up to the NL-Minato project, in 2020 the cultural hub Shibaura House started a multi-year collaboration with What Design Can Do to address public challenges that are at play both in Japan and the Netherlands. As part of the Games, the Game Changer project was developed by NOC*NSF with Japanese partners and the Dutch Embassy to empower disabled sports (SDG 10). This project will also continue in 2021-2024 and offers countless opportunities to connect sports, culture and society.

Focal disciplines defined by the new policy remain the creative industries, visual arts, performing arts and international heritage cooperation. The Dutch embassy in Tokyo and all other stakeholders in the Netherlands for the international cultural policy will focus on the objectives listed below. These objectives serve as benchmarks for supporting new projects by the makers and researchers. Ideally, projects should meet several or all of the objectives.

  • Promote (market) opportunities for the Netherlands-based makers with an emphasis on newcomers to Japan. The basic condition is a collaboration with a Japanese organisation (AiRs, exhibition space, etc.), preferably with emerging platforms with potential.
  • (Further) development of established platforms and partnerships in which multiple makers can participate over a longer period of time instead of one-off events.
  • Participation of the Netherlands-based makers in major cultural events, e.g. Setouchi Triennale, Yokohama Triennale, as this contributes to a stronger Dutch cultural profile in Japan.
  • Stimulate the exchange of new genres and crossovers, such as urban/street culture.
  • Promote Dutch know-how of digital culture, in particular (serious) gaming. The Tokyo Game Show takes place every year with a delegation from the Dutch gaming sector.
  • Promote knowledge exchange and joint research development in international heritage collaboration, and find solutions to societal challenges.
  • Increase knowledge of Dutch-Japanese shared history as an important part of cultural identity. Encourage contemporary interpretations of heritage by the makers. Thanks to the long exchange history, many places around Japan are connected to the Netherlands, in both a physical (Dejima) and immaterial (Dutch studies) sense.
  • Stimulate the sustainable preservation, management and accessibility (incl. digitisation) of cultural heritage and archives.
  • Promote the protection and knowledge of intangible heritage.
Cultural agenda


  • (summer) Tokyo 2020 Olympic & Paralympic Games - regional focus NL-Kanto programme
  • (September) lustrum Hirado VOC factory


  • Setouchi Triennale: Japan's most important art festival with global allure and attention for social issues (2019 edition had 1.2 million visitors.)


  • Yokohama Triennale
  • KCO Japan tour (TBC)
  • 200th anniversary of Siebold's arrival in Japan


  • Regional focus on Tohoku / Hokkaido / Chubu – following NL-Kyushu, Kyoto and Kanto, a new regional focus in line with policy spearheads.
  • Preparation for activities around the World Expo in Osaka (2025) World Expo Osaka 

Information & advice
Would you like to receive more information regarding opportunities for cultural exchange with Japan? Feel free to contact our Japan advisor Ian Yang with your questions. He can inform you about the latest developments in the country, relevant contacts and cultural venues.

Further reading

*COVID-19 crisis has caused delay and changes in the planning of the above and other Dutch cultural activities in Japan. For up-to-date information, please stay tuned in to us.