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People of Furusato Huis vol.1 Ms Emiko Kannan【connect the Netherlands and Japan with the heart of "Furusato" 】


Emiko Kannan

Born 1950, after working as a nurse in a hospital in Kobe, she came to the Netherlands and married. She founded and headed a kindergarten for Japanese in Amstelveen. She also worked at the Amsterdam University Hospital for five years and later established the Japan Desk at the Amstelland Hospital. She also helped to establish and run the volunteer organisation NALC Holland, which built the foundations of the Japanese community in Amstelveen in the fields of medical and welfare. She is a representative of the Kamome no Kai. She also teaches ikebana, kimono dressing and tea ceremony, and is involved in activities to introduce Japanese culture to the local community.

The Richness of Simply Living Together and Supporting Each Other

As the Japanese population living in the Netherlands increases, there is naturally a need for welfare to support the ageing population. In this context, I have personally started to receive consultations from elderly Japanese people who need support. I therefore visited each one of them individually, accompanying them to the hospital and supporting them in their daily lives. When I see someone in need, I have a tendency to want to do something about it. I can't help it, but I just can't handle it alone anymore. So, in January 2021, I started working with Ms Osada (deceased) (*profile below) to create a facility to gather and care for elderly Japanese people.

That was the beginning of Furusato Huis.

Japanese people in the Netherlands who choose to stay in the Netherlands after becoming pensioners, instead of returning to Japan, have to be prepared for this. It's fine as long as you are independent and active. But when you can no longer walk, or you become bothersome when it comes to tidy up the house, cook, or sort out documents from the government. The ordinary things of daily life gradually become more and more difficult. If you do the most mundane things, such as talking to someone or helping to change a light bulb for others, can be a lifesaver for them. Also, it is very important to communicate in Japanese, as people with dementia often lose the use of their second language. When I took care of one person in his final days, I communicated in Japanese, and he looked very peaceful. When we talk about a collective facility, the issues of safety management and medical systems come first, but I think it is more important to have a place where people can just live together and interact with each other for the rest of their rich lives. Doctors and nurses can come from outside to do things. In some cases, children can take care of their aged parents. but I want to create a system where the community can help each other.

"Furusato" of the Heart for all through Japanese Culture

As the project progressed, it became increasingly clear that it would not be possible to create a safe place only for elderly Japanese. We need to involve young people, Dutch people and people from other countries. We need the help of many people. We came up with the idea of creating a place not only as a residence, but also as a place for cultural exchange. On the ground floor we are thinking of setting up a Japan Culture Centre, a restaurant and a multi-purpose room. There we will hold various activities such as calligraphy and tea ceremony workshops and tea ceremonies. It would also be nice to have a working space so that people who are working can easily come and go. On the upper floors, we are thinking of a unique facility format where men and women, young and old, Japanese and Dutch, live together.

A Japanese culture workshop at a facility for the elderly in the Netherlands

I was the one who came up with the name Furusato Huis. When I was younger, I found myself able to live without Japanese food, but the older I get, the more I miss all sorts of Japanese things in a strange way. When I hear the word hometown, I imagine cherry blossoms. My parents' home, Tanba Sasayama. It reminds me of the cherry blossom scenery on the road I used to walk to school in primary school. The older I get, the more I remember my childhood. The scenery of the heart of my hometown, the warmth of people such as my parents, siblings and friends who are connected there. It can be Mount Fuji, but the landscape of the hometown and the human connection is something that everyone finds a place in their heart.

I feel that this is somewhat the same in the Netherlands. For example, people from Amsterdam call themselves "Amsterdammer" to emphasise where they are from, showing that they are proud of and attached to the city of their birth. Although there is no word for hometown in Dutch, I hope that Fursato His will be a place where Japanese and Dutch people can come together and cherish their roots.

Giving back to the Netherlands. Contributing with Japanese Culture and Laying the Foundations for the Younger Generation.

For some reason, I have been living in the Netherlands for almost half a century. When I think about what I can give back to the Netherlands, I think it is something related to Japan. I hope that this will be a place for exchange through Japanese culture, as we are thinking of doing at Furusato Huis, and that it will also become a cornerstone for the Japanese people in this region. Things of interest are changing with the times, such as anime and Japanese food, but I hope that people can feel and enjoy things that they don't often see in the Netherlands. I spent a year teaching Japanese to a Dutch couple who had made a pilgrimage to a Christian holy place and wanted to experience the pilgrimage in Japan, but I couldn't understand why they were so fascinated by Japanese culture.

 There would no explanation for it: No one can answer why. The expression 'ik hab er zin in' is also often used in Dutch, which directly translates to 'I have a meaning'. Why do you like red if you like red? You don't know when you are asked it. I guess it means that the soul knows. There is a shrine in Amsterdam that was started by a Dutch person. Maybe there is something in Japanese culture that attracts Dutch people.

Furusato Huis is still not well known among the Japanese community, but we would like to create more and more opportunities for people to get interested and involved. I would like Furusato Huis to take root in the Netherlands as a place where people of different generations from different countries can connect and support each other through Japanese culture.

*Ikuko Osada.

Born in 1951 in Shizuoka. Studied in Germany and the Netherlands in 1979, married a Dutch painter and had a son. From 1982 to '2018, she worked as the JCC's office manager and had close ties with personnel and embassies in Amsterdam and Amstelveen, and received an award from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017 for her contribution. She passed away in 2023.

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