Amsterdam postcode, attractive prospects

Masao Hasegawa, (now former) General Manager of the Dutch arm of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (BTMU), notes with evident satisfaction that more and more Japanese companies have been finding their way to the Dutch capital. Now that the years of deflation are over, many smaller and medium-sized Japanese companies are seeing interesting opportunities for growth in the European market, and they are calling on the Amsterdam branch of the bank to help them structure their investments.

At the same time, the pioneers of the first wave – including global brands like Canon, Nikon and Ricoh – have all completed refits of their European networks, and Amsterdam is a strikingly popular choice for the location of the new head offices for their pan-European activities. “There is a completely new dynamic here,” says Hasegawa in his executive office in the heart of Amsterdam's financial district. “More and more Japanese companies are concentrated around Amsterdam, and directing and consolidating their other European activities from here.”

Parallel histories

In an important justification of that central role, Masao Hasegawa describes the ‘neutralising’ effect of a Dutch base with respect, for example, to German and French-speaking consumer markets. “As a result, the cultural barriers are less high, and you get things done more easily than other countries. Above all, our Dutch employees speak both languages and naturally that helps too. Moreover, English is the operating language in this office, and that is a second language for many Dutch people.”

Additionally, Hasegawa stresses the proximity of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as an important location factor (“That goes increasingly for air cargo too. Nowadays, time efficiency weighs so heavily that lots of capital goods may also be transported to Europe by plane,” he says), and – perhaps remarkably given the Japanese reputation for long working hours – the fact that the work-life balance is better in Amsterdam. “I have worked in New York before here, but nowhere have I found a working and living environment that is so relaxed and comfortable. I’m still surprised every day at how rural Amsterdam is, actually. In a quarter of an hour, you are outside the city and in the middle of nature.”

That advantage is also recognised by other members of the Japanese community, especially those living in the Amstelveen area. Next to Düsseldorf in Germany, they form the biggest group of Japanese expats living in Continental Europe, and with the present rate of growth, the already considerable range of Japanese stores, restaurants and other facilities will only become more attractive.

Read full testimonial here.