150 years. That’s how long Japan and Belgium have been in a diplomatic relationship, which is why this year’s bi-annual flower carpet on the Brussels Grand-Place was created with Japan in mind. A sight to behold on a plaza considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
Belgium and Japan have maintained a healthy diplomatic relationship since 1866, just about thirty years after Belgium became independent, with both parties signing the Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Navigation. Starting in 1853, when the American Commodore Perry arrived on the Japanese shore with his threatening Black Ships or kurofune, a slew of agreements or treaties between Japan and western nations were signed, marking a departure from the closed nature of Japan as a relatively isolated nation in a world of increasing international trade and negotiations.
Japan’s Imperial Family and the Belgian monarchs have had a notoriously strong and warm bond for about a century, marked by several mutual visits throughout the years.
Suiting to the occasion as Japan is known for the art of flower arrangement or Ikebana, which can also be alternatively translated as “giving life to flowers”, this year’s begonia carpet featured a large, circular emblem with the rising sun and a crane, surrounded by colourful patterns and flanked by koi.
Though it lasted only three days, the event drew flocks of tourists and natives to the square who wanted to witness the floral beauty that only seems to become an increasingly rare sight in an ever-more-densely inhabited, urbanised world. The carpet of more than half a million begonias was laid in four hours by about 120 volunteers. Featuring a different theme when it is laid every two years, the carpet is best enjoyed from the Brussels City Hall’s balcony for €5, an experience well worth the price —or you can do as some tourists do and cheat a bit with a selfie stick, but that’s not something I recommend.
Making your way up to the balcony (while queueing for a ticket) and when you proceed to the exit, you get the chance to have a look at the very classic, gothic interior of the City Hall.
If you want to know more about certain aspects of Japanese culture and more specifically about the Belgium-Japan relationship, I’d have to recommend Nippaku. Posts on this blog are always of high quality and well-researched —perfect if you’re looking for interesting views on Japanese culture, sometimes even with a more academic approach.