What do Japanese think of Belgium? Curious about the answer on this question, we went to Bruges, a small but cosy place aka tourist attraction and asked some Japanese on holiday the following questions:
1. What is Belgium known for?
No one failed in giving the answer “chocolate” right away the moment they were asked. I also learned that the Belgian shop “Godiva” has a branch in Japan too and is pretty famous. In Bruges, half of the shops sell chocolate to tourists. It’s true, we Belgians take the chocolate for granted and see it as daily sweets, while it is something for special occasions in other countries. Valentine’s Day for example. If you have no idea how chocolate-minded Japanese spend this day, click here.
The answer “chocolate” was quickly followed by “waffles”. There are different kinds (like Liège waffle and Brussels waffle), and you can even get one with chocolate on it. Most of the waffle shops sell waffles in winter and ice-cream in summer.
Beer gained a third place. And that’s a fact. There are more than 600 varieties of Belgian beer, brewed by approximately 178 breweries.
Belgian food in general is popular. A couple assured us that the mussels with french fries they had the evening before were very good. Our meals are indeed rather heavy, part of our ‘burgundian lifestyle’.
Surprisingly, French fries was only called once. Probably the name is part of the problem. If I have to think of a something typically Belgian, I would immediately say French fries. Apart from the fact that it’s not very healthy, we eat it very often. That’s because there are a lot of specialised snackbar-like “frituren” who stay open till very late and because it’s delicious of course. Somehow we can’t get tired of our fries.
After all the food, the Japanese tourists mentioned the attractions and buildings. Apparently Manneken Pis (shōbenkozō 小便小僧) is known from here to Tokyo (they have a replica in Hamamatsuchō Station). I am ashamed to admit that I have never seen it myself before… The city of Antwerp evokes a lot of memories: many Japanese have seen the anime “The dog of Flanders” (furandāsu no inu フランダースの犬). No wonder some people still think the city looks the same as in the good old days with Nello and Patrasche.
Except for 4 smart girls who remembered Magritte, no one could tell us the name of a famous Belgian person. I think if Belgians were asked about famous Japanese, they would come up with Haruki Murakami or perhaps Yoko Ono.
2. What did you expect before coming to Belgium? Did it meet your expectations?
All matching answers: “Belgium is small and cute (kawaii 可愛い). There are lots of beautiful, old buildings and lots of sweets and good food.” They didn’t seem to regret their trip, as it fully met their expectations.
3. Has something struck you as surprising or odd? Compared to Japan, did something unexpected happen?
“There was chocolate shaped as a dog.”
“There are two languages on the signboards (Dutch and French), who are cute too, by the way.”
“There are horses riding through the city!”
“Brussels is a filthy place.”
“People are friendly, tall and beautiful.”
“There are no ticket gates at the train station. You can ride for free.”
“The streets have cobblestones.”
“There are many individual stores and less chain stores.”
4. Up till now, what did you like most about Belgium?
“The chocolate shaped as a dog.”
“The horse carriage in Bruges.”
“Bruges and other beautiful towns.”
“My friend who invited me over.”
Facts for Fun
– to get hungry: Godiva