The city of Leiden has an annual outdoor market called the “Japanmarkt” (Japan Market), where people and booths gather along one of the canals of the city in order to celebrate all things Japanese. I actually went last year but forgot to bring my camera, so I made sure this year not to forget and to also actually report on the danged thing because it’s pretty cool overall.
Held this year on May 25th, Japanmarkt is not terribly different from any of the Japan-themed festivals I’ve attended back in the US, but what is very clear is that the festival reflects to some degree the unique history the Netherlands has with Japan. Back when foreigners were for the most part not allowed in Japan, it was the Dutch merchants who were the rare exception. Moreover, the first Japanologist, Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, was a German living in Leiden, and his old house is now a Japanese museum on the same street as Japanmarkt. And of course, there are a good amount of Dutch anime fans mixed in there, creating this convergence of Japan-loving generations that’s different from an anime convention. That said, there were actually anime con booths there as well.
Food was a popular item, and for my part I tried two things in particular. The first was a curry (for charity!). The second was something that could only have come out of a Dutch-based celebration of Japanese culture.
If you don’t know takoyaki, they’re essentially fried chewy balls of batter stuffed with bits of octopus and covered in savory sauces, a kind of convenient comfort food (and quite delicious if I do say so myself). There was a takoyaki stand at Japanmarkt, but it had a twist, mixing the concept of takoyaki with that of “poffertjes,” tiny pancake-like snacks typically served with powdered sugar.
These “takoyaki poffertjes” were something I felt I could never get elsewhere, their uniqueness compelling me to try them out. I can’t complain.
At one of the tables which was selling manga, I overheard a girl helping her friend out by finding volumes of My Girlfriend is a Geek (Fujoshi Kanojo). I don’t often see people interested in those otaku/fujoshi romance manga, especially ones giving lists to their friends to hunt down those books wherever possible, so that put a bit of a smile on my face.