Roselily returns lily back to Japan
With their latest variety ‘Dejima’, Roselily has added another cultivar to their impressive portfolio.
The extraordinary christening of the white lily took place in Japan, in the same year of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of dr. Von Siebold, who was an expert of Japan and a keen traveller at the time of the United East Indian Company, bringing many different species of flora back to The Netherlands, lilies being one of them. Roselily ‘ Dejima’ is a homage to Japan and received a very warm welcome.
Japan is geniunely appreciative to lilies. To its people, it is a symbol of purity, love and femininity. There was a lot of interest on the 19th of October, when the white Roselily ‘Dejima’ was christened in Nagasaki, Japan. Many photo and video cameras were stand-by to record the historic moment of the official ceremony, honoured by Tomihisa Taue, mayor of the city of Nagasaki, Kris Schiermeier from the Siebold Huis and lily grower Frans Langelaan. And according to Dutch tradition, with champagne.
The christening ceremony – or naming ceremony rather, as both Japanese religions (Shintoism or Buddhism) do not recognise christenings – was extraordinary. The location alone, in Japan, made it a unique experience. “It’s all related to the Siebold year, as we call it”, says Frans Langelaan, lily grower and member of the cooperative growers association Roselilies U.A. “This year, we commemorate the 150th anniversary of dr. Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, a German physician in Dutch service at time of the United East Indian Company.”
Back then, The Netherlands was the only country that traded with Japan. The operation ran from the island Dejima, at the Dutch settlement near Nagasaki. Von Siebold was a doctor on Dejima from 1823 to 1829 and taught Japanese students. He became renowned for his research on Japanese flora and fauna. On his journeys, Von Siebold has brought back an array of different plants to The Netherlands, including Hostas, Hydrangeas, Peonies and Lilies. Dejima, which due to the forces of nature over the years isn’t an island anymore, has been declared a Japanese National Heritage. The warehouses, where the Dutch used to store their possessions and of which one was called Lily, are completely restored. The grand re-opening took place on the 19th of October at the Siebold conference in Dejima. “We seized this special moment to symbolically return the lily back to Japan”, says Langelaan, co-initiator of the event. “It was received with great gratitude.”
Langelaan made his first contacts back in 2011, not knowing at the time that only 5 years later, a Roselily cultivar would be christened in Japan. “In May that year, we received a visit from the former Japanese ambassador and took him around our company in Julianadorp and the tulips fields. No formalities, just wellies on and straight into the fields.” It turned out to be a hit, says Langelaan. “Japanese people absolutely adore tulips.” Just before the ambassador’s visit, a tsunami had caused immense damage to Japan. Langelaan: “We decided to make a donation on the spot of 25.000 tulip bulbs to the children of Rikuzentakata, one of the heavily affected villages. “It was the beginning of many visits back and forth including one by a Japanese filming crew. In 2015, the contact between the embassies lead to the christening of the Tulip ‘Von Siebold’ in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Japan museum SieboldHuis.
It was at that moment when the idea of promoting the lily slowly but steadily came up. “Not any lily, Roselily in particular”, says Langelaan. “What makes our cooperation unique is the interaction throughout the chain, the sharing of information between all parties, the togetherness, that’s what has made Roselily such a huge success.” The goal of holding a christening ceremony in Japan in order to gather up (potential) Roselily clientele and get as many feedback as possible about the product has succeeded. Thanks to the efforts of Kees Landvreugd from export company Zabo Plant, the christening of ‘Dejima’ was well-attended by the Japanese flower industry. “Hence, we had decided to follow the ceremony with a reception where all the Roselily cultivars were on display”, says Langelaan.
A lot of insight
Two weeks after the event, the entrepeneur from Julianadorp looks back at a wonderful experience. “The journey we made, including all the different companies we visited in Japan, has given us a lot of insight about the highs and lows further down the chain. How do the Japanese see our product? How is it being used? Which issues (in cultivation) do they encounter? It gave us a lot of valuable feedback.”
What surprised him the most was the state of the flowers in different point of sales. “They are generally sold very open. We have also noticed that Japan is incredibly lily minded, it’s very in demand. We also learned that the Dutch flower bulb grower enjoys a certain status in Japan. Maybe more than we realise back home.”
In the end, everyone is looking for innovation, including the Japanese. This explains the popularity of Roselily. Lilies without pollen yet with a subtle scent is truly one of a kind. “To me, it’s an acknowledgement from the industry”, says Langelaan.
Finally, the lily grower also says it has been an extraordinary experience to meet people from different parts of the world and who share the same passion for your products. “I have learned that these kind of journeys are very important. You can’t convert the investment straight away into money in the till but I truly believe in its longterm value.”
By: Jeannet Pennings
Photography by: CNB