Tēnā koutou katoa, konnichiwa, and my very warmest welcome to you all.
It is my great pleasure to be here today to celebrate both this year’s Japan Festival, as well as 70 years of diplomatic relations between Aotearoa New Zealand and Japan.
I wish to specifically acknowledge: His Excellency Ito Koichi, Ambassador of Japan; His Worship Andy Foster, Mayor of Wellington; and Jennifer King, Chair of the Wellington Japan Festival Trust.
I also wish to acknowledge Members of Parliament, members of the diplomatic corps, and other distinguished guests here today.
I am especially pleased we could gather in person this year, after the eventual cancellation of the 2020 festival due to COVID-19.
Today’s event is a credit to the work of the Japan Festival Trust, supported by the Embassy of Japan, the Wellington City Council, and volunteers whose hard work and enthusiasm makes all of this possible.
The Festival was founded in 2009 to mark the sister-city relationship between Wellington and Sakai.
Following seven highly successful festivals, it has evolved into a much broader celebration of the relationship between Japan and New Zealand.
The peoples of New Zealand and Japan share deep links. Over 18,000 New Zealanders have some Japanese heritage, while many New Zealanders in turn live and work in Japan.
Our working holiday scheme and exchange programmes further help to build our understanding of each other’s cultures.
Pre-pandemic, New Zealand welcomed over 100,000 Japanese visitors annually, while 50,000 New Zealanders visited Japan. We look forward to these connections resuming in the coming months.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Aotearoa New Zealand and Japan.
Since 1952, our countries have become close economic partners, and Japan is now New Zealand’s fourth-largest trading partner, and our fourth-largest source of foreign investment.
We also work together in the areas of science and technology. Our cooperation on renewable energy and hydrogen technology is an exciting and important area of growth. And we continue to collaborate closely on peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.
As borders reopen, many more Japanese and New Zealand businesspeople, students, and travellers, will look to resume their partnerships and friendships in person.
This year’s Japan Festival is therefore a particularly timely celebration of all of the links we share.
Thank you again to the Wellington Japan Festival Trust, the Wellington City Council, and the Embassy of Japan for your work in pulling together today’s event.
Ambassador Ito – my very warmest regards, on behalf of Aotearoa New Zealand, to the people and government of Japan on this auspicious 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
We look forward to continuing and deepening our cooperation and friendship with Japan in the years to come. And, in that spirit, I wish all attendees here today a most enjoyable Japan Festival.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.