宮津姉妹都市ネルソン市表敬訪問 Official Visit to Miyazu Sister City Nelson, New Zealand


For one week this November from the 6th to the 13th, a group of seven people including both Miyazu citizens and city hall employees visited Miyazu’s sister city, Nelson (New Zealand).  In accordance with it being the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Miyazu-Nelson Sister City Agreement, a resigning of the agreement among other ceremonies was held and the visit served as a valuable opportunity to reconfirm the significance of the friendship and bond that the two cities share.



geyserWe left Japan for New Zealand from KIX Airport on the evening of November 6th. We first arrived in Auckland Airport from which we took a bus to Rotorua.  The flight from kIX Airport to Auckland Airport was approximately 10 hours.  After arriving in Rotorua, we were guided through a miraculous limestone cave where we got to see glow worms.  We also visited a giant geyser and got to experience and get used to the New Zealand climate and cuisine.  While riding on the bus from Auckland to Rotorua, all that could be seen was pastures and beautiful green vast landscape.  The color of the pastures and landscape was so vivid and brilliant that it was very impressing.  We also got to have some New Zealand beefsteak and try the local beer and wine which was all delicious.


nelson-2After spending a few days in Rotorua, we left on the morning of the 9th and headed to Nelson via Wellington.  We arrived a little after noon and a welcome party holding a welcome sign written in beautiful calligraphy lettering was waiting at the airport to greet us.  Everyone who came to meet us at the airport was so warm and friendly and kind.  After being treated to a delicious lunch, we were shown Nelson’s famous Boulder Bank (A land form similar to Amanohashidate in Miyazu but with no pine trees and covered in rocks.  It is also 13 kilometers long; about 4 times the size of Amanohashidate).  Both the Boulder Bank and the ocean surrounding it was very beautiful and calming. The area had a lot of palm trees and seemed tropical.  There was a lighthouse on the Boulder Bank that we were going to climb if it wasn’t for the rain.  In the evening, a movie night was held by the Japanese Association in Nelson featuring the Japanese film “Maiko is a lady”.  Before the movie started, there was time to chat and mingle with the Japanese residents of Nelson as well as the Mayors of Nelson and the Tazman Area and the Japanese Ambassador who were all in attendance.  The Japanese Ambassador also read an English greeting welcoming the visiting party from Miyazu before the movie started.  It was a very nice relaxing time.


nelson-3The next day, the group spent the majority of the day sightseeing visiting Miyazu Garden, (We found and took photos in front of the tree that NZ Association President, Mr. Adachi planted with the former mayor of Miyazu and the memorial plaque), the Nelson Cathedral, the winery, and enjoyed a pottery experience at a nearby village.  In the evening, an official dinner with the Mayor Reese of Nelson City was held.


maori-1The resigning of the Sister City Agreement was done on the morning of the 11th.  Both Mayor Reese of Nelson and Deputy Mayor Ueda of Miyazu resigned the agreement and the two cities reconfirmed their friendship and bond to one another.  It was a very significant event for the two cities.  The founder of the Sister City Association also attended the event and the members including the Deputy Mayor were very honored to get to meet such an important person who had contributed so much to the friendship between the two cities.  After shopping in the afternoon, we were invited to an evening farewell party at Carl’s house.  Carl is the conductor who organized and executed the performances in Kyoto, Osaka, and Miyazu earlier this year.  Everyone enjoyed chatting and drinking being reunited with members of the chorus group who visited Miyazu earlier this year and had a very nice time.  Even in only a few short days, and despite the language and cultural barriers, everyone was able to become close and enjoy each other’s company and newfound friendship.  The members of the chorus group who attended the farewell party sang several songs for us including “furusato” beautifully.  Those who had heard the concerts they gave while visiting Miyazu and Kyoto, felt nostalgic and were happy to be able to hear their beautiful singing again. The next morning before leaving, we were invited to have tea and cookies at the former Sister City Association Chairman, Mary’s house.  Afterwards we were taken to the airport and received a warm farewell from the citizens of Nelson who had taken care of us while we were there.  We are so grateful to so many people who helped arrange our visit including Lyndal who is Chairman of teh Sister City Association and planned our stay, found us hotels, and showed us all around Nelson during our stay; Mary and her husband, Akiko, Carl, and many others who accompanied us on our sightseeing and welcomed us so to their city so warmly.  We are very grateful for their kindness and thoughtfulness.maori-3


maori-2We left Nelson on the afternoon of the 12th and traveled to Wellington.  Due to the bad weather (rain) and a flight delay, we had to change our original sightseeing plans.  We visited Zealandia Sanctuary which tells the history of the native animals of New Zealand, and the Te Papa Museum with many displays of Maori architecture and culture.  We also watched a video explaining how films such as “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” were created and rode a cable car to a look-out point where we could overlook the city.  It was raining when we rode the cable car to the look-out point so the entire town was covered in a misty fog.


We began our journey back to Miyazu on the morning of the 13th and finally arrived back in Miyazu at around 10 pm the same day (Japan time).  We had many memorable experiences and were able to interact with a new culture and the people of our sister city and feel connected to them even though there is a ten hour distance between us by plane.  We had a very special experience with many new cultural discoveries.


Since Japan is not my native country, this trip was a very good chance for me to travel to another English speaking country besides the US for the first time and compare the culture with my own.  For me, one of the most interesting things about New Zealand was how much the native Maori culture is valued and is treated with respect as the native culture of the land.  I was surprised that the Maori language was one of the national languages along with English and sign language.   In the United States, we value freedom and equality and strive to achieve it but in reality we still have a very big problem with racism that we have yet to overcome.  There were also native people inhabiting the American continent before the European settlers came over who had a very similar belief/value system to the Maori people which was also similar to the Japanese Shinto religion and animism outlook on life.  However, in the competition for land, these native peoples were driven from the land and the majority of them died either from disease or in battle.  There are very few pure Native Americans left in the United States and large parts of the culture and language of these native tribes has been lost.  According to the explanation I heard from the JTB agent, New Zealand has a similar history of driving the native tribes off their land and also has only a small population of pure-blood Maori people.  However, they now acknowledge this historical mistake and work to preserve the Maori culture and share it with the world as an important part of New Zealand culture.  I thought this was very honorable.  The JTB agent also discussed that because New Zealand has a very low crime rate and little racial discrimination it is a popular country for study abroad.


One other interesting thing was that all of the restaurants closed very early especially in the more rural town that we visited.  We discovered this when we went to eat dinner one night and had a very difficult time finding a restaurant that was still opened.  The next day when we asked the JTB agent about this he explained that the people of New Zealand in general tend to value their private life above their work and so they will close their businesses around 5 or 6 pm so that they can spend the evenings with their families.  He said that this was quite typical.  Some Japanese people may be surprised by this and think that the restaurant owners are lazy or unmotivated but I thought that it sounded like a good way to live a fulfilled life in a non-monetary sense.


Lastly, out of all the places that we had a chance to visit the place the was most memorable for me was the limestone cave and glow worms in Rotorua.  It was so exciting to be in a cave and the glow worms on the ceiling of the cave looked just like a starry night sky.  It was so breathtakingly gorgeous and an amazing experience.