Sharing our little slice of paradise

The Mayor met with the Osaka-based Japan New Zealand Centre while in Minoh last week. 

Since 2006 Lower Hutt has been very fortunate to welcome 78 teachers, 272 students attending a Rugby Camp based at Petone Rugby Club, a dozen on a Wellington regional gardening tour and more high school English Language students to Wainuiomata. Last year Hutt Valley High School also hosted several students from Higashisumiyoshi Ward of Osaka in a new programme created by the Japan New Zealand Centre which was appraised very highly by the ward level education office. Thanks Hutt High!

We at the Hutt Minoh House Friendship Trust have also recently supported these trips which stemmed from a relationship with Hutt City Council and the Hutt City i-SITE Visitor Centre. 

There's potential to bring many more visitors to Lower Hutt with the potential for a new tour or two and we thank Yuriko Tegoshi and the team at Japan New Zealand Centre for allowing us to share our little slice of paradise with visitors from Japan. Arigato gozaimasu!

Hutt and Minoh art exchange

Minoh Art Association members showing the group around Expo Park just out of Minoh

Minoh Art Association members showing the group around Expo Park just out of Minoh

Earlier this year several members of the Minoh Art Association visited the Hutt Art Society and their president Minoru Kugo and his team have been hosting several members of the Hutt City Arts and Culture Advisory Group. While in Minoh they have soaked up local art having visited a few museums, galleries and indulged in quite a bit of Japanese culture including a tea ceremony or three.

Hutt Art Society and the Minoh Art Association are now talking details for a future art exchange.

With a long term outlook - the two art organisations have agreed to collaborate on a two-way art exchange involving a significant number of works. Plus I'm sure there will be other ways they can exchange ideas and talent.

On a visit to Katsuo-ji Temple in the hills behind MInoh we got to test out the talent within our group as we followed the customer of illustrating facial patterns on our "daruma" good luck doll. Hutt Art Society president David Balm did well with his calligraphy pen and kept his reputation intact!

Thanks to Minoru Kugo and your association members for your very generous hospitality for members of the arts group within the Mayoral delegation and allowing them to have a concurrent itinerary. Very very much appreciated!




Japanese style BBQ

What a treat! Kawayuka Isoyoshi is a restaurant where I felt like I was back in New Zealand - feasting with a group of trampers with well travelled stoves in a wooden terrace-like hut back in the Orongorongo Valley - but the difference was were far too well dressed and we had cushions to sit on.

The rushing of the Minoh-Gawa [river] just metres below, and walkers on the trail opposite was enough to send me back home to the great outdoors. The custom of taking shoes off inside for meals added to that feeling - like taking off your soiled tramping boots before getting a meal ready.

Mayor Kurata and our hosts played cooks while we ate another healthy meal and learned how to cook our dinner Japanese BBQ style. Fresh veges plus marbled beef combined with sauces in a hot pot then dipped in raw mixed egg "for extra taste" equals one tasty dinner.

If you're ever in Minoh - this is one place you need to visit day or night. It's half way up the walkway to Minoh Falls from Minoh train station, perched above the river and open in Spring and Summer.

I am getting how Japan is one of the healthiest nations on the planet. I've eaten so well during my time in Japan. So incredibly well, yet it's no diet - it's just everyday food. Our breakfasts have included salads, plenty of vegetables and fish too.

Grilled herbed fish, rice with seaweed and sesame garnish, tofu and vegetable soup with a carton of milk.

Grilled herbed fish, rice with seaweed and sesame garnish, tofu and vegetable soup with a carton of milk.

My favourite meal has been the lunch served up to 600 students at Saito No Oka Gakuen [Primary School]. JPY220 bought us each a fine tasty meal - that's only NZD2.70. Outstanding!

The students had facilities to brush their teeth after lunch too. Would we ever see that in New Zealand?

I'm not big on seafood, but I think I just may have been converted during my time here!



Sharing the New Zealand story

Air New Zealand flights, Hutt Minoh House, kiwi food, New Zealand wine, studying in Lower Hutt, Canterbury clothing, and holidays downunder made us feel quite at home in Minoh on Sunday 4 October.

Tui Glen School kapa haka performance

Tui Glen School kapa haka performance

Ikumi and Sheena Hirayama talked to hundreds about Lower Hutt and New Zealand.

Ikumi and Sheena Hirayama talked to hundreds about Lower Hutt and New Zealand.

The New Zealand Autumn Fair was organised by the Minoh City Office, MAFGA and the Hutt Friendship Club to showcase our great country, region and city to their locals. It was attended by NZ travel agents and local companies with New Zealand products and thousands of locals.

Asking around in my best (admittedly limited) Japanese the highlight of the afternoon was Tui Glen School's kapa haka performance on stage.

We also took the opportunity to share a little about life in Lower Hutt and the opportunity to study in our high schools and universities in presentations throughout the afternoon.


While we were out visiting some of the great spots in and around Minoh we chose to use our national flag for our large group to navigate through crowds.

The flag attracted quite a bit of attention from other visitors to Japan around us and offered more viewpoints on our current flag debate. Though that's another blog post entirely!



Celebrating 20 years of cooperation with Minoh City

2015 marks the 20th year of friendship and cooperation with Minoh City. We are fortunate to be able to celebrate this milestone in each city this year after Mayor Kurata came to Lower Hutt in February with a group of 22 from Minoh. Tomodachi Day saw hundreds attend the ceremony and share in Japanese culture in Lower Hutt.

Many who are connected to Lower Hutt and New Zealand from in and around Minoh gathered to join an official commemoration of the anniversary including Mark Sinclair, the New Zealand Ambassador to Japan. Read his post on the NZ Embassy Facebook page.

Ray Wallace speaks at the 20th anniversary of cooperating cities

Ray Wallace speaks at the 20th anniversary of cooperating cities

Our group grew to 34 visiting from the Hutt for the official celebration on Sunday 4 October and we were treated to Taiko drumming, dancing, singing andand were impressed by the Minoh-based Hutt Club learning a waiata to sing for us.

Each of us received a certificate of appreciation from Minoh City Mayor Tetsuro Kurata. It as unexpected and very special.

Read more about this on the Minoh City blog - in Japanese.

The ceremony was followed by the New Zealand Autumn Fair - more in my next blog post.




One big family

The word family is often used to describe who we are while in Minoh. We've got a friendship agreement between our two cities and we're all making new friends but it's more than that. We feel like family.

The warmth, generosity and hospitality we have experienced in Minoh is very special.

Thank you to Mayor Tetsuro Kurata, the Minoh City Office, the Minoh Asscociation for Global Awareness (MAFGA), the Hutt Club, the Minoh Art Association and the many others who welcomed us to Minoh.

Mayoral delegation members welcomed by Minoh at MAFGA

Mayoral delegation members welcomed by Minoh at MAFGA

The Tui Glen School group welcomed at MAFGA by their host families

The Tui Glen School group welcomed at MAFGA by their host families

Thank you for exceptional hospitality, all your hard work, connections between our cities and enthusiasm for work on growing activities between our two cities and countries.


Painted ducks?

Hutt Valley Rotary met with their sister club Minoh Rotary Club during Lower Hutt's October visit and joined the regular club meeting at Minoh Kanko Hotel. The two clubs signed a cooperation agreement in 2004 and Hutt club President Tony McCombs grabbed the opportunity to visit the Minoh club with his wife Kate, Mayor Wallace, Deputy Mayor Bassett and council CEO Tony Stallinger.

Minoh Rotary hosts Hutt Valley Rotary and Hutt City Council

Minoh Rotary hosts Hutt Valley Rotary and Hutt City Council

The two clubs talked about each other's activities, shared recent successes and proffered projects that could happen between the two clubs and cities. A memorable moment came when Tony McCombs spoke about the annual fundraising duck race along the Hutt River. Tony described how people could buy a duck and paint it, how smaller ducks simply had numbers on them and how the valley's Mayors each had one that looked like them and how businesses joined in the fundingraising spirit by adding costumes to theirs too. By this point you can imagine some of the expressions on the audience's faces were looking a little surprised and confused, until it was clarified that there were indeed plastic ducks. Phew.

Minoh Rotary liked the idea of a local duck race too and are already talking about how that might happen. When speaking to Tony afterwards, I asked him could the race be held in the two cities on the same day. Perhaps you could buy a duck in each race...



Fire, fire, fire!

Now we know Mayor Ray Wallace isn't afraid of heights. He was treated to a skylift in the newest of all the Minoh Firetrucks - up over 50ft in the air.

The Mayor was very keen to see the city's emergency services and what they and Council have learned since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He was extremely impressed with the techology the emergency services operations centre and says that we can learn much from our friends in Minoh.

At the Minoh City Emergency Operations Centre.

At the Minoh City Emergency Operations Centre.

Mayor Wallace getting after showing us he's not afraid of heights up in the laddertruck.

Mayor Wallace getting after showing us he's not afraid of heights up in the laddertruck.

"Most people have fire extinguishers in their kitchens and virtually all homes have smoke alarms, something I would like to see in all homes in Lower Hutt," says Mayor Wallace.

"It's pretty clear that residents are well educated with so few call outs for fire services."

When we visited any office or building in Japan, it was pretty clear that health and safety is taken very seriously in this country. In times of need NZ has sent teams to Japan and they've come here. When we mentioned our own innovators to some in Osaka they were very impressed at the custom technology that local firm Fraser Fire and Rescue are pumping out.

The Plimmerton Volunteer Fire Brigade have recently been over and shared some joint training with their counterparts in Porirua's sister city Nisshio, Japan and one of their volunteers, Graeme Penty, has been part of our visit this year in his role as a teacher at Tui Glen School.

Years ago the Wainuiomata Bush Fire Force received a fire truck from Minoh City. There are good connections between firefighters in these cities and perhaps some potential to share a whole lot more.



Connecting business potential

Japan: NZ's fifth largest trading partner, fourth largest export market, fourth largest investor, fifth largest in-bound tourist market and third largest source of international students.

Not sure about the language and culture?
Want to know if an market exists?
There's plenty of people to help you take the next step. Friends, advisers, business owners and some very valuable networks.

Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Japan New Zealand Business Council recently spoke to the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce and endorsed what we've seen ourselves. He believes kiwi companies have a lot to offer the Japanese as both countries and markets evolve.

We've been friends with Minoh for 20 years through a number of cultural, sports, education and now arts activities. Mayor Ray Wallace is keen to grow these activities through our business communities too.

Our friendship is a close one and on the current Mayoral delegation Lower Hutt's been able to make connections that businesses acting alone may otherwise not been able to make themselves. This a country where relationships are really important, introductions are vital and any business stems from people getting to know each other well.

The Minoh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) told us that lot of local people really appreciate New Zealand food and produce - especially wine. We were served a chilled locally made yuzuru bottled drink and conversation quickly turned to local products in each city. Is there an opportunity to have a Hutt / NZ 'shopette' in Minoh and vice versa in Lower Hutt?
Minoh is similar in population size, but quite different in industry and business make up - though what's possible partnering at a regional level with Wellington too?

Mayor Ray Wallace, Deputy Mayor David Bassett, Tony Stallinger as a board member of Hutt Valley of Commerce were able to introduce our city's capabilities and discuss ways business could find new markets and growth opportunities in both countries.

Wellington's sister city Sakai is just a hop, skip and jump across Osaka from Minoh - so is there scope to build on several networks available to us?

We were very priviledged to meet Tsutomu Miyagi, President of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI) and a few of his team, with their network of 28,000 business members from a city of 3 million people and a wider region of 19 million. The OCCI has formal connections to 50 overseas Chambers including the Auckland Chamber of Commerce - so here's a chance to hold hands as a country. They provide trade opportunities for local and global SMEs and are happy to work with business of all sizes.

Overlooking the city from the JETRO office in downtown Osaka.

We felt very humbled as Wellington region's just 3% the size of Osaka though we have high-value niche products and innovators that are world-class too. Not only can we export to the Japanese market, we can as well as collaborate to create new products to go further globally.

We introduced our city's capabilities and areas of potential growth. a number of businesses are already partnering in Japan. Our science technology industry, namely new energy, pharmaceutical and advanced manufacturing are sectors we share. Discussion centred around ways we could get to know each other's industries better, identifying opporutnities for collaborating and the changing markets in both countries.

Meeting the Minoh Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Meeting the Minoh Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Meeting the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Meeting the Osaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Another great team to know is JETRO essentially funded by the Japanese government to champion investment in to Japan and facilitate business parnetships between globally. Meet certain criteria and you can get free office space, a local business advisor and connections to extensive networks. Their Auckland Office is a great one stop shop to understand all the nuts and bolts about business in Japan.

There's a lot of expertise at our reach. JETRO, OCCI, MCCI, and the Asia NZ Foundation, the Japan New Zealand Business Council annual conference is in Wellington next year, and most of all, the growing numbers of friends we have in and around Minoh.

Osaka is a hub for global commercial activity and we've started some valuable connections. It's worth spending the time to have a further look at the potetial here. The building blocks are ceratinly there out for those wanting to take up the challenge.


Reporting from Minoh
James Lamb, HMHFT Trust Secretary


More teachers, tours, students and Japanese art to come to Lower Hutt, celebrating 20 years with Minoh at the NZ Autumn Fair, must do's when you visit Minoh and more.


Schools connections growing global citizens

Today we visited Saito No Ora Gakuen [Primary School] and got a chance to be on their side of the daily Skype connection to Tui Glen School in Stokes Valley. Senior Teacher Graeme Penty is seen here describing to parents back in Stokes Valley the rugby training he's just taken with the Saito students as Mayor Ray Wallace looked on. Sure enough the Mayor got on in the action as the game moved inside becasue of the rain and demonstrated some deft passing technique!


Saito No Ora Gakuen's school role is set to triple in the coming years as one of a few combined primary* and intermediate* schools in an area that could be easily mistaken for Churton Park or recent developed areas of Maungaraki. Cranes and construction sites are everywhere. The population is growing and the children here will have a very good education.

Tui Glen School has very strong relationship with Saito returned this year with a group of 13, after travelling previously in 2013 and two of their teachers in Lower Hutt last year.

Glynis Skippers from Epuni School and the group met her counterparts at Todoromi Na Gakuen and saw the other side of their Skype screen too. The Mayor was quizzed on his choice of movies, cuisine and hobbies by some very competent English speakers.

It's great to know that we are able to make a valuable and very real daily contribution to Minoh City's push to grow capable global citizens and English speakers. Minoh has chosen to make a big push for English speaking capability throughout it's schools. Both of these Skype relationships have also been recognised by Sister Cities New Zealand awarding them the 2014 education award.

There's potential for much more interaction as we learned Hutt Intermediate and Toyowaka Elementary School plus Minoh High School and Hutt Valley High School (HVHS) are exploring similar projects through the Minoh Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA) and Minoh City [Council]. HVHS students had beaten us to it by visiting their sister school last week - in what's now an annual visit - each school to the other respecive city on alternate years.

The delegation was welcomed at the Minoh Multicultural Centre by Mayor Tetsuro Kurata and members of the Minoh City Office, MAFGA, Hutt Friendship Club, Minoh Art Association.

Many cultural guides to Japan list a top piece of advice of never being late to an appointment, though that's easily forgiven when we find ourselves fully engaged in 'after-match' discussion and reluctant to pull ourselves away to many more friends across the city.

Hutt Valley Rotary, our Mayor and Deputy Mayor and Hutt City Council CEO were guests of Minoh City Rotary tonight and discussion centred around approaches projects in both cities to grow each city.

Friendship Club members from both Minoh and Lower Hutt met together with us as members of the Hutt Minoh House Trust to cement further plans to increase activities. This includes regular programmes using Skype at the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library, accommodation and activities at Minoh House, sharing news of each city, and building on the very successful Japanese Spring Festival last week at Minoh House.

We'll bring you more photos and stories as we download camera SD cards and make more great connections.

Today's blog by James Lamb, HMHFT Trust Secretary

*NZ equivalent names used

Hutt City delegation to travel to Japan

hutt city counCil news release

Mayor Ray Wallace will be leading a Hutt City delegation to our sister city Minoh, in the Osaka Prefecture of Japan from 1-5 October this year.

The aim is to deepen the connection between the two cities, and increase educational, art and business opportunities.

The visit marks the 20th anniversary of friendship between the two cities. The occasion will be celebrated with a New Zealand Autumn Fair in Minoh, which will include a Kapa Haka performance by students on exchange from Tui Glen School.  New Zealand wine and food products will be showcased at the Autumn Fair.

Mayor Wallace says, “We already enjoy a close relationship with Minoh City with many regular exchanges and we’re keen to develop it. We will be looking to increase visitors to the city and Hutt Minoh Friendship House, which was established in Lower Hutt with generous support from Minoh City. We will also be signing a new teacher exchange programme, and establishing an art exchange.

“We also have a focus on developing business connections– Japan is the world's third largest economy so it’s a huge opportunity.  It is a key market for New Zealand goods and services, and also an important source of innovation and research which Lower Hutt strongly identifies with.”

The 32 member delegation will be the largest to visit Minoh from Lower Hutt, including the group of 13 on exchange from Tui Glen School. Hutt City Council is covering travel costs for five of these delegates and an interpreter.

Delegates include representatives from:

  • Hutt Valley Rotary,
  • Hutt City Arts and Culture Advisory Group,
  • Epuni School,
  • Tui Glen School,
  • Hutt Minoh Friendship Club,
  • Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce,
  • Active Wellington,
  • Sister Cities New Zealand, and
  • Hutt Art Society