Welcome back for Japanese students
The Whanganui District Council chamber was filled with dancing and singing when 20 students from Nagaizumi-cho in the Suntō District of Japan paid a visit.
Their trip this week marks the 35th anniversary of Whanganui and Nagaizumi-cho’s sister city status and they are the first group of students to visit in person since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.
There to greet them was acting mayor Helen Craig who thanked the students for their visit.
“Nagaizumi-cho has a special place in the hearts of many of Whanganui’s citizens since the relationship was established in 1988,” she said.
“Many students have benefited from exchanges and I’m sure they will carry that experience with them throughout their lives.”
Craig encouraged the delegation to check out Artists
Open Studios this weekend and to visit Aaron Scythe’s ceramics exhibition at 85 Glasgow St, which was heavily influenced by his own time in Japan.
During the school week, the students spent time with compatriots from Whanganui City College and Cullinane College.
Cullinane Year 11 student Gina Wilson said it had been great getting to know the visitors.
“We’ve been hanging out and going to class together.
“I would like to go over there [Japan] one day. They have a really cool culture and they’re all cheerful and friendly.”
Seventeen-year-old Nagaizumicho student Runa Yoneyana said she made a trip up Victoria Ave this week after school had finished.
It was her first time in Whanganui and she was looking forward to visiting Canaan Honey and the Durie Hill Tower.
“It’s been fun but it’s a different culture for me.”
This weekend the delegation will also visits the Whanganui River Markets, Whanganui Regional Museum, Kai Iwi beach and do a kete weaving class at Toirere Designs.
Nagaizumi Town Council general manager Masaharu Kawaguchi said he had been looking forward to visiting Whanganui and meeting everybody.
It was also his first time in the River City.
“We have not been able to exchange with each other due to Covid-19 and we would like to use this time to strengthen our ties once again,” he said.
Whanganui District councillor Rob Vinsen said a great example of the benefits of the sister city partnership was graphic designer Sari Tsutsumi.
“She came to Whanganui as an exchange student and was billeted here,” he said.
“Sari then returned around two years later and did a three-year course in computer graphic design at Ucol and qualified with a degree. She now works in a design agency in Nagaizumi-cho.”
Vinsen told the delegation he visited Nagaizumi-cho five years ago to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the partnership.
“I noted a motto your mayor had on his website — ‘Those who work hard talk about hope, those who are lazy talk about dissatisfaction’.
“What great words. I’m sure all of you students are hard workers and one day you’ll get the benefit of that we’ll see you back here in Whanganui.
“I hope to see you return as you go through your lives.”
After the speeches were completed, the exchange students performed a dance and sang a song, with Whanganui students joining in.