Emperor’s Birthday Reception Speech by Consul General Hamada (10 Feb 2023)

Members of Parliament the Honourable Jenny Salesa,
Ms Melissa Lee, and
Mr Simon O’Connor,
Deputy Mayor of Auckland Desley Simpson and Auckland Councillors,
My colleagues of the Auckland Consular Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kombanwa. Good evening. Welcome to the Emperor’s Birthday Reception 2023.

It was only just the weekend before last that Auckland and the upper North Island experienced severe weather. I offer my sympathy to those who sustained damage during this time. Despite these circumstances, I am deeply grateful that so many of you could come tonight.

As many of you know, this is the first time we have been able to hold this reception here at the Consul General’s Residence since February 2020, three years ago.

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be able to host this reception for the first and last time to celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday with so many friends of Japan. 

His Majesty the Emperor turns 63 years of age on the 23rd of February.
His Majesty and Her Majesty Empress Masako visited New Zealand 20 years ago in November 2002 as Crown Prince and Princess. Their daughter, Princess Aiko, has come of age and began her official role within the Imperial Family last year. Time truly does fly.

I would love nothing better than to reflect on whole of the last three years of exchanges between Japan and New Zealand, but as time is limited, I will touch upon just the past year.

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and New Zealand.
In April, then-Prime Minister Ardern visited Japan and held bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida. They reaffirmed the importance of strengthening the strategic co-operative partnership between our countries. Prime Minister Ardern took the opportunity to promote New Zealand produce/products in Tokyo, and I am sure many of you remember footage of the Zespri mascots, the ‘Kiwi Brothers’ swaying meditatively to a slow song.

Covid restrictions began easing mid-last year, and people-to-people exchanges began to grow again. A clear example is in the business sector. The Japan New Zealand Business Council (or JNZBC for short) held its annual joint meeting in Beppu city in Oita Prefecture last November, the first time the annual joint meeting was held in person since September 2019 in Chiba. The New Zealand chair of JNZBC, former New Zealand Ambassador to Japan Mr Ian Kennedy, and other members who attended the meeting in Beppu are here with us tonight. Beppu is the sister city of Rotorua, by the way. I would also like to mention that a group of 30 business delegates promoting the Port of Nagoya will visit Auckland next week, the biggest delegation from Japan in a number of years. This is surely just the tip of the iceberg of business exchanges and I look forward to seeing even more this year.

Now I would like to talk a little about the upper North Island, the area the Consulate-General of Japan works in.
Approximately 20,000 Japanese people live in New Zealand. Of those, around 10,000 live in Auckland and its surrounding areas.
I am sure you are well aware of the annual Japan Day festival, which can safely be called a symbol of friendship between the Japanese Community and Auckland. The auspicious 20th Japan Day was long postponed due to Covid, but after a two-year-nine-month wait, it was back again on the 6th of November last year, and lots of local Aucklanders came and enjoyed the festival. It is thanks to the efforts of the Japanese Society of Auckland, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Auckland (Nisuikai), and the many volunteers and sponsors that Japan Day happened again. Japan Day is a beloved event for Auckland and I pray for its continued growth and success. 

There are 44 Sister City relationships between Japan and New Zealand, and 20 of these are within the area my office oversees. Five of those, including Fukuoka City, Kakogawa City, and Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, are relationships with Auckland. I am sure you will be familiar with the relationship with Fukuoka in particular, as they donated the fantastic Japanese garden right beside the Auckland Zoo. Today we have the pleasure of having Deputy Mayer Simpson and members of the Auckland Council with us, and also Mayor Len Salt of Thames-Coromandel, which has a sister-city relationship with the town of Misaki in Okayama Prefecture and Deputy Mayer Lis Stolwyk of Waipa which has a sister-city relationship with the town of Bihoro of Hokkaido. The grassroots exchanges fostered through Sister City relationships are an integral part of furthering friendly relations between our countries. The Consulate General of Japan in Auckland will continue to support these exchanges. 
In the far corner tonight there is some introductory information about Japan-New Zealand sister city relations, please do have a look.

In closing, I’d like to raise a glass with you all, in the hope that 2023 will be a great year: 

To his Majesty the King and to the good health and happiness of the People of New Zealand.
Kampai (Cheers)!