Japanese queue for Kiwi culture
04 Nov 2009
Thousands of Japanese visitors have had a taste of Kiwi culture at New Zealand’s giant rugby ball in downtown Tokyo this week.
Long queues formed outside the unique venue, sitting at the foot of the iconic Tokyo Tower, as the public waited their chance to view a spectacular audio visual show presenting New Zealand culture, personalities and landscapes. The show was also visible from the outside.
Cultural performances by Māori kapa haka group Te Arawa, who appeared inside and outside the ball, were a major drawcard.
It was the third major outing for the giant inflatable rugby ball which had already appeared in Paris and London.
The placing of the rugby ball under the Tokyo Tower captured Japanese media attention, with many television channels, newspapers and websites showing the ball to millions of viewers and readers.
National Television channel, Nippon TV broadcast the weather live from inside the giant rugby ball on Friday night.
Coverage went out to an estimated television audience of over 34 million, and total newspaper readership of around 30 million.
Local interest also caused a spike in users of Tourism New Zealand’s Japanese consumer website.
Promoting New Zealand
The ball was formally opened last Wednesday (28.10.09) by New Zealand Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key, and closed yesterday (3.11.09).
The opening united Japanese and New Zealand cultures, with a Māori mihi whakatau (welcome), which Shinto priests responded to with their own formal blessing.
During the week, the ball has played host to a series of public and private events aimed at promoting New Zealand as a place to visit, work and do business with, and showcasing New Zealand cuisine.
Māori cultural workshops
The programme also included two Māori cultural workshops for high school children and family groups.
Led by Māori cultural group Te Arawa, visitors were taken through the basics of kapa haka, including the story of the haka, poi and the meaning behind movements and rituals of a Māori welcome.
The haka is already well known in Japan through the nation’s love of rugby and long-standing interest in the New Zealand All Black team.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the cultural workshop was a way to promote an important element of New Zealand culture and history to visitors from New Zealand’s fifth largest visitor market.
"Alongside New Zealand’s natural scenery and landscapes, our Māori culture and history is a major draw for Japanese visitors. We are delighted that Te Arawa is with us in Tokyo to provide a more in-depth workshop explaining the haka and its history and meaning," Hickton said.
Te Arawa culture group
A national award-winning culture group Te Arawa was born out of the highly acclaimed Ngati Rangiwewehi cultural group, which has previously acted as New Zealand’s cultural ambassadors at key events such as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the South Pacific Festival of Arts.
Kapa haka is the traditional performance art of New Zealand's Māori people. The art form is frequently performed in modern Māori society and at important New Zealand ceremonial and competitive events.
The story of kapa haka
Giant rugby ball bounces into Tokyo
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