Globally, Japan ranks as having one of the strongest national brands. It has been formally identified as a relationship “lift” country by the New Zealand Government.
More than 3000 New Zealanders have spent time in Japan teaching English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme) and tens of thousands of our young people have studied Japanese language at school.
Japan’s status as a soft power superpower has brought its culture into our everyday lives. Yet, what do New Zealanders really know about Japan – and where is the relationship going?
Driven by a series of sporting events, New Zealanders will be focused on Japan in a way they normally aren’t. Over the next two years, Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Summer Olympics, the 2020 Paralympics and the 2021 World Masters Games. These events will provide a unique window into Japan for tens of thousands of New Zealanders who may have previously had little contact with Japan or its people.
Many New Zealanders will be travelling to Japan for the first time and others will be getting exposure to Japan by tuning in from their living rooms. Sport can also serve as a stage for greater connection and understanding between people. It is a language many New Zealanders speak.
While we might be riveted to a sporting moment, we are equally getting a taste of Japan’s culture, values, outlook and history that we might not otherwise have. We also get a chance to consider what our relationship with Japan means for New Zealand.
As New Zealanders focus on Japan, the Asia New Zealand Foundation has commissioned this report to highlight the many strands of the New Zealand–Japan relationship: not only sport, but also education, tourism, trade and the many people-to-people links. Japan is arguably the Asian country with which New Zealanders have enjoyed the fullest relationship.
Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper