The Japan Society of New Zealand
The following brief historical account applies firstly to The Japan Society of New Zealand, Wellington, and includes information pertaining to The Japan Society of Auckland, The Japan Society of Canterbury, Christchurch; The Japan Society of Dunedin, The Japan-New Zealand Society, Marounouchi, Tokyo and The New Zealand Society of Japan, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo.
THE JAPAN SOCIETY OF NEW ZEALAND (INC.) was established in Wellington in June, 1959, when the inaugural meeting was addressed by the Rt. Hon. the Prime Minister of New Zealand and His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan. The Wellington Society soon grew to a level of around one hundred and sixty members and, over the next few years similar societies were established in a number of centres including Christchurch, Dunedin, Hawkes Bay, Tauranga, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Auckland and Tokyo.
At that time, in the early to mid sixties, New Zealanders were becoming far more conscious of the importance of getting to know some of our most interesting and progressive neighbours in the Pacific area, and annually hundreds were visiting Japan. The societies all had the common aim of promoting understanding and goodwill between the peoples of Japan and New Zealand. Their activities included the study of Japanese culture, both traditional and modern, the encouragement of exchanges with Japanese individuals and organization, hospitality for Japanese visitors, and information for those who proposed visiting Japan.
General meetings of the societies often began with short films supplied by the Japanese Embassy, followed by addresses and discussions of various topics of Japanese interest with a light supper to conclude each evening. Special meetings were arranged to give members an opportunity of meeting and hearing Japanese visitors, and outings were arranged for the crews of visiting Japanese ships. Japanese language classes were organised and small groups met to study various aspects of Japanese culture including some of the fine arts of Origami, Pottery, Bonsai, Ikebana and Tea Ceremony. Over time some of these specific interest groups developed into separate entities alongside the Japan Society in their respective centres.
Events in which the various Societies participated during those first few years included visits of the Japanese Youth Goodwill Mission, of university training ships, Floating Trade Fairs, Japanese women alpinists, and receptions given to the Society by the Ambassador. Lectures and films covered a wide range of topics, including Japanese architecture, literature, and pottery, the historical and geographical background of modern Japan, misconceptions about industrial Japan, and accounts of visits such as that given by the Rt. Hon. K. J. Holyoake.
Although the Japan Societies are not concerned with trade, all members realize that the goodwill developed amongst New Zealanders by the Japan Societies is favourable to the exchange of goods and ideas between our two countries.
New Zealand-Japan Societies were established in Tokyo and in other cities in Japan, and co-operation between these and New Zealand based Societies was developed to the advantage of both New Zealand and Japanese visitors. The Societies became helpful to those thinking of visiting Japan and became a means of maintaining the interest of those who had been there. Membership of the Society is and has remained open to all and new members are welcome. Members of any of the Japan Societies in New Zealand are welcome guests at the meetings of the societies in other centres.
The New Zealand Japan Society of Auckland Inc
An initial meeting was held on 21 March 1960 for the purpose of forming a Japan Society of Auckland. Present at the meeting were His Excellency S. Ishiguro Ambassador of Japan, A. G. Hardy Honorary Consul of Japan (in the chair), and 34 other persons.
(Mr Hardy was usually known as Captain Hardy, the Manager of the Northern Steamship Company, which was the agent for the Nitto Line; this latter company was later merged into the Japan Line. Mr Hardy was Honorary Consul for many years, until the appointment of the first Japanese Consul in Auckland Mr Isaburo Mukumoto in 1968.
The inaugural meeting of the Society was held on 1 November 1960, with Mr. Ishiguro, Mr. Hardy, and 72 others present. After Mr Hardy had declined the nomination, the first president of the Society Mr Owen Rainger, and other officials, were elected.
By a decision of the Annual General Meeting on 25 February 1981, the Society's name was changed to "New Zealand - Japan Society of Auckland". The intention has been to give a better public indication of the aims of our Society, which are to be a two-way bridge between the two countries.
The membership at the time was about 165 individuals or households, and about 75 companies as corporate members.
Over the next fifteen or so years the Society maintained a high level of interest with the Conversation Exchange evenings becoming more or less a 'hub' for general activities. Eric Thompson; the Societys secretary booked The Auckland Teachers College Staffroom at a cost of $10 per night for the Societys first Conversation night in the early 1980's. This remained the venue for many club activities until around 2004 when it was decided to move into a more central location. Since that time, The Pioneer Hall in the Ellen Melville Centre, CBD has served as the venue for these vital exchange evenings.
In the mid 1990's a Softball team, Frank's Butterfingers, was established to participate in the twice yearly Japanese softball tournaments, this continues until today. In 2002 a Yosakoi Soran Dance group was formed to participate at local events including the Auckland Christmas parade. Established as Haere Mai (Welcome Dance) they went as a troupe to the Yosakoi Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido participating in 2003. From this group an associated Taiko Drumming group has become established and more recently other instruments and arrangements have been added to their number.
The Society holds a Taste of Japan cultural festival annually bringing participants from around the region and invited guests from Japan notably from fukuoka, Auckland's Sister City. This is a free to the community event organised by the NZJS Council with a small team specifically planning and running the event. The Consul General of Japan, Auckland City, Asia NZ ASB Community Trust and AUT have been been the main supporters and sponsors of this event.
Recently the Society revised their constitution and, while retaining their primary NZ JAPAN 'bridge-building' aims, they have set out clearer objectives under the headings: EDUCATION, ARTS & CULTURAL, SOCIAL & SPORTING ACTIVITIES. This change has enabled the Council to concentrate more on strategic growth activities and the sub-groups to keep the wheels turning and manage more closely the grass-root activity.