Mr Key marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries by spending three days in Japan - on his way home from Vladivostock in Russia, where this year’s APEC meeting was held.
While in Japan he toured Miyagi Prefecture, one of the worst hit areas in the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. In his meeting with the Governor of Miyagi, Mr Yoshihiro Murai, Mr Key offered his deep condolences to the people of Miyagi.
In his address at a moving ceremony held in the devastated township of Shichigahama, Mr Key said he wanted to share his “deep admiration for the way you carried on with such strength and determination in its aftermath”.
He presented a pounamu gift, created by a master carver of the South Island’s Ngai Tahu tribe, to the Mayor of Shichigahama, Yoshio Watanabe.
Mr Key thanked the people of Tohoku for hosting 11 Japanese-language students from Christchurch that accompanied the Prime Minister’s party, noting that the exchanges between our young people offer hope for the future in the wake of our tragedies.
A plaque was also presented to Masato Konno on behalf of the courageous Japanese urban search and rescue team, who came to New Zealand’s assistance following the Christchurch earthquake. After departing New Zealand Mr Konno had returned straight to his home in Tohoku to continue rescue work in the devastated Japanese region.
Mr Key says that in the recovery and rebuilding after both tragedies there are many opportunities for New Zealand and Japan to work together.
Engineers are exchanging ideas, he says, and there is interest in Japan about the effects of liquefaction and the evolution of New Zealand’s building standards in the wake of the earthquakes.
Mr Key met with Trade Minister Edano and Foreign Minister Gemba and lunched with senior Ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister, before a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Noda. They discussed the possibility of Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, currently under discussion.
While in Tokyo, Mr Key also launched Tourism New Zealand’s “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign. The advertising campaign is being rolled out with translations in Japanese, German and Chinese for in-market use promoting New Zealand as a travel destination in the build-up to the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington in November.