Exchange trip lasts a lifetime

02:28, Feb 14 2013
Kai Neill
Welcome: Kai Neill, 16, with his father, David Neill, formerly of Picton. Kai has moved from Japan to Marlborough to explore his New Zealand side and is attending Marlborough Boys’ College.

David Neill left Marlborough as a 19-year-old looking for travel and adventure. More than 20 years later his son has arrived in Blenheim for an adventure of his own.

Mr Neill, from Picton, was a business student at Nelson polytech in 1990 when he signed up for the first sister city exchange to Otari, Japan, where he worked in a hotel and went skiing every day. He enjoyed it so much he went back the next year and, apart from the odd holiday, has lived in Japan ever since, where he works as a warehouse manager.

He is back in Blenheim this month to bring his son Kai, 16, to start an adventure of his own, but in reverse. Kai has enrolled as a year 12 pupil at Marlborough Boys' College.

Kai had been living with mother Kimiko and younger brother Riki in the city of Nagoya in central Japan when he decided to come to Blenheim to explore his New Zealand side and learn English.

He has New Zealand and Japanese citizenship.

"It was Kai's idea to come here. We arrived three weeks ago and his English has already improved," Mr Neill said.

Kai was settling in well at his new school, which was quite different from schools in Japan. "At his old school, they had uniforms which they had to button right up the neck. They got very hot. Japanese schools are also more strict than New Zealand schools," he said.

Mr Neill is heading back to Japan today and Kai will be staying with his grandmother for the next two years of his school career. Kai said he would miss his parents, and would keep in contact with them via Skype.


The Marlborough Express