Japanese university's dream Nelson visit

CONNECTING: Japanese students from Tokyo’s Seisen University with their professor, Tatsuya Yamamoto, centre front, iwi representative Mike Elkington, centre rear, and Charlie Martin, of Whenua Iti Outdoors, right, at the entrance to the Riwaka Resurgence.
CONNECTING: Japanese students from Tokyo’s Seisen University with their professor, Tatsuya Yamamoto, centre front, iwi representative Mike Elkington, centre rear, and Charlie Martin, of Whenua Iti Outdoors, right, at the entrance to the Riwaka Resurgence.

Japanese professor Tatsuya Yamamoto visited Nelson with his family two years ago, and began plotting to return to share it with his students.

"I always dreamed of having some sort of educational programme here. Now that dream is true," he said at the Riwaka Resurgence, where his students from Tokyo's Seisen University learned about Maori culture, and Kiwis' unique connection with the land.

It was the first time his global citizenship studies class has conducted field work in New Zealand.

He had previously taken classes to India and Bhutan and Malawi.

But after Nelsonians had made him feel welcome during his previous visit, he was set on returning to Nelson and Tasman.

Mr Yamamoto's course considers different cultures' engagement with the Earth, and looks at establishing sustainable energy and food production practices, he said.

"Japan and New Zealand are both islands, but with very different populations.

"We can't follow New Zealand directly, but it means we can learn some interesting things."

Having spent nearly two weeks in Tasman, sea kayaking, camping, and sampling cuisine, the 12-woman group's cultural lessons culminated at the foot of the Takaka hill last week, where the Riwaka river begins its overland journey to the sea.

Ngati Koata's Mike Elkington talked about the area's special significance to Maori, and raised questions about nature's position in society, and humans' relationship with the environment.

He explained the resurgence, Te Puna o Riuwaka, was considered to be a wahi tapu by Maori, a respected place where they would not eat food or swim.

The waters were traditionally believed to have healing qualities, and newborn babies were commonly brought to the resurgence to be blessed. "This water is special water. It comes up, from the mother, not down from the father. This is a place where you bring your new baby to introduce her to Papatuanuku, the Earth mother," Mr Elkington said.

Whenua Iti Outdoors instructor Charlie Martin said the group finished their cultural tour by making "potions" out of native plants, including kawakawa, which was good for your skin, and koromiko, which soothed an aching belly.

The students spent the final three days of their field trip based at Whenua Iti Outdoors in the Motueka Valley. They visited Neudorf Dairy, Village Milk, the Smokehouse, and Blackenbrook winery. "The programme allows us to showcase the region whilst really exploring the cultural connections that the people hold with the land," Whenua Iti manager Mark Bruce-Miller said.

The Nelson Mail