Japan is New Zealand's second-largest Asian visitor market, contributing around $266 million to New Zealand's economy each year.
Despite Jacinda Ardern's recent slip-up, in which she momentarily mixed up Japan with China, Japan-New Zealand relationships are strong. In the wake of the Rugby World Cup, Tourism New Zealand is hoping to improve Japanese visitor numbers, as the visiting All Blacks act as diplomats to the country.
Tourism New Zealand recently launched a campaign in Japan alongside the All Blacks and Air New Zealand on behalf of NZ Inc. The campaign, designed to show gratitude to Japan for welcoming thousands of New Zealand's rugby fans, draws on the similarities between the Japanese concept of omotenashi and the Māori concept of manaakitanga.
Omotenashi is hard to define, but is used by the Japanese to describe the culture's unique approach to hospitality. Omotenashi involves the subjugation of self in service to a guest, without being servile. The neat, calm ritual of a Japanese tea ceremony is a clear example of omotenashi.
Similarly, the Māori concept of manaakitanga describes the notion of hospitality, kindness, generosity, and support. Manaakitanga denotes the process of showing respect, generosity, and care for others.
“We’re expressing New Zealand’s gratitude to Japan for looking after our team and supporters, and showcasing the warm welcome they can experience in return in New Zealand as a place to visit, study and do business,” said Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall.
"We have a special relationship with Japan. Our shared love of rugby and the emphasis we place on being hospitable guests create a unique connection between our two countries."
The campaign's catchphrase, 'New Zealand Says 39,' makes reference to the fact that in Japanese culture 39, or 'san kyu', is commonly used to say 'Thank You'.
At the launch event, the All Blacks wore a special T-shirt emblazoned with the number 39, and pop-up festival event 'NZ Says 39' will be taking place in Japan until the end of the Rugby World Cup, showcasing New Zealand culture and produce, and allowing members of the public to meet All Blacks players.
“With arrivals from Japan in decline after four years of strong growth, there is a need to revitalise Japanese consumers’ view of New Zealand," said England-Hall. "This campaign is the perfect opportunity to do just that."
Tourism New Zealand is not the only group hoping to capitalise upon the Rugby World Cup. New Zealand's first and only sake brewery, Zenkuro, launched a unique sake commemorating the occasion.
David Joll, the founder and chief brewer at Zenkuro, spent 15 years living and working in Japan and named his company in recognition of his love of both Kiwi and Japanese culture - Zenkuro is Japanese for 'All Black'.
Though the Rugby World Cup sake is only available in Japan, Joll recently launched a New Zealand-first for sake. "We decided to brew a 'Muroka Nama Genshu'. It's undiluted, unfiltered, and unpasteurised. It'll be the first time for this style of sake to be produced in New Zealand."