A former international student in New Zealand taught Japanese children to perform a haka to welcome the All Blacks to Japan.
Yuki Sugito became highly skilled at kapa haka (Māori performing arts) while studying at Wainuiomata High School in the Wellington region.
Now back in Japan, he recently taught a group of about 40 Japanese children to perform a haka to welcome the All Blacks to their pre-game training camp in the city of Kashiwa, near Tokyo.
Kashiwa has its own haka, and when the city’s rugby association heard about Yuki they decided he would be the ideal person to teach it.
“Japanese people love the haka, but I want to make sure they do it the proper way. I’m teaching the children how to do the actions to the haka and how to pronounce Māori words,” says Yuki.
Seeing the All Blacks play at the 2015 Rugby World Cup was one of the reasons Yuki decided to study in New Zealand, so he’s excited to be involved in welcoming the All Blacks to the next tournament.
Yuki, 19, spent two years studying at Wainuiomata High School. The highlight of his time in New Zealand was joining the school’s kapa haka group.
“Being part of the kapa haka group was very awesome and enjoyable. I even competed in a national kapa haka competition with my school group, which was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
He found New Zealand a great place to study.
“I really like the New Zealand education system because students at high school have lots of subjects to choose from. I was able to study Māori performing arts, te reo Māori (Māori language) and drama,” he says.
“New Zealand’s education system is different to the Japanese education system, so now I have the benefit of being educated in both systems. I think that will really help me in the future.”
Studying in a New Zealand high school also made Yuki more independent and outgoing.
“I used to be a shy person, but after studying in New Zealand my shyness has gone. Now I find it easy to make friends.”
When not teaching kapa haka, Yuki studies at Nippon Sport Science University in Tokyo. He wants to work as a PE teacher in Japan before possibly returning to New Zealand to continue his studies.