Rotorua welcomed its sister city and its new mayor, Yasuhiro Ngano, with a pohiri at the Government Gardens.

Councillor and cultural ambassador Trevor Maxwell said the two cities had a strong and beautiful relationship.

"We are really lucky," Mr Maxwell said.

Beppu in Japan and Rotorua have been sister cities since 1987, when the Rotorua mayor at the time, John Keaney, established the relationship.

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Since then it has been strengthened by a former mayor, Grahame Hall and over the past two years by the incumbent Steve Chadwick.

"I was at the initial signing and have had a long association, it's been very fruitful," Mr Hall said.

"It's been everything we could have wished for in a sister city," Mr Hall said.

Fifteen months ago, former Beppu mayor Hiroshi Hamada and Mrs Chadwick announced plans to jointly develop a Beppu Onsen facility in Kuirau Park incorporating an existing thermal foot pool and a communal steam kitchen.

Monday at the pohiri was the first meeting between Mrs Chadwick and Mr Ngano.

The purpose of the visit included further discussions on the spa and wellness industry, future sister-city plans and the Rugby World Cup which Japan will host in 2019.

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During their stay, the delegation were to visit a number of attractions around the city and meet tourism operators, business people and councillors.

Beppu is a coastal city on the southern island of Kyushu with a population of around 125,000.

The city features considerable geothermal activity and its economy is based on tourism.