The sister city relationship between Rotorua and Beppu has been given a significant tick of approval by the Japanese city's newly-elected mayor.
Yasuhiro Nagano visited Rotorua earlier this week for a three-day visit and said he was "very impressed" by what mayor Steve Chadwick and her council had achieved in two years.
Mr Nagano was sweeping in his praise of the hospitality he and his delegation received in Rotorua.
His impressions were shared by Mrs Chadwick who said the visit was a "huge success".
"There are some really strong similarities between our two cities and as we have done, he is looking at innovation and reform within his council.
"The hook mayor Nagano was most interested in was how we are connecting and working with our community in order to progress our vision and for me that interest reinforced just how important that is."
Mrs Chadwick said the Beppu delegation set the agenda for its visit to Rotorua.
"They told us what they wanted to see - they came to pick our brains and share information and that's what these sister city relationships are about. There's strategic value for both cities and given the similarities between Rotorua and Beppu, including similarities in the pressures and issues they face, it's a good fit for us," she said.
One reason for the visit was to learn about Rotorua's experience as a host during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Beppu is a host city in 2019.
"I was pleased to see the willingness from Rotorua to provide support in whatever way they can," Mr Nagano said.
"The World Cup is going to be very important for Beppu."
The delegation visited Kuirau Park, Rotorua Museum, Okawa Bay, the Redwoods, the International Stadium and Te Puia.
"I was very impressed at the harmony between the citizens of Rotorua and the Maori people," he said.
"Though your city is a compact one, you also take advantage of the beauty of nature and incorporate it into what you do.
"That organic expansion integrates well with the city plans. I liked the benefits the Green Corridor offers the city by having a shared space that is safe from traffic," he said.
Two years ago former Beppu mayor Hiroshi Hamada and Mrs Chadwick announced plans to jointly develop a Beppu Onsen facility in Kuirau Park to incorporate an existing thermal foot pool and a communal steam kitchen.
The park is tagged for redevelopment and is part of a vision to develop Rotorua's spa and wellness industry.
Mrs Chadwick said to have Rotorua chosen as the new mayor's first sister city visit was wonderful following her visit to Beppu 18 months ago.
Beppu and Rotorua have been sister cities since 1987.