Whangarei's mayor Sheryl Mai made sure a gift to celebrate the Japanese emperor's birthday had a uniquely local touch that also honoured Japanese artistic traditions.

Emperor Akihito might never get to enjoy the gift himself, but his representatives in New Zealand have received a copy of the children's book Baba Didi and the Godwits Fly, by Whangarei writer Nickie Muir, wrapped in artisan handmade paper from The Paper Mill. There's also a a message on a fine rice paper card written in classic calligraphy by recent Japanese immigrant to Whangarei, Mari Fushida-Hardy.

Adding even more local flavour to the emperor's gift, the wrapping features shells and dried spinifex grass from the Whangarei coast.

Ms Mai said it was particularly fitting that a portion of sales from Ms Muir's book will go to victims of the tsunami which hit Japan in 2011.


The Paper Mill trains intellectually challenged and disabled people in papermaking and manufacturing a range of products made on site from recycled materials and noxious weeds.

With a who's who of local and central government officials and other guests, Ms Mai attended the birthday bash thrown by the Japanese consulate in Auckland last night.

The Emperor's Birthday (known as Tenno Tanjobi) is a national Japanese holiday determined by the reigning emperor's birth date - December 23 in the case of the reigning Akihito.