Three Rutherford Junior High students enjoyed some Japanese hospitality in Whanganui's sister city Nagaizumi-cho this month.
Trinity Albert, Wiremu Newton and Tee-Jay Thomas-Edwards travelled with their principal Diane Henare, board chairman Pirirpi Blake, office manager Jodie O'Leary and teacher Julian Annear.
"We chose students who consistently demonstrated our school values of respect, justice, hard work and self-control," said Henare.
"We also worked with their families and Rutherford whānau hosted young visitors from Nagaizumi-cho while they were in Whanganui.
"The families got to know each other and our kids were hosted by those families in Japan."
From riding bullet trains in Tokyo to experiencing a traditional tea ceremony, the Rutherford students took in a lot of Japanese culture during their 10-day visit.
"We were welcomed to Nagaizumi-cho by Mayor Osamu Ikeda and the hospitality we received was really quite humbling," said Blake.
Students experienced Japanese education by attending classes at Nagaizumi Choritsu Junior High School, enjoyed spectacular views of Mt Fuji from the Mishima Skywalk and the local rotary club hosted a dinner, where Blake gave te reo lessons.
"They were really good - they picked up the phrasing very quickly because the Japanese vowel sounds are similar to Māori."
Henare said the experience was life-changing for the students and staff.
"Piripi and I travelled to Nagaizumi earlier this year to pave the way but we learned so much from our visit with the students as well.
"We really want to keep the visits going and this first group of students have done us proud and set a good precedent for future trips."
Wiremu Newton's dad Dyer said his son is one of 10 children and the family worked hard to help finance the trip.
"It was worth it because Wiremu got so much out of it and he really enjoyed seeing his friend Ryosuke Kanai, who had stayed with us here in Whanganui.
"I work part-time at Rutherford and I'm also a caretaker at Aranui School which raised $550 to help with the Japan trip.
"Wiremu, Trinity and Tee-Jay all attended Aranui so they were invited to give a talk about their trip at their old school."
Whanganui and Nagaizumi-cho became sister cities in the 1980s and visits between the two cities have continued ever since.