By Hayley Gastmeier
A Japanese conductor with strong links to Featherston has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List for
his work on building relations between Japan and New Zealand.
Hiroshi Masumoto was named an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to New Zealand-Japan relations and music.
Mr Masumoto is the founder and musical director of Chor Farmer, a Tokyo-based male choir which has been touring Australasia bi-annually for over 30 years.
Since 2000, Mr Masumoto has been directly responsible for touring the choir to New Zealand, including to Featherston, in memory of those who died in World War II.
It was during the choir’s visit in 2000 that they learned of Featherston’s links with Japan.
Featherston was home to a prisoner of war camp for captured Japanese servicemen during WWII.
The camp is remembered for the 1943 incident in which 48 Japanese prisoners and a New Zealander guard were killed.
Mr Masumoto arranges the music the choir performs, which includes Maori songs.
Choir members pay their own way and are billeted with New Zealand families, and the concerts have a nominal entry charge with all proceeds going to the host organisation.
The tours have therefore not been for commercial gain, but rather to develop relations between Japan and New Zealand communities.
The choir has provided a grant to the Featherston Heritage Museum and helped source a grand piano for the Featherston Anzac Hall.
Former South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples, who was also named in the New Year’s Honour’s List, said she “strongly supported” the application for Masumoto and “was thrilled to bits” to learn he had been named.
“To be honest I was as pleased for him as I was for myself,” said Mrs Staples, who became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
She said “the choir had gone a long way to building bridges” between the two countries.
When the choir visited Featherston last year, Mrs Staples surprised Mr Masumoto and choir members by making them all honorary citizens of South Wairarapa.