Sakai, Japan

Our only sister city in Japan, Wellington’s positive relationship with Sakai has a wide range of areas of cooperation and exchange.

Located in Osaka Prefecture, Sakai has a rich and colourful history, it has been one of the largest and most important seaports of Japan since the 16th century. Sakai flourished as the hub of trade and commerce, and at the time was known internationally as “The Venice of the East”. It is also the birthplace of revered tea master, Sen no Rikyu.

Today, Sakai is home to approximately 810,000 residents and is recognised for its craft cutlery industry (Sakai knives are much sought after by chefs) and precision bicycle parts manufacturing. It is also the site of the one of the largest ancient tombs in the world. Known in Japanese as Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun, these keyhole-shaped burial mounds date from the fifth century.

How the relationship began

The idea of the Sakai-Wellington sister city relationship was originally promoted by the Japanese Ambassador to New Zealand at the time, Takeo Iguchi.

In 1993, Fran Wilde, then Mayor of Wellington, visited Sakai and signed an agreement to set up a sister city relationship. On 4 February 1994 in Wellington the Mayor of Sakai, Hideo Hataya, and Mayor Wilde formally signed the sister city agreement.

The Wellington Sakai Association was set up in 1995. The mission of the association is to support the Council in the development of the sister city relationship with Sakai. There is also a Sakai Wellington Association in Japan.


Wellington enjoys an active relationship with Sakai, and highlights of the relationship include:

  • mayoral delegations
  • annual children’s art exhibition
  • city and business delegations
  • establishment of the Sakai Cherry Garden
  • annual marathon exchange
  • education exchanges
  • cultural exhibitions, including art, pottery and ikebana.