Japan based kapa haka showcases Māoritanga to the world

By Jessica Tyson

Japan-based haka group Ngā Hau e Whā is providing its members a family away from home and a way to connect and share the Māori culture to the world.

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the group has become in high demand across Asia, especially during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

One member is Anne Dil who is a leader within the group and moved to Tokyo 12 years ago.

“It’s the community. It’s the tight-knit group and that we have a common background. We’re all Kiwis living abroad in a Japanese setting amongst this Japanese culture, finding our own New Zealand niche amongst us.”

Dil says she was inspired to join six years ago.

“We went to Waitangi Day dinner at the embassy and I saw the kapa haka group perform and I saw a Tongan girl represent our culture and I thought if she can do it I can do it. I had two little children at the time but used to do kapa haka when I was at school so I wanted to get back into it.”

She says she hoped that joining would be a way to teach her children about the Māori culture.

“It’s given me a chance to show them our culture. They were born in Japan. They’ve grown up here and this is all the culture they know. To introduce them to kapa haka Māori culture through kapa haka is an awesome experience.”

Members comes from diverse backgrounds, including some from Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands and Japan.

They’re called on weekly to perform at events in Tokyo and around Asia at cultural partnership events between New Zealand and Japan, as well as events including charity events and school festivals. Earlier this week they performed at one of the fan zones at the Rugby World Cup. 

“We call on our ancestors and we use that spirit and that mana to perform each time,” says Dil.

“Each performance is actually very personal, very intimate to each of us, so each time we perform on stage it’s not just a performance. It’s ingrained in our heart and we hope to show that and express that in our dance.

The group is calling for others to join.

“We welcome any culture to who wants to learn about Māori culture and express it through dance and music. We’re happy for them to join us too.”