New Zealand Working Holiday Visa the start for an inspired career

Ai Okada was born in Kobe, Japan, received a degree from Hiroshima University's graduate school, and worked as a tour guide on Yakushima Island before taking a trip on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa and finding work as a Japanese interpreter.

Okada said that after arriving in New Zealand in March 2007 on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa she soon thought of returning home, but now she has fully integrated herself into the Hokianga community in the northern region and has won the trust of the  Maori people connected with a tour company in a forest preservation area.

She has also been involved in projects run by Tourism New Zealand and is trying to establish a "sister city tree" relationship that would link the kauri trees in a forest sanctuary in Waipoua and Japanese Jomon "sugi" cedars on Yakushima, an island on the World Heritage list south of Kagoshima Prefecture.

Jomon sugi, the biggest trees on Yakushima, are believed to be 2,000 years old, and some New Zealand trees kauri trees are believed to be older than 1,000 years.

Okada, 33, has been working as a Japanese eco-tour interpreter for the Footprints Waipoua tour company since December 2007, when she first became acquainted with company head Koro Carman.

"Her experience as a guide on the World Heritage island of Yaku has been valuable," Carman, 35, told The Japan Times.

"She is rather a teacher for us."

"Maori culture brims with appreciation and respect for nature and human beings," Okada said. "I have been completely enveloped by it, as I was attracted to the Maori people's warm hospitality."

The protected forest is only four hours by car from Auckland but Japanese and other overseas travelers on group tours hardly ever visit the sanctuary.

Okada said, "I'm always thinking of what I can do to introduce the charm of this land."

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in New Zealand Working Holiday Visas.