11 April 2024

Rangaranga ki te ao: Expanding Indigenous networks on a Prime Minister's Scholarship to Japan

Alumni Stories

Klee Begbie of Rangaranga shares the experience of their rōpū of 12 Māori graduates who travelled to Japan on an eight-week, indigenous-to-indigenous cultural exchange with the indigenous people of Japan as group awardees of the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia.

Ko tōku whare wharaunuku, ko tōku whare wharaurangi, ko tōku whare wānanga, mākū anō te whiringa kia tikarohia ngā matauranga o te ao mārama , kia kauparea ngā whakaaro kia mahea kia wātea.

From the sky to the ground to everything in between is where the universe's knowledge has been placed, as well as inside all of us, it’s our choice to unravel ourselves and interpret that knowledge to use it to clear ourselves and ultimately allow space to create the lives we want and excel.

Composed by Te Rangihoapu Herangi

Rangaranga is a whare wānanga that uses pūrakau (storytelling) to transform whānau mindsets and empower whānau to determine their own futures. Our six beautiful co-founders brought to life a kaupapa that has now reminded over 200+ whānau of their inherent awesomeness, these participants have then gone on to create awesomeness in their own lives, businesses, and wellbeing.

It was a vision of the Rangaranga directors to create a resource using our Māori creation stories as a tool for how we can create our futures. For Rangaranga, this is mana motuhake fulfilled – our whānau equipped with tūpuna wisdom and re-awakened to their right and power to their own self-determination.

Rangaranga started as a seed in the Waikato to share with whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand and is now a vision that has taken this rōpū of 12 Māori who travelled to Japan on an eight-week, indigenous-to-indigenous cultural exchange called Rangaranga ki te ao. Our rōpū are all graduates of Wānanga Rangaranga or are the founders and directors of the Rangaranga Foundation.

Rangaranga ki te ao shared the message of indigenous self-determination to the indigenous people of Japan to inspire them and all indigenous peoples on a global scale to determine their own futures and remind them of the power they descend from.

Rangaranga ki te ao – Our rōpū visiting the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo, Japan in January

The Rangaranga ki te ao cultural exchange provided an opportunity for the seven rangatahi members within the rōpū to spend intentional time in wānanga while in Japan to create Rangarangatahi.

Rangarangatahi is a continuation of Wānanga Rangaranga and is designed specifically to be relatable to rangatahi or young people. Rangarangatahi was created by rangatahi for rangatahi, a kaupapa created during the haerenga in Japan and ready to be delivered across Aotearoa New Zealand.

The message shared to the indigenous audiences we presented to in Japan from our Rangarangatahi group for indigenous rangatahi was to ‘shine bright in this beautiful big world and be proud of who are you, do what’s right for you, do what’s right for the people around you and do what’s right for the world. The time for action is now.’

The main purpose that Rangaranga Foundation applied for the scholarship was to provide an indigenous exchange opportunity that connects us back to our creation stories through Rangaranga, and now Rangarangatahi to have whānau thrive in Aotearoa New Zealand and the rest of the world.

Our Rangaranga graduates who formed the Rangaranga ki te ao rōpū spoke of the transformation they experienced within Wānanga Rangaranga and that they had faith in the kaupapa so much so that they truly believed it would be an empowering haerenga for both themselves and everyone they were destined to meet along the cultural exchange in Japan

Some of the Rangarangatahi co-founders described the haerenga to Japan as ‘a no brainer’, and an ‘opportunity you couldn't say no to’. The successful applicants and travel rōpū understood that the intention while in Japan was to create a rangatahi programme for the leaders of the future and to build relationships with the indigenous peoples of Japan.

Rangaranga ki te ao; Japan itinerary

We did a wide variety of activities and experiences across Japan starting centrally in Tokyo and Osaka then travelling to the northern end of Japan in Nibutani, Hokkaido. The rōpū then returned to Osaka and headed to the southern parts of Japan in Okinawa (located within the indigenous lands known as the Lew Chew (Ryūkyū) Kingdom and returned to our central base in Osaka and Tokyo before returning home to Aotearoa New Zealand

During our time in Japan we had around 15 indigenous exchanges of sharing our kaupapa of Rangaranga and Rangarangatahi, and engaging in indigenous customs (kai, weaving, carving, reo classes etc.). We engaged with Rangatahi at three different Universities, and four different Kura and Kohanga engagements. We had three Embassy visits, we visited six museums getting insights into cultural practices, and arts of the iwi here, as well as visiting multiple wāhi tapū. We also spent time in over 13 wānanga of our own to create Rangarangatahi.

Throughout our haerenga in Japan we shared presentations about Rangaranga and the creation of Rangarangatahi to the Schools, Universities, Embassy’s, Japanese media, and to the different indigenous groups we met.

The message we have been sharing and the stand we made within the various presentations and visits was clear, staunch and unwavering. We stood strong in our Māori identity and encouraged them to stand strong and proud of their indigenous Identity.

Sharing our kaupapa with the indigenous people of Japan was a demonstration of the power of tūpuna kōrero, pūrākau and creation stories, and ultimately the power within us and them. We made a powerful stand of solidarity with the Ainu and Lew Chew (Ryūkyū) iwi. Every presentation ended with the following message from one of our Rangatahi; ‘This is a message from the Māori youth to your indigenous youth; may we bring to life our dreams for a future with thriving grandchildren. The solutions are within us. It is our birthright as indigenous people to thrive’.

The response to our kōrero from the indigenous people of Japan was overwhelming, heartfelt and at times emotional. After one share with one of the community groups we had a room full of indigenous people emotionally declaring their indigenous identity, a practice which they did not see possible before our meeting. It was obvious that we had developed a pono global connection within an indigenous network of brothers and sisters each contributing to one another and empowering one another. We became present to how impactful, empowering and important it is for others when you stand authentically and unapologetically in your identity. The response from the Ainu and Lew Chew (Ryūkyū) iwi created a desire to come to Aotearoa New Zealand to further experience our culture, our te ao Māori worldview.

It is evident by our itinerary that our haerenga in Japan has been filled with countless amazing experiences. From the different exchanges, to the attractions and just the everyday experience of diving into the culture of Japan through its cuisines, cities, railways and people. We have compiled a list of our different highlights from Japan but the following quote from one of our rōpū provides more insight into our experiences:

“One of the greatest moments for me was watching the team present at the museum in Okinawa. They all spoke powerfully and showed the 60+ people in attendance what true Mana Motuhake and having pride in your culture looks like. You often hear the term ‘unapologetically Māori’ being thrown around. But Rangaranga is exactly that. And it showed that night and every other time we have gone to meet with people and present our kaupapa. I am so proud to be Māori and to be part of Rangaranga. We are changing lives, one kōrero at a time.”

Highlights and reflections from our rōpū

  • The indigenous to indigenous exchanges with the Ainu, and Lew Chew (Ryūkyū) people.
  • The powerful relationship developed with the indigenous peoples we met.
  • Visiting the indigenous wāhī tapu and connecting with the stories of the land.
  • Being recognised and hosted by the Vice-Governor of Okinawa.
  • Okinawa!
  • The hospitality of the people in Japan.
  • Authentic Indigenous travelling.
  • Kai!
  • 7 Eleven.
  • Powerful conversations within the tira and with the people of Japan and Okinawa.
  • DisneyLand/Disney Sea
  • The snow and skiing
  • Learning new cultures and customs
  • Connecting with the indigenous rangatahi and empowering them in the stand they make for their people every day.
  • The indigenous people of Okinawa are warriors committed to self-determination and inspired me to commit to that as well.


  • Small spaces.
  • Train systems.
  • Timings.
  • Not having home comforts (car, food, bed and pillow).
  • Language.
  • Learning to be in a space with 12 different people for over two months.
  • Adjusting to the cold.
  • Missing the Kai back home.


  • Allow extra time when commuting to events (In Japan, people are very punctual and to be late is considered disrespectful).
  • Purchase an ICOCA or SUICA Card - a train card that makes commuting easier.
  • Purchase an online E-Sim in Klook app which includes unlimited data.
  • Apps that are a must: Google Maps, Google Translate, Japan Travel, Klook, TikTok (to research best food places), Uber and Uber Eats.
  • Japan is a very safe place. If you lose your wallet, chances are it's still there!
  • Power banks are essential.
  • Pack accordingly for your travels. There are plenty of laundromats around, so there’s no need to overpack.
  • Bring one suitcase and near the end of your trip buy another suitcase to fill up with any Japan goods (like clothes and kai).
  • Create good communication as a tira so that everyone can manage their timings and turn up prepared.
  • Have your own ways to cope with the noise and manage yourself (reading, music, training, whīkoi, breathwork or mindfulness).
  • Acknowledge the lands, atua, and tāngata whenua on your haerenga through karakia.
  • Take an HDMI cord to watch Netflix.
  • Bring lots of small koha to gift to people you meet.
  • Stay in contact with your whānau.
  • Journal, take photos and videos.
  • Embrace the haerenga fully, be present, practice gratitude and see the opportunities every day.

Ultimately our ‘Rangaranga ki te ao’ has been a magical haerenga for Rangaranga, Rangarangatahi, and us as a travelling tira. We feel immense gratitude for this haerenga, and are opened to a new perspective by this global experience. Upon initial reflections our tira commented how transformational the haerenga was for them, how much they are missing each other’s presence, missing the environment and culture in Japan, and how the haerenga has already aligned so much of their commitments as they’ve returned to their own lives.

Our Directors encourage other whānau to put an application in! To realise the pūkenga they have within them and that they are themselves a gift for the world, so to make the most of the PMSA opportunity to share themselves and share their culture with the World! This haerenga has been so valuable and powerful for us and our Directors want all other whānau to know this is possible for them too. Their advice for other whānau is to apply and to reach out to the Kaimahi at ENZ as Pou Tautoko for any guidance they may need with preparing a powerful application!

To conclude, our rōpū would like to share a poem from one of the rangatahi in the tira, Tyra Begbie, who captured the magic of our haerenga to Japan.

“Waewae tapu.

Just like Māhinaarangi, who traversed from her kāinga in the declaration of settling her ūkaipō.

We too have left our homelands, in the knowing, in the declaration, that we will bring our people home.

Home beyond the physical. Home beyond the pā.

Home as in self, tōku nei whare.

Just like Hoturoa, who traversed Te Moana Nui A Kiwa.

We too have traveled skies and seas, for our mokopuna to see.

Just like Māui who determined night and day.

We too have determined the ara of our tamariki.

An ara of freedom, creation, and love.

We leave our sacred footprints here, a spiritual pathway, as waewae tapu to ensure that our tamariki, our mokopuna, know paths to the four corners of the world.

So they too can talk about us as ancestors who carved out ara and realities in the same way that Māhinaarangi, Hoturoa, and Māui did.”

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