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No. 70 (1972)
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The Japanese Crown Princess admires Tina's greenstone earrings

Hostess at Expo ‘70

My job at Expo 70 was with the New Zealand Government, as one of 14 hostesses. We had various jobs to do and took turns — I sometimes escorted people through the Pavilion, was on duty at the film ‘This is New Zealand’ to answer any questions, and also appeared on radio, T.V., and visited schools telling the Japanese about New Zealand. There were 35 Japanese girls with us, who also escorted visitors and sometimes interpreted for us.

My working hours were from 9.30 a.m.-3.30 p.m. or 3.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. A chauffeur driven car would call at the apartment for the hostesses and take us to the Pavilion. These cars were provided because the Japanese trains were always extremely crowded and one had to push hard to get in and out.

The V.I.P.s I remember most were the Crown Prince of Japan and his wife, who were such charming people. I dressed in Maori costume to welcome them and the Princess showed tremendous interest in the greens lone earrings I was wearing and the bone tiki I had round my neck.

Before going to Japan we had four weeks' preparation in Wellington, learning about the job and how to speak Japanese. Prior to this I had been taking lessons in Japanese for four months and found that being a Maori helped considerably, as the pronunciations are similar.

As well as hostesses, there was a big staff of people involved in the restaurants, several technicians, and public relations staff. We all lived in a huge apartment complex which housed about 3,000 people from 75 countries. We lived harmoniously together and learned many things from each other. We sampled different foods, and on getting together during our days off, learned many different customs.

As for Expo itself, the Russian and American Pavilions were the most popular. Canada had a large Pavilion, and although New Zealand was smaller in size it was about 5th in popularity, especially the Geyser Room where people could eat New Zealand food in the peace and quiet and were able to relax in the cool. At first it was very cold, and our fine wool suits were not warm enough. But later on, the temperatures soared and I found it very tiring with the humidity. We had to have lighter uniforms made, but even these weren't light enough and outside our air-conditioned pavilion, apartments and even the cars, we became quite uncomfortable.

On New Zealand Day, the Pavilion was closed down, except for showing V.I.P.s through during the morning. At 2.30 I took

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some friends to the Expo Hall where the Maori Concert Party was performing and this everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Many of them had never seen Polynesian dancing before and were enthralled with it. In fact, many people tried to join in. It was the best performance I'd ever seen, and I felt tremendously proud. After that we had a cocktail party at 5 p.m. and a meal of New Zealand steaks and other delicacies. The Japanese were tremendously impressed with our whole New Zealand Day programme, and although I've heard that people at home here were rather critical of the miming, etc., it was exactly right for Japan.

One of the Japanese gardeners was very keen to learn a haka for National Day, so I taught him. He was delighted and I was ‘No. 1 Honourable Missee’ with him.

I was chosen to go with five other hostesses — one from Ethiopia, one from Holland, two from Italy and one from America — on a most exciting week-long trip to an island. A publicity film was made of our visit. We all slept in one room on ‘tatania’ which is a matting, on he floor in a ‘ryokan’ which is a Japanese inn.

During our free time we went to Tokyo for shopping and to see the sights, also Osaka and to Hiroshima where there is a Peace Museum commemorating the people who lost their lives when the atom bomb was dropped during the Second World War. People there asked me if I was an American and when I told them that I came from New Zealand, they were very pleased, and some of the men who had been prisoners of war here, said how well they had been treated by our people.

The Japanese people are so polite and patient and I think I learned a lot from

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Tina Ngaparu with one of the Japanese Hostesses at the New Zealand Pavition

their way of life. They smile a lot and take life leisurely. Since I have been back in New Zealand I have found that I'm more relaxed and am able to take things as they come, instead of worrying about them as I used to. In fact two assets I gained in Japan, are patience and tolerance.

Food in Japan is very expensive compared with New Zealand — I mean, Western-style food. For instance, a packet of Weetbix cost $1, a small jar of Marmite $1 and one potato about 29 cents, so you can see, the cost of living is very high. This was accentuated by the fact that so many overseas visitors were visiting the country at the time and the shop keepers made the most of it. This inflation still exists at the moment.

Even though I loved my work, it exhausted me. After Expo was over the

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During one of their free afternoons. Tina and a friend took part in the elaborate Japanese tea ceremony

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Hostess at Expo ‘70

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hostesses were allowed to stay on at the apartment for two weeks to recover from a hectic six months.

I then went on a three month world tour and am now back in New Zealand working as an announcer for the N.Z.B.C.

Looking back now, I still enjoy some of the things that happened to me. I became very fond of one of the Japanese hostesses, and invited her to stay in our apartment before I left Japan. We had no extra beds, so had a lot of fun dividing my divan into mattress and base. After a friendly argument, my friend slept on the mattress on the floor. Much later, when round the other side of the world, a friend said to me, “Didn't you realise who she was? Didn't her name give you a clue?” I was quite mystified, and was astonished to find that my Japanese friend was the daughter of a well known millionaire! So I virtually had a millionaire sleeping on my bedroom floor.

My experiences of 1970, Expo and my world tour, sometimes seem like a dream. Only when I look at my photo albums and answer my overseas correspondence do I realise that it all did happen.