"I’m so excited for people to read this story, and uncover the connection between Japan and Aotearoa through Asajiro. My Japanese heritage means the story of the first Japanese settler in Aotearoa is a part of my history too.”

Comic artist Jem Yoshioka

“This is one story from our history that has whakapapa links to Waikato-Tainui, and links to important themes of dislocation and alienation across Aotearoa.“

Author Sharon Aroha Hawke


Sharon Aroha Hawke and Jem Yoshioka

Asajiro is a tri-lingual interactive app aimed at raising a wider appreciation of te reo Māori and our history.

The app uses a comic format to tell the true story of Noda Asajiro, the first Japanese settler to New Zealand. At the age of seven Asajiro was mistakenly left aboard a ship that set sail from his home port while he slept.

After years at sea as a sailor, he eventually landed in New Zealand in the late 1880s, where he married Rihi Tipene Te Ahu from Kawhia. They and their descendants then had to deal with the prejudices faced by a mixed race family: ridiculed for being different, their lives were very difficult, especially during the two World Wars.

The story was researched and written by Sharon Aroha Hawke of Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Mahuta lineage and illustrated by comic artist Jem Yoshioka, whose comics tell evocative stories with themes of belonging, place and heritage. Japanese voice acting is by local family Tomoko and Manabu Iwamoto and their 10 year old son Taiga.

Learning resources integrated into the app for teachers include curriculum links, learning activities, an extensive list of resources available, and a historical timeline for printing and sharing.

Production was supported by the Ministry of Education’s Te Aho Ngārahu fund, an initiative to improve the access to quality local curriculum resources in te reo Māori.

  • Swipe-to-Read™
  • Touch-to-Hear™
  • Touch-to-Spell™
  • Record your narration
  • Colour in the illustrations
  • Multiple languages