80-year-old Japanese backpacker melting hearts around NZ

An eighty-year-old Japanese backpacker is travelling New Zealand - and has been on the receiving end of plenty of warm hospitality.

Mr Sakamoto is getting a warm reception as he makes his way around Aotearoa. Source: 1 NEWS

Hiromi Sakamoto could well be New Zealand's oldest backpacker, he speaks very little English, and had not left his home country in more than 50 years before coming to New Zealand.

"I was very busy bringing up my five children - now is a good time for me to travel," he says.

Mr Sakamoto arrived in Auckland two weeks ago, and after staying at a hostel for a few days, he headed off on his own to the north.

After getting to Kawakawa, he was hitchhiking while holding a sign saying "paihia" when he was spotted by members of the local Maori tourism board, who happily picked him up.

He had originally intended to stay at a YHA, but the board members told him that was no good, and put him up in a flash hotel.

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He also got to dine with the mayor of Whangarei and has been taken on a boat cruise.

New Zealand was a good choice of destination, he said, because it was a safe place to visit and the people are friendly.

While Mr Sakamoto can't use a cell phone or computer, he is keeping in touch with his family the old-fashioned way - he has written them one letter per day he has been here, and will keep doing so for the three months of his visit.