AS Japan seeks to build increasingly closer ties with its global allies, a visit to Bendigo from a senior defence minister was another step towards strengthening connections within Australia.
Japanese Vice-Minister for Defence Kenji Harada toured the Thales Bendigo factory on Thursday morning, inspecting the birthplace of his country's recently acquired Bushmaster armoured people movers.
He described the factory as "subarashii", expressing his approval of the professionalism and efficiency of the Bendigo site.
"It's a very impressive factory," Mr Harada said.
"Our self defence force bought four Bushmasters that were made by Thales, and that was one of the main reasons why we came here, to see that."
The Japanese delegation met with Thales management to discuss training and use of the new Bushmasters, which will most likely be used in the country's rapid response unit overseas.
The vehicles can quickly and safely extract peacekeepers, while also providing humanitarian support and relief.
Mr Harada saw the entire manufacturing process at Thales after staff recently visited Japan to assist in the arrival of the four Bushmasters.
He also met Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters at the site, who visited Japan last month and presented Mr Harada with a miniature Bushmaster, now taking pride of place on a shelf in his office.
Ms Chesters said the Japanese wanted to meet the people behind the vehicle.
"He met with the men and women who built the Bushmasters," she said.
"They were also seeking advice on how they plan to use them."
The purchases are just a small fraction of the defence acquisitions made by Japan in recent years.
The country has purchased 46 jet fighters, two destroyers, up to 22 submarines and upgraded missile defences, while also strengthening ties with Australia, India, South Korea and south east Asian countries.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe also addressed the US Congress this week about the role Japan could play militarily in the Asia Pacific.
Ms Chesters said the region would benefit from a strong Japan.
"They are seeking to play a greater role in south east Asia, and I see that as a positive step," she said.
"They are the largest democracy in the region.
"They want to play a greater role in peace and stability in our region."
After his visit to Bendigo, Mr Harada set off for Launceston to visit another major manufacturer.
He enjoyed a lunch at Mason's in Bendigo and took in a few of the sights.
Mr Harada said it was a pleasant and positive visit.
"I was only in the area for a short time, but the city is beautiful and the people have been very friendly," he said.