After a short stay for their Asian Cup pre-competition training camp, the Japan National Football team's visit in Cessnock has come to an end.
A short ceremony was held before the players’ last training session at the Cessnock Sportsground on Thursday morning, including a special send-off from some cuddly friends from the Hunter Valley Zoo.
The Japanese media and players were in a frenzy when star player Keisuke Honda was given Ally the wombat to hold.
Each player was presented with a limited edition boomerang by Cessnock Mayor, Cr. Bob Pynsent, signifying their Asian Cup journey and their time here in Cessnock.
The 50 limited edition boomerangs were hand-painted by internationally-renowned local artist, Uncle Les Elvin.
A Japanese translation was read to the team throughout proceedings, explaining how the boomerang represents their visit to Cessnock and Australia.
The team was also presented with Cessnock Goannas rugby league jersey.
“Having the Japanese National Team stay with us here in Cessnock this past week has been an absolute honour and privilege,” Cr. Pynsent said.
"It is something that will be remembered by our local people for years to come."
Japan's head coach, Javier Aguirre, was thrilled at how smoothly their stay has gone.
“Great city, great people, thank you,” Aguirre said, thanking Cr. Pynsent with a handshake.
The Samurai Blue had another training session after the farewell ceremony and will move on to their Newcastle base this afternoon.
They will kick-off their AFC Asian Cup defence against Palestine at Hunter Stadium on Monday, January 12.
Tickets are available at www.afcasiancup.com/tickets.