Fumiaki Tanaka will become the first Japanese to join a team in the Super Rugby competition next year after landing a deal with the Highlanders.
His Japanese Top League club, Panasonic Wild Knights, said on its website that the 27-year-old scrumhalf would still play for them after the Super Rugby season.
Tanaka, who is 166 centimetres tall and known for his speed and fast ball-handling, played for Otago in New Zealand's National Provincial Cup this year.
"As the first Japanese in Super Rugby, I want to show the world what Japanese are capable of doing. I will set no limits and play in as many games as possible," said Tanaka, who played in last year's World Cup and has 31 caps.
He is included in the Brave Blossoms national side for its November tour of Europe, including Tests against Romania and Georgia as well as games against a Basque select team and the French Barbarians.