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CONWY'S iconic castle has undergone the first stage of an historic twinning link with the ancient Himeji Castle in Japan which featured in the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

The mayors of the two communities have signed an agreement in the form of an illuminated manuscript as part of an initiative which is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The Mayor of Himeji, Toshikatsu Iwami, and Conwy Mayor Samantha Cotton pledged to strengthen cultural and educational ties and promote tourism focused around the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

They put their signatures side by side on a Memorandum of Understanding in which they agreed to build and maintain a close friendship between the two destinations.

In a second stage, finalising the twinning project, a Co-operation Agreement will be sealed in Himeji City next year when a North Wales delegation hopes to visit Japan as it hosts the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Cllr Cotton said: "The twinning arrangement between these historic castles is a momentous achievement which we envisage will reinforce our friendship, enhance business opportunities and inspire both communities to engage in far-reaching shared cultural initiatives."

Mayor Toshikatsu Iwami and tourism representatives from Himeji City attended a civic reception at Conwy Guildhall where they were entertained by a musical performance by pupils of Ysgol Porth y Felin, and Mayor Toshikatsu Iwami was presented with a photograph of Conwy and the castle.

During a four day visit to North Wales the delegation from Japan has been touring the region's tourist attractions, visiting a school, sampling traditional Welsh cuisine and today will be attending the Proclamation parade for the National Eisteddfod to be held in Llanwrst from August 2-10, 2019 and visiting Trefriw Woollen Mill in the Conwy Valley, where they will meet talented Welsh weaver, Gethin Ceidiog Hughes, who was commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales to create a commemorative tapestry representing the links between Conwy and Himeji.

Among the welcoming party for the Mayor of Himeji was Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism who has been instrumental in bringing the twinning agreement to fruition.

Although twinning arrangements between international towns and cities are commonplace, it is unusual for such an arrangement to be forged between two castles. Mr Jones believes this to be the first in the UK.

He said: "There is great potential for local businesses, retailers and the hospitality sector throughout North Wales to benefit from this and, in a reciprocal process for the Himeji community to see more visitors arriving in their city from North Wales."

It has been achieved because North Wales Tourism has forged close links with the Japanese tourism industry, greatly helped by Nakajima Takeharu, a Welsh Government representative in Japan, and a member of the Japanese delegation.

Tourism Minister, Lord Elis-Thomas said: "The increased profile for Conwy and North Wales in Japan in recent years has been an excellent platform for us to promote Wales in a relatively untapped market and to spread the word on what we have to offer the Japanese market.


| Toshikatsu Iwami, mayor of Himeji, at Conwy Castle. Inset Mayor of Conwy Samantha Cotton MANDY JONES PHOTOGRAPHY
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 9, 2018
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