The official twinning ceremony for Himeji Castle and Conwy Castle will take place today at Himeji.
The first step towards the twinning of the 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites was taken in July 2018 when the Mayor of Himeji visited north Wales and joined the Mayor of Conwy to sign a Memorandum of Understanding — the first of its kind in the UK. A delegation from Conwy will today attend an official ceremony in Himeji and sign a Co-operation Agreement to seal the twinning process.
On Monday evening, the walls of Conwy Castle will be lit up with a projection of the words Conwy + Himeji in celebration of the twinning.
The aim of the twinning is to - promote sustainable tourism at both sites; use educational projects to promote knowledge about the castles, their histories and the communities around them; and to exchange skills and expertise through joint cultural and sporting activities.
The Welsh Government and Cadw have supported the proposal and Cadw have produced a special Japanese version of the Conwy Castle guidebook to mark the development.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said:
“This is the first memorandum of understanding of its kind in the UK – the twinning of such great castles is an excellent way celebrate our differences and deepen our cultural understanding. Following the welcome and interest in Wales from our Japanese friends during the Rugby World Cup, this twinning will further reinforce our friendship as well as enhance business, tourism and cultural opportunities between our two countries.
This twinning builds on recent work by Welsh Government and industry partners to develop a strong relationship with the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) to present Wales as a tourism destination in the Japanese market.
Four years ago there were no JATA-member package tours to Wales, but following awards given to Conwy and North Wales in recent years, last year more than 4,000 Japanese tourists discovered the beauty and wonder of Wales on JATA package tours, with a focus on the North.
Jim Jones, North Wales Tourism, said:
“This is just the beginning of a great and meaningful relationship between Conwy and Himeji. It's taken a lot of hard work by many people in both towns to get us to this point and now it's time to celebrate this very unique connection. We hope the profile of the twinning with Himeji will draw many Japanese visitors to Conwy, North Wales and Wales, and likewise, that it will inspire people from Wales to visit our Japanese friends. Businesses and residents in Conwy have been going the extra mile for our Japanese visitors, taking Japanese language lessons, creating a welcome video, and learning about Japanese culture, so visitors can experience an extra warm welcome in the town. We're very excited to see this relationship flourish over the coming years.
Eluned Haf, Head of Wales Arts International said:
“Wales and Japan – 2 nations rooted in ancient traditions and alive with vibrant contemporary culture. Through the unique twinning of Conwy and Himeji castles, we are not only celebrating our heritages but, importantly, sharing cultures through our artists and communities. The performance at the twinning ceremony by Welsh musician and new Royal harpist Alis Huws begins new opportunities for arts and cultural exchanges between Conwy and Himeji and Wales and Japan. We are delighted that Ena Mai, the mascot for the Cymru|Wales- Japan cultural programme around the Rugby World Cup, will supporting the twinning.