Conwy has been festooned in Japanese flags to celebrate a historic agreement with another world famous castle more than 5,000 miles away.

Conwy’s iconic castle will today (Friday) complete the first stage of an historic twinning link with the ancient Himeji castle in Japan, when mayor Toshikatsu Iwami and Conwy mayor Samantha Cotton sign a Memorandum of Understanding document at 4pm at Conwy’s Guildhall. 

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

Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism, said: “A lot of hard work and planning on both sides has gone into forging this arrangement and we are delighted with the way it has gone.”

The two mayors will put their signatures side by side on an illuminated manuscript, in which they will agree to build and maintain a close friendship between the two Unesco World Heritage sites to strengthen cultural and educational ties.

The spectacular attractions have a lot in common, with work on both beginning within 50 years of each other. The Norman king, Edward I, made a start on Conwy Castle in 1283 and the construction of Himeji Castle began in 1333.

Himeji Castle is a stunning five-storey wooden building, familiar to many cinema goers as the backdrop for scenes in the 1967 James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.

Mr Jones added: “The positive reception given by the community of Conwy to the Himeji Mayor and his party has been unanimous, with businesses and leisure groups throughout the area keen to play their part.

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is the start of something exceptional and we are all galvanised by the amount of enthusiasm shown for the project.”

The twinning move is especially significant as it coincides with the creation of a new tourism route, the Road of Castles in Wonderland, which takes in many North Wales attractions.

The route was created with Japanese holidaymakers in mind after a campaign to boost tourism numbers from the far eastern nation resulted in an 84 per cent rise in Japanese visitors to North Wales.

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.”

As part of the ceremony, mayor Toshikatsu 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 gift of photograph of Conwy and the Castle.

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.

Mayor Toshikatsu, said: “This is an important opportunity for younger generations to learn more about each other’s history and heritage, and to forge important links between our two communities long into the future.”