THE “great and meaningful relationship” between North Wales and Japan is one step closer to being made official.

To mark the signing of a Co-operation Agreement in the town of Himeji on Monday, October 28, the walls of Conwy Castle have been lit up with a projection of the words ‘Conwy + Himeji’ to celebrate sealing the bond between the town’s twinned castles.

The first step towards the twinning of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites was taken in July 2018 when the mayor of Himeji Toshikatsu Iwami visited North Wales and joined the mayor of Conwy cllr Samantha Cotton to sign a Memorandum of Understanding — the first of its kind in the UK.

North Wales Pioneer:

Cllr Bill Chapman former mayor of Conwy with Jim Jones of North Wales Tourism and the Mayor of Himeji, Toshikatsu Iwami at Conwy Castle in 2018

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.

The twinning is part of a pledge to strengthen cultural and educational ties between the two countries, while promoting tourism focused around the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Dating back to the 1300s, Himeji Castle - which was featured prominently in the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice – shares a similar age to Conwy’s landmark, which was completed at the end of the 1200s.

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.

North Wales Pioneer:

Artwork commemorating the twinning of the two castles

Mr Jones added: “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.”

The finalisation of the twinning process will continue on Thursday, November 7, when mayor of Conwy and Constable of the Castle, cllr Goronwy Edwards will welcome a delegation from Himeji including the town's new mayor Hideyasu Kiyomoto on his first visit.