RAIN failed to dampen the warm reception of Himeji's new mayor to Conwy.

The town's Guild Hall was filled with 'genki' - Japanese for high spirits - as various dignitaries welcomed a delegation from the Japanese city, which accompanied mayor Hideyasu Kiyomoto on his first visit to North Wales.

As well as a civic ceremony to build relations with Mayor Kiyomoto, it marked the Japan tourist industry beginning a push which will promote tourism to castle towns along the A55 - which North Wales Tourism chief Jim Jones revealed the Japanese mayor called "The Road of Castles in Wonderland" - with Conwy at its core.

Mayor Kiyomoto told The Pioneer: "I know it is the rainy season in North Wales so I expected the weather.

"It is actually very fortunate. We in Japan know that unless you have good rain, you wont have good crops. We also say that when it rains, it clears a resolves your mind.

"To commemorate this occasion we planted a tree, and for that we needed rain. Hopefully our futures grow together much like this tree."

To mark the beginning of this future relationship - which also aims to create partnerships between school pupils, members of the community and organisation in Himeji and Conwy - gifts were exchanged.

North Wales Pioneer:

Himeji mayor Hideyasu Kiyomoto presents Conwy Mayor cllr Goronwy Edwards with the calligraphy

As well as a 'kawaii' - cute - soft toy interpretation of Himeji castle and a painting from 'Jackdaw' artist Jean Morgan Roberts, mayor Kiyomoto presented Conwy mayor cllr Goronwy Edwards with calligraphy spelling the Japanese Kanji character which can symbolise 'beginning'.

Cllr Edwards said: "Mr Kiyomoto is very enthusiastic about this project, which given the size of the city Himeji with 600,00 people is fantastic for Conwy.

"We hope our youngster will be able to go to Japan, learn about their culture and also boost our tourism, education and community as our friendship grows.

"Maybe too people from Japan like mayor Kiyotomo discovering our landmarks and heritage for the first time, and from their appreciation they have for their own heritage, will help some of the youngster also appreciate theirs more."

The civic reception welcomed city council chairman Masato Ayama,

executive director of the Himeji Cultural and International Exchange Foundation, Kaneaki Okada, director of tourism and culture Eisaku Yanagita and Yuko Hamada, employee of the council alongside the mayor.

A choral group from Ysgol Porth Y Felin sang four Welsh language songs to mark the occasion, which followed a concert at St Mary's Church - with a rendition of Japanese national anthem brought mayor Kiyomoto to tears

North Wales Pioneer:

The assembled group of dignitaries from Conwy and Himeji

Representing Conwy with a host of people from the Town Council, Conwy Cultural Centre and the Trinity foundation in Bangor as well as former mayor cllr Bill Chapman and former Ysgol Aberconwy pupil Rachel McCrystal, managing director of Connect with Japan

McCrystal, originally of Dwygyfylchi and now living in Manchester, currently works delivering projects with Japanese organisations - including building orphanages across the globe - an with Team GB supporting and delivering training camps for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for multiple disciplines.

Ms McCrystal, who also co-presented television channel NHK's documentary One Road Wales, said:"For me it makes sense to help put Conwy on the map with Japan. It makes me really proud to see such a huge milestone between the two countries and, hopefully a deepening understanding between the cultures in the future."

A packed itinerary also including the ceremonial planting of Japanese 'sakura' cherry tree at the Conwy Tourist Information, a visit to Ysgol Aberconwy and Conwy Castle - which is officially twinned with a similarly aged structure in Himeji.