Medway – Ito & Yokosuka

Click here for detailed information on recent activities.

William Adams, the ‘Blue-eyed Samurai’, also known in Japanese as ‘Miura Anjin’, was born in Gillingham on 24th September 1564.  He is the key to the link between Medway and Japan, being the first Englishman to land in Japan.

Medway & Ito

Since 1947, Ito has held an Anjin Festival to celebrate the inaugural sail of the first western style ships designed by William Adams to the mouth of the Tojin River in 1605. In March 1964 a member of the Diet (Parliament) and citizen of Ito arrived in Gillingham and since then picture, cultural and friendship exchanges between the cities has continued to this day.

In February 1982 the Gillingham council voted for friendship links with Ito and formal negotiations were concluded by the Mayors in July of that year. Again twinning ties have continued since Gillingham became Medway in 1998.

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Medway & Yokosuka

During the Edo period (1603-1868), William Adams also known as Miura Anjin was gifted a piece of land by the Tokugawa Shogunate and was one of the first foreigners to move to Japan permanently. He is also believed to be the first Briton to go to Japan and was an important military advisor to Ieyasu Tokugawa, a highly important Shogun of that period. After his death, a mausoleum was erected in Yokosuka.

In the autumn of 1981, the Mayor of Yokosuka and a delegation from the British Miura Anjin Society made a trip to William Adams’ birthplace of Gillingham. Every April, Yokosuka holds a Miura Anjin Festival and it was after the trip to the UK and some discussions about the famous former resident that the invitation to twin was received by Yokosuka and consequent negotiations began. The following year, the Mayor of Gillingham and the Chairman of the British Miura Anjin Society signed a joint agreement and the friendship formally began.

The twinning continued even after Gillingham merged to become Medway Unitary Council. Now in Medway too, there is an annual William Adams Festival.

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Student Exchange

Through this link Medway has built friendly and cultural relationships with the cities of Ito & Yokosuka. Each summer eight students, four from Medway and four from our Japanese sister cities, Ito & Yokosuka share four weeks together which provides for a two week homestay in each other’s home city. This is a great experience for the students and helps to form lifetime friendships each other and their families.  When in Medway the students are shown St. Mary Magdalene Church, Gillingham, which houses the font where William Adams was baptised.  The church register for 1564 shows the entry for William Adams.  The register is kept at Medway Archives. The students are also shown the clock tower memorial in Gillingham.  The visiting students are keen to see and do ‘typically English events’.  They are taken to local places of interest, an English seaside resort, as well as enjoying whatever is arranged by the host families.

Choosing our students

The exchange opportunity is advertised in local Medway newspapers, on local radio, and through our local schools. Students are then shortlisted and invited for interview by members of the Japanese Group of our International Relations Committee.

The interview panel looks for students who will benefit from the exchange; this benefit could be educational or cultural. The students receive assistance with their airfares from Medway Council International Relations Committee.  They work on fundraising projects, and organise days out with their host visiting students.

The student exchange project has been running successfully for many years and has helped to develop warm friendships between Medway – Ito – Yokosuka.

Click here for detailed information on recent activities.


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