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Celebrating 400 years of trading between England and Japan

Will Adams festival
Will Adams festival

The thunder of taiko drums will ring out on Saturday, September 14, as Medway celebrates the life of one of its most famous sons.

This year’s Will Adams Festival is particularly special as it marks 400 years of trading links between England and Japan, which the Gillingham-born adventurer helped to establish.

Will sailed to the Far East aboard the Hoop, a Dutch registered ship in 1598, while Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, and is said to be the first Englishman to have reached Japan.

He began trading between the two countries in 1613 and was eventually appointed a samurai, an event which inspired the 1980s TV series Shogun starring Richard Chamberlain.

This year’s event will focus on the Tudor England that Will would have known, his experiences as a sailor and the Japanese traditions he would have encountered.

Highlights include storytelling performances throughout the day by actor Tony Brown who will be in character as Medway’s most famous sea-faring son.

May Andrew going Japanese.
May Andrew going Japanese.

Visitors can also enjoy taiko drumming performances and have a go themselves, as well as experience traditional tea ceremonies and sample Japanese cuisine, along with long-lost flavours from Tudor times.

The event also celebrates aspects of contemporary Japan with comic workshops and Wii gaming sessions, and there will be martial arts displays, reiki treatments and a chance to learn the intricate art of origami.

Crafty youngsters can get creative making fishy kites and samurai helmets.

The Will Adams Festival takes place from 11am to 4.30pm at Gillingham Park on Saturday, September 14. Admission is free. Visit www.visitmedway.org

For more information about events celebrating the 400th anniversary of British and Japanese relations visit www.japan400.com

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