Saturday 23 September 2017

William turned into samurai warlord

With a sword in his hand, a glittering helmet on his head and a regal tunic on his shoulders the Duke of Cambridge looked every inch a samurai warlord after visiting a TV studios.

William was transformed into Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the formidable Japanese ruler who unified his country in the 16th century, during a tour of the Tokyo studios where the Sunday night historical drama Taiga is filmed.

Now in its 54th series, it features famous characters from Japanese history but changes the period for the action every year, with the current series called Hana Moyu or Ardent Flower.

When William first arrived at the studios of Japan's public broadcaster NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai) which makes the show, he was greeted by a long line of actors dressed as soldiers.

He asked one of the senior staff: "Is it a show like EastEnders?" before being taken on to the set that depicted a chaya or tea house, used by samurai as a members' club, complete with geisha.

As staff put the helmet on his head, the Duke joked: "I feel there should be a sword in my hand as well." When he was told actors wore the costume and heavy armour for many hours, he replied: "Not particularly easy to go for a coffee break."

When they were finished he looked into a mirror and asked his entourage: "How do I look?" before adding: "I feel ready for action."

Before dressing up he watched three geisha actresses dance, while another Maki Shiran, 23, played a three-stringed guitar-like instrument called a shamisen.

In the hair and make-up department William dissolved into a fit of giggles when Tim Hitchens, Britain's ambassador to Japan, put on a samurai wig.

The former Queen's deputy private secretary was game for a laugh and sat in a chair as Kahame Mimura, head of hair dressing and wigs, covered his scalp with a piece of cloth before fitting the hairpiece.

The Duke had considered wearing the wig, made with real hair and slicked back into a tiny ponytail, but said: "If I put this on my brother would never let me forget it - I seriously can't."

After the transformation of the senior diplomat William could not resist poking fun and told him through laughter: "This is going straight on to the Foreign Office website - brilliant."

The ambassador stood up and flexed out his arms as if he were a sumo wrestler and the Duke quipped: "A bit more weight and you would be sorted, get the sumo wrestling going - impressive, a good look."

Later the mood was more serious in NHK's newsroom, where the Duke watched a three-minute film showing how the station covered the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami which triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

He was visibly moved as he watched footage of homes, roads and cars being swept inland and fields being swallowed up by the 10-metre high tidal wave.

The harrowing images were filmed by one of NHK's 15 helicopters, which took off immediately after the earthquake and was guided by staff in the newsroom.

The broadcaster was set up in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, when it was realised accurate and prompt information could save lives.

The Duke finished the day by putting on a flowing robe called a yukata and a pair of sandals for a traditional Japanese dinner at a hotel in the Fukushima prefecture.

The green outfit, accompanied by a blue jacket, was identical to one worn by Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe who was hosting the evening.

William had spent the day in the area which was devastated by the fallout from the Fukushima plant, which suffered a meltdown triggered by the tsunami.

With many families still unable to return to their homes because of contamination and health concerns, local leaders have accused Mr Abe, a committed supporter of nuclear power who wants to restart the country's plants, of using the royal visit to promote his aims.

The prime minister used his opening comments to make a political point for the listening Japanese media, telling the Duke: "I believe that your visit to Fukushima and your encouragement today have encouraged not just Fukushima but the whole region."

William sat down for dinner at a table set with chopsticks and told his hosts: "We have been welcomed wherever we have been, there have been many highlights so far but being able to have a traditional Japanese meal has been one of the key highlights so thank you very much."

The menu included raw sea urchin, fried carp soup, needle fish, Fukushima beef and miso soup, with sake to drink.

Earlier the Duke had visited a children's centre in Fukushima prefecture with Mr Abe, to publicise the fact that the area is safe for children to play in despite the nuclear disaster, which happened 30 miles away.

William entertained toddlers at the Smile Kids Park by juggling three balls as he sat chatting to them in a ball pit, before the children gleefully bombarded him with plastic balls.

Mr Abe was less of a natural with the youngsters, preferring a stage-managed line-up with children in front of him and the Duke.

Press Association

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