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Scotland's 'mother of Japanese whisky' inspires event

Rita Cowan met Japanese student Masataka Taketsuru in Kirkintilloch almost exactly 100 years ago.

In love: Rita Cowan with Masataka Taketsuru.
In love: Rita Cowan with Masataka Taketsuru. EDLC Local Studies

Inspiration for this year's Kirkintilloch Canal Festival is being drawn from an enduring love story - stretching from Scotland to the Far East.

Rita Cowan's fateful meeting with Japanese student Masataka Taketsuru took place at her home in Kirkintilloch almost exactly 100 years ago.

The spirited pair fell in love in 1919, married in 1920 and then crossed the globe to forge Nikka Whisky, one of Japan's most successful and best-known whisky companies.

Cowan - who became known as the 'mother of Japanese whisky' - remains a legend in her adopted homeland.

Kirkintilloch Canal Festival, which is organised every year by the council and a range of partners including East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture (EDLC) Trust, will offer up a range of entertainment celebrating the centenary of their meeting, their story and Japanese culture.

As well as a 'Rita and Masataka' exhibition, there will be a whole host of pottery, origami, puppet-making and manga workshops, as well as martial arts demonstrations, Japanese songs and dance, and bookbug sessions.

East Dunbartonshire councillor Billy Hendry said: "This year's canal festival promises to be one of the best yet, with a special focus on the legendary story of Rita Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru - inspired by the centenary of their meeting.

"The council and EDLC Trust have worked hard to arrange a variety of events which celebrate the couple and Japanese culture. I hope as many people as possible can go along and get involved.

"The canal festival attracts thousands of visitors every year, boosting the economy and the area's status as a visitor destination.

"It's also a great boost for the local economy. An assessment of the 2017 festival - carried out by Caledonian Economics - estimated that a total of £283,712 was spent locally."

Kirkintilloch Canal Festival will take place between Monday, August 26 and Sunday, September 1.

For the full programme of events, go to kirkintillochcanalfestival.org.

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