From Kirky to Yoichi - couple’s amazing love story to be TV drama

INSPIRING: Rita and Masataka who met in Kirkintilloch and married in 1920.
INSPIRING: Rita and Masataka who met in Kirkintilloch and married in 1920.

A television drama is being made in Japan based on the love story and lives of a Kirkintilloch girl and the founder of the country’s whisky industry.

The Japanese Broadcast Corporation is reportedly making a series about Jessie Roberta ‘Rita’ Cowan, who met Japanese student Masataka Taketsuru while he was teaching her younger brother jujitsu at the family home in Middlecroft.

Romance soon blossomed between Rita and Masataka, who had come to Scotland in 1919 to learn how to make whisky and study science at Glasgow University.

Against the wishes of both families, apart from Rita’s sister Lucy, the couple married at Glasgow’s Calton Registry Office in 1920.

They moved to Campbeltown, where Masataka learned his trade at the Hazelburn distillery, before moving back to Japan where they would spend the rest of their lives.

Masataka eventually set up his own distillery, Dai Nippon Kaju KK (later to become the Nikka Whisky Distilling Company) in Yoichi, on Japan’s North Island of Hokkaido.

He chose the location because of it’s similarities to Scotland.

Strathkelvin District Council became twinned with Yoichi Town Council in the 1970s and the late Provost Bobby Coyle and his wife, Minnie, visited the area.

Minnie has kept in touch with a Japanese friend, who now works at Nikka Whisky Distilling Company, who told her about the new TV series.

Minnie said: “We became very friendly with Masataka’s nephew, Takeshi, and visited the house where they lived.

“My friend sent me an article from the Japanese Times which said there was going to be a new TV drama called ‘Massan’, based on the life of Masataka Taketsuru.

“My friend said there will be filming at the distillery and also in Scotland, and that I might see some of the cast in Kirkintilloch.”

Rita, who spoke fluent Japanese, died in 1961, having never returned to her native land.