Britain's Prince William dons samurai gear as he tours TV studio in Japan

A handout picture provided by NHK shows Britain's Prince William wearing a samurai outfit during his visit to the NHK broadcasting studios in Tokyo on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A handout picture provided by NHK shows Britain's Prince William wearing a samurai outfit during his visit to the NHK broadcasting studios in Tokyo on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A handout picture provided by NHK shows Britain's Prince William wearing a samurai outfit during his visit to the NHK broadcasting studios in Tokyo on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A handout picture provided by NHK shows Britain's Prince William wearing a samurai outfit during his visit to the NHK broadcasting studios in Tokyo on Feb 28, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (AFP) - Britain's Prince William donned the trappings of feudal nobility in Japan on Saturday, by wearing the helmet and clothes of an ancient samurai during a tour of a TV studio.

The second in line to the British throne asked for a sword to complete the outfit, and grinned at photographers as he posed for pictures dressed as a warrior from yesteryear.

Prince William, whose own military career saw him taking the controls of an ultra-modern helicopter, asked: "How does it look?"

"It really suits you," came the reply.

The dressing up session took place at the main studios of Japan's national broadcaster NHK, on the set of one of its popular long-running period dramas.

Earlier, he had been treated to a geisha show in which the ornately attired women performed dances with fans and then sang traditional songs as they played shamisen - a three-stringed instrument sometimes described as a Japanese banjo.

Prince William, who has left his heavily pregnant wife Kate at home, tried his hand strumming the instrument, whose mastery remains a key skill for geisha.

The highly trained entertainers learn to sing, dance and converse, with the cost of their company running up to thousands of dollars for an evening.

The British Prince was presented with a huge bunch of flowers by popular actress Mao Inoue, who looked stunning in a simple kimono.

The visit to the set was a reminder of the pageantry and tradition in Japan, which at times outstrips that of even Britain's convention-bound royal family.

Prince William later toured the newsroom at NHK, one of the world's biggest broadcasters, which has bureaus around the globe, and was told how the corporation had covered the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck Japan in 2011.

Later on Saturday and into Sunday, he is due to visit areas ravaged by the disaster, which claimed around 19,000 lives and left tens of thousands of people homeless.

Many of those displaced are still unable to return home, in some cases because of radiation that leaked from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, with scientists warning some areas may have to be abandoned.

A beaming Prince William, 32, later met well-wishers at a bookstore bestrewn with Union Jacks in west Tokyo, where he launched an exhibition showcasing British industry.

The young scion of the House of Windsor is immensely popular in Japan, where people speak of his warmth and his easy manner with members of the public.

That familiarity stands in marked contrast to Japan's own imperial family, who are seen as austere and far removed from their people, and whose own carefully choreographed interactions with crowds frequently look awkward.

"We were really close to him," said engineer Takeshi Miyagake, who had gone to meet the Duke of Cambridge at the bookshop.

"We never have the opportunity to get this close to members of the imperial family."

On Friday, the second day of a four-day tour of Japan, Prince William had met the ageing Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, where his youth and vigour stood in marked contrast to the increasingly frail-looking couple.

He also had tea with Crown Prince Naruhito, a man who, like him, is one day destined to rule his country.

Japan's media has closely followed the royal visit, with many outlets using it as an opportunity to rebroadcast footage of Prince William's mother, the late Princess Diana, during her trips to Tokyo.

The Princess of Wales was wildly popular in Japan, with her visits setting off so-called "Diana Fever" as tens of thousands flocked to meet her and as women sought to copy her carefully coiffured hair and stylish dress sense.

Prince William is due to travel to a playground in Fukushima prefecture later on Saturday, before dining at a traditional ryokan inn, where he is expected to be hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

On Sunday, he will meet people whose lives were affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, including the staff of a newspaper who produced handwritten copies in the aftermath of the disaster because their printing presses had been destroyed.

He is due to leave Japan on Sunday, bound for Beijing.