Narendra Modi used his second day in Japan to pay obeisance at ancient temples, visit a Nobel laureate stem cell scientist and take in a presentation on how the heritage city of Kyoto was modernised.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (front R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his arrival at the State Guest House in Kyoto, western Japan. (Reuters/Kyodo Photo)
In between, there was time to mingle with tourists in a relatively low-security environment, pose for smiling photographs and even to playfully pull the ears of a little boy.
Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe arrived at around 9:45am (0615 IST) at the eighth-century Toji temple to cheers from a small crowd of Indian tourists and locals. The former yelled “Vande Mataram!” and there were cries of “Modi-san!” from the latter.
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Modi, clad fully in white down to his slippers, offered prayers at the temple, thought to have been influenced by the Indian trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. He thanked Abe for the unprecedented gesture of welcoming him in Kyoto, and the Japanese PM replied that this was the only second time that he was visiting the famous temple – the first had been as a schoolkid.
The Indian PM then went to the spectacularly pretty Kinkaku-ji temple where he stood to be photographed with the head priest against the backdrop of the temple’s famous golden pavilion. He raised the possibility of the Buddhist shrine working with Sarnath, the spot near Varanasi where the Buddha is thought to have first taught dharma.
Security was surprisingly light, to the extent that Japanese and foreign tourists milled freely around the PM, taking photographs. At one point Modi stopped to give a tug to the ears of a four or five-year old boy, who was left speechless.
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Modi then met Shinya Yamanaka, who received the 2012 Nobel prize for medicine for his work on stem cells. Modi is understood to have raised the problem of sickle cell anaemia, a disease which is prevalent in some of India’s tribal population, and sought to explore if there were answers in stem cell research.
The mayor of Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan, then made a powerpoint presentation to Modi on the modernisation of the city, which was on Saturday made an affiliate of Varanasi, the PM's constituency.
Daisaku Kadokawa told the gathering how the city's students had helped clean it up, and how garbage per person was much lower than the national average.
He said that cleanliness was a result of the religious moorings of the city, some of which had come from India, at which point Modi mused: "But we have forgotten it."
Modi presented the mayor with a historic map of Varanasi, which was handed over in both physical form and on a memory stick.