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Modi visits Buddhist temples in Kyoto

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Kyoto :Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited two leading Buddhist temples here Sunday and sought Japan’s help on combating sickle cell disease prevalent in tribal regions of India.

Modi, who arrived here Saturday on a five-day visit of Japan, later met Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa, who briefed him about the city that was the capital of imperial Japan.

Modi began his first full day in Japan by visiting the Toji and Kinkaku-ji temples.

Dressed in a white kurta pyjama and bandhgala, Modi first went to the Toji temple with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, who flew down to Kyoto specially to receive the Indian leader.

The Indian prime minister went around the 57 meters tall eighth century shrine in the company of the chief monk who explained to him the features of the temple, officials said.

Modi and Abe “rinkindle ancient India-Japan civilisational bonds with visit to Toji temple”, an external affairs ministry spokesman tweeted. The temple is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Modi then visited another ancient temple, the 1397-built Kinkaku-ji temple where “he also interacted with a number of visitors who greeted him enthusiastically”, an Indian official statement said.

He spent some time with the 83-year-old head priest Yasu Nagamori of the temple and told him: “I am Modi and you are Mori!”

At Kyoto University, Modi met stem cell pioneer Shinya Yamanaka, the Nobel winner in 2012.

They discussed the “possibilities of sickle cell anaemia cure” and “prospects of cooperation among Indian and Japanese institutes”, tweeted the external affairs ministry spokesman.

“The prime minister expressed concern over the prevalence of sickle cell anaemia, especially among the tribal communities across India.”

Sickling decreases the cells’ flexibility and results in a risk of various life threatening complications. It mostly occurs in regions where malaria is rampant.

“The prime minister urged Yamanaka to work towards a cure for this,” the statement said.

Yamanaka said there were currently no Indian researchers at his institute, the Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, and “he would like Indian scientists to conduct research at the institute”.

Mayor Kadokawa briefed Modi about “green, smart and modern yet historic Kyoto”. Kyoto is home to about 1.5 million people.

Modi and Abe met Saturday for about one-and-a-half hours. The meeting was described by Indian officials as “exceptionally warm and friendly”.

Within hours of Modi’s arrival, a partnership agreement was signed between Varanasi — which the BJP veteran represents in the Lok Sabha — and Kyoto on how to preserve heritage while building smart cities.

Modi, who is making his first bilateral sojourn outside South Asia since taking office in May, has said that the India-Japan relationship was far below potential.

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