Dalai Lama starts tour of Japan

Tokyo, Japan - Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama began a trip to deliver lectures and attend Buddhist rites in Japan, which allowed him to visit despite expected Chinese opposition.

The 71-year-old monk was due to attend a two-day conference on peace starting Wednesday with fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates in Hiroshima, his office said.

It is the Dalai Lama's 12th visit to Japan -- 17th including airport transits. The Japanese government has permitted him to come on condition that he refrain from political activities.

The Dalai Lama has no plans to meet Japanese politicians or business leaders during the tour, Wang Tse, a spokesman for his liaison office in Tokyo, said ahead of the visit.

China, which has ruled Tibet since it sent in troops to "liberate" the Himalayan region in 1950, opposes any meetings between foreign dignitaries and the Dalai Lama.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a "splittist," although the Tibetan spiritual leader says he is seeking greater autonomy for Tibet within China.

Japan has been trying to repair relations with China, which have soured in recent years due largely to Beijing's perceptions that Tokyo has not sufficiently atoned for its past aggression.

Unlike leaders of other major industrialized democracies, Japanese officials have shied away from meeting the Dalai Lama.

Only one sitting Japanese prime minister has met the Dalai Lama -- Zenko Suzuki in 1980.

The Dalai Lama will stay in Hiroshima, which suffered the world's first nuclear attack in the closing days of World War II, until November 9 to give more lectures and attend a Buddhist ceremony, the office said.

He will then go to Tokyo and deliver a speech, entitled "A good heart -- the key to health and happiness," the office said.

He is due to leave on November 12 to return to India, where he has lived in exile since 1959.

The Dalai Lama has kept up a hectic schedule despite health concerns.

He visited Canada, where he was granted honorary citizenship, in September and a month later met at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI.

China lashed out at the US House of Representatives, which voted to award the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honor.