Dalai Lama visits Japan's holy shrine

Ise, Japan - Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Japan's holiest Shinto shrine of Ise, western Japan, on Sunday as part of his effort to harmonise the world's religions.

The Nobel laureate, who arrived in Japan on Thursday for a 10-day stay, made his second pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine complex dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, mythical ancestor of the imperial family.

Escorted by the chief priest of the shrine, the maroon-robed Tibetan bowed twice at the main shrine and purified himself with water from a small river inside the site in accordance with Japanese tradition.

The Dalai Lama said the visit was part of his long-established practice of making trips to religious buildings and holy places around the world.

"Wherever I go, if time permits, I always pay my respect or pilgrimage to all different religious... temples," the Dalia Lama, who first visited the shrine in 2003, said Saturday ahead of a religious forum on Sunday.

"I've fully committed promotion of religious harmony," he said.

"Religious faith is sometimes causing divisions and problems. (In the) meantime, all religions have the same message, the message of love ... and the same potential to save humanity," he said.

"Therefore, the harmony and unity among religions is extremely important," he added.

During the religious forum on Sunday, which drew high-ranking Buddhist and Shinto priests across the nation, the Dalai Lama also stressed that various kinds of religion can play an important part in modern society.

"Still, I believe various different religions have some role (for) humanity," he said.

If priests and believers of various religions work closer and build relationships of trust, "we can develop genuine harmony or the basis of mutual respect," he concluded.

The Dalai Lama will address public forums on spirituality and visit schools, but he does not plan to meet government officials as they allowed his trip on condition he did not engage in political activities.

The cold shoulder from Japan, which has uneasy ties with China, is in stark contrast to the growing embrace of the Dalai Lama by Western countries.

Last month, the United States defied China's protests and awarded the Dalai Lama the top congressional civilian honour.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also recently became the first leaders of their countries to meet with the spiritual leader.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, opposes the international travels of the globetrotting Dalai Lama, criticising him of agitating for Tibetan independence.

The Dalai Lama, who fled for exile in India in 1959 amid a failed uprising in Lhasa, insists that he wants autonomy for Tibet within China.

"But the Chinese government officials still... continuously accuse me as a separatist. I don't know what it is," he told reporters on Saturday.