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Virginia Anami, the American wife of former Japanese Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami, has arranged tours to China to commemorate the 1,400th anniversary of Prince Shotoku’s dispatch in 607 of Ono no Imoko as an official Japanese diplomatic delegate during the Sui dynasty.

The tours are aimed at vicarious experiences of the routes Ono and delegates after him took.

“There were various routes at that time. Generally, a southern route crossing the East China Sea by ship is known. But when Imoko was alive, Baekje (an ancient Korean kingdom), which was friendly to Japan, did not collapse, and there was a course on the Korean Peninsula,” said Anami, 62, whose Japanese first name is Fumiyo.

One of the first tours took place from late April and the other is planned for this fall.

In the spring tour, participants, including diplomats stationed in Tokyo and the chief priest at a Buddhist temple in Tochigi Prefecture, landed at Shanghai by ship and visited Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province, the birthplace of Jian Zhen (known as Ganjin in Japan), a Chinese Buddhist monk who came to Japan during the Nara Period (710-784), and Shandong Province from where Ennin, a Japanese Buddhist priest sent to the Tang dynasty, returned home.

Anami, from New Orleans, began to study about China after reading an article on Ennin written by the late Edwin Reishauer, a former Harvard University professor and U.S. ambassador to Japan, while she was a university student.

Since the 1980s, she has stayed in China three times for a total of more than 10 years. With photos she took, she has published a book about Beijing’s history that has been translated in Chinese and Japanese.

“I have visited various places in China by jeep. In the 1980s, I went to Mount Wu Tai alone and stayed at a nunnery. At that time, such travel was reckless for a foreigner, but I was young, and there was nothing to fear,” she said.

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