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Japan prince marks 400-year history with Spain

Crown Prince Naruhito begins a week-long visit with formal niceties including a meeting with the Spanish royal family. -AFP

Mon, Jun 10, 2013

Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito chats with his wife Crown Princess Masako as he leaves the Togu Palace in Tokyo to depart for Spain for a series of events to mark the 400th anniversary of bilateral exchanges on June 10, 2013. 

MADRID, June 10, 2013 (AFP) - Crown Prince Naruhito launches Monday a celebration of Japan's 400-year relationship with Spain on a visit that will take him to a curious town where many residents still carry the name "Japon" to honour the Japanese who visited in the 17th century.

Naruhito, the 53-year-old son and heir of Emperor Akihito, begins a week-long visit with formal niceties including a meeting with the Spanish royal family and the opening of a Japan-Spain business cooperation council.

But the prince will leave Madrid on Thursday to tour other cities and to visit the small town of Coria del Rio, population about 30,000, not far from the Andalusian capital of Seville in southern Spain.

There, Naruhito will visit a statue to the samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga, who led a historic seven-year diplomatic mission to Europe that departed Japan in October 1613 and arrived in Spain a year later.

Tsunenaga, who was baptised during his time in Spain, travelled to Coria del Rio on the Guadalquivir River, where he stayed for a period. Some of the Japanese delegation are believed to have stayed on even after his return to Japan in 1620.

Hundreds of residents in Coria del Rio carry the family name "Japon" to mark their supposed Japanese ancestry.

According to the Spanish media, many babies in the town are born with the "Mongolian spot", a temporary bruise-coloured birthmark that is common among people of north Asia but which can also occur among Europeans.

While in Coria del Rio, Naruhito will see a bronze statue to Tsunenaga, erected to mark the first Japanese diplomatic mission to Spain.

While in Madrid, Naruhito's agenda includes a meeting with Prince Felipe on Monday, opening a Japan-Spain business cooperation meeting Tuesday and being hosted for lunch in his honour on the same day by King Juan Carlos and the royal family.

On Thursday, he goes to the northwestern university city of Salamanca before heading to Coria del Rio and Seville on Friday. The Japanese royal visits the pilgrims' destination of Santiago de Compostela on Saturday before returning to Japan.

The Japan-Spain celebrations will feature a string of concerts and exhibitions including a collection of Japanese prints going back to the 17th century to go on display from Tuesday at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

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