US President Donald Trump and wife welcomed as first state guests in Japan's Reiwa era

US President Donald Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito at a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo yesterday. At the imperial banquet, the Emperor spoke about his sense of nostalgia and closeness with the US. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG US First Lady
US President Donald Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito at a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo yesterday. At the imperial banquet, the Emperor spoke about his sense of nostalgia and closeness with the US. PHOTO: BLOOMBERGPHOTO: BLOOMBERG
US President Donald Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito at a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo yesterday. At the imperial banquet, the Emperor spoke about his sense of nostalgia and closeness with the US. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG US First Lady
US First Lady Melania Trump and Mrs Akie Abe, wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, enjoying a children's performance during a cultural programme at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • United States President Donald Trump and his wife Melania were served a six-course French dinner last night with such dishes as rib steak and turbot meuniere with tomato sauce, amid the sound of live music from the imperial household orchestra.

The imperial banquet was the culmination of a full day of events that began in the morning when the Trumps, as the first state guests to Japan in the new Reiwa (beautiful harmony) era, paid a state call to Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. Emperor Naruhito inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 after the abdication of his father, now Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who was a pacifist icon.

Mr Trump told a news conference yesterday: "It is a true privilege to take part in the splendour of this historic moment and to witness an ancient Japanese tradition as you begin the new imperial era.

"We look forward to seeing your new Emperor continue his father's extraordinary legacy."

News pictures yesterday morning show the Emperor and Empress, both of whom are fluent in English, shaking hands and greeting the Trumps without interpreters before they attended a welcome ceremony at which the national anthems of the two countries were played.

The Trumps presented a vintage US-made viola dating back to 1938 to Emperor Naruhito, an avid musician who picked up the instrument in university.

Empress Masako, who was educated at Harvard University, was presented with a White House desk set - including a fountain pen - that was handcrafted from a red oak tree from the university grounds.

 
 
 
 

The imperial couple presented Mr Trump with a dark blue porcelain bowl and Mrs Trump, a lacquer box decorated with gold.

At the banquet, Emperor Naruhito said in a toast that both he and the Empress feel "a sense of nostalgia and distinct closeness" to the United States.

"I fondly reminisce about the awe I felt at the immense scale and diversity of your cities and nature," he said in Japanese, referencing a visit in 1985, and that his wife had grown up in New York and attended high school and college in Boston.

He noted the two countries were former wartime foes that "have overcome various challenges and have fostered mutual understanding and trust".

He added: "I sincerely hope that, while always taking it to heart that the current Japan-US relations are built upon the sacrifices and dedicated efforts made by so many people, the peoples of our two countries will continue to contribute to peace and prosperity in the world."

Mr Trump noted the era name Reiwa was derived from a passage in the Manyoshu - the oldest extant Japanese poetry anthology - about the resilient plum flowers that withstand the harshest of winters to blossom in the auspicious dawn of spring.

He said Reiwa "celebrates the unity and beauty of the Japanese nation and also reminds us that in times of change, we can take comfort in inherited traditions" and the US-Japan alliance, in this regard, "is a rich inheritance and a gift that we must pass on to our children".

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'Trump and wife welcomed as first state guests in Japan's Reiwa era'. Print Edition | Subscribe