US President Donald Trump arrived in Japan Saturday for a four-day trip likely to be dominated by warm words and friendly images, but relatively light on substantive progress over trade.
Air Force One touched down in Japan just before 5pm local time (0800 GMT) on a sunny Tokyo afternoon.
Japanese and US officials hail as “unprecedented” the relationship between Trump and his “golf buddy”, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the pair will again find time for a round to cement their diplomatic bromance.
The official centrepiece is Trump’s meeting on Monday with Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito, who only ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne at the beginning of the month following his father’s historic abdication for health reasons.
“With all the countries of the world, I’m the guest of honour at the biggest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” said Trump before his departure.
But the visual highlight is more likely to be Trump’s visit on Sunday to the final day of the summer “basho” or sumo tournament where he is expected to present the cup to the winner.
Trump’s appearance at the hallowed sumo hall has presented a logistical, security and protocol nightmare, ranging from where he sits to how he should be protected if the crowd start throwing pillows — as tradition dictates when a Grand Champion (yokozuna) falls.
The leaders will play golf before going to the sumo and then repair with their wives to a restaurant in Tokyo’s Roppongi entertainment district, where the menu features skewers of prime sirloin beef at 5,184 yen ($47) for two.
Abe has just recently returned from Washington and Trump himself will be returning to Japan in just over a month for the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in the western city of Osaka.
“Three visits in both directions in a short amount of time is really emblematic of just how close the relationship is,” said a senior Trump administration official, who asked not to be identified.
Japanese diplomat said the frequency of contact “demonstrates the unprecedented level of close personal relations between the Japanese and US leaders”.