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Top five cultural moments from President Trump's official visit to Japan

November 06, 2017 - 5:23 am

(TOKYO) -- Wrapping up the first stop in the president’s five-country swing through Asia, President Trump and the first lady were treated to several Japanese cultural moments over the business of international diplomacy.

President Trump meets the emperor

President Trump and the first lady visited the Imperial Palace for a traditional “state call” meeting with the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.

In greeting the emperor, the president nodded his head and shook hands with the emperor but notably did not bow.

The issue of whether and how to bow to the Japanese emperor has been a matter of contested protocol, with more than one past president receiving criticism for how they bowed. Most recently, former President Obama was critiqued for how he bowed before the emperor, which some cultural watchers said was too deep of a bow for the rank of a U.S. president.

Feeding Koi

Ahead of his own lunch with Prime Minister Abe and an expanded U.S. and Japanese delegation at Akasaka Palace Monday, the president treated the palace Koi to a hearty lunch of their own.

Standing on a balcony above a pond, Trump and Abe were presented with wooden boxes of fish food and proceeded to sprinkle the food into the pond below with spoons. After throwing several spoonfuls of food, President Trump turned over the box – dumping all of the remaining food to the fish below.

The first lady gets a calligraphy lesson

Prime Minister Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, brought the first lady on a visit to a Japanese elementary school Monday, where the first lady learned the art of Japanese calligraphy.

After being welcomed to the school by a gymnasium full of singing children, a student in a fourth grade classroom gave the first lady a short tutorial in how to use a calligraphy paint brush. She carefully dipped her paint brush in ink and swiped it over a piece of paper, copying one character that when combined with another painted by Mrs. Abe spelled out the Japanese word for “Peace.”

The two women then held up their characters together and posed for a photo with the children in the classroom.

Melania Trump learns about history of pearl harvesting in Japan

In what was her first event of the trip without the president, the first lady met up with Mrs. Abe at Mikimoto Pearl's flagship store in Tokyo’s high-end Ginza shopping district Sunday, where the first lady learned about Japan’s long history of harvesting pearls.

Ms. Trump learned about how Kokichi Mikimoto, the founder of the Mikimoto brand, successfully harvested the world’s first semi-spherical pearl from an oyster through human intervention in 1893, and about the ancient Japanese practice of harvesting pearls.

The first lady and Mrs. Abe posed for a photo with two traditionally-dressed ama pearl divers who wore goggles on their heads and held barrels for oyster collection. Ama divers, which translates to mean “ocean ladies,” are women who dive for pearls, oysters, and shellfish without scuba equipment in a tradition that's more than a thousand years old in Japan.

Trump Checks Out Bonsai Trees

While visiting Akasaka Palace, Prime Minister Abe gave President Trump a tour of the grounds and a collection of bonsai trees. The well-manicured dwarf trees are a quintessential symbol of Japanese culture.

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