US President Donald Trump has become the first world leader to meet Japan’s Emperor Naruhito since he ascended to the throne earlier this month.
Naruhito’s father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, stepped down from the throne due to health concerns the country’s first abdication in some 200 years. Naruhito, now the country’s 126th emperor, welcomed in a new era, called “Reiwa” ().
Trump met with the 59-year-old and his wife, Empress Masako, in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo following an elaborate procession in an outdoor welcome ceremony. The US president and First Lady Melania walked down a red carpet past a Japanese honor guard and were excitedly greeted by crowds waving US and Japanese flags.
“It’s a very important thing, not only in Japan, but all over the world they’re talking about it,” Trump later said of his meeting with the emperor.
The emperor exchanged gifts with Trump, as is customary, handing the US president an item of traditional Japenese pottery, while Trump gave Naruhito an American-made viola. Both sides also swapped signed and framed photos of one another, according to the Washington Post .
Trump is currently in Japan for a four-day state visit, and later in the day met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a range of topics, including North Korea, Iran and a US trade deficit with Japan. Trump has threatened to impose higher tariffs on imports of Japanese auto parts if the two nations can’t bridge the nearly $60 billion gap between them.
Despite trade tensions, Trump maintained at a joint press conference with Abe later in the day that the US relationship with Japan has “never been better,” and that both governments are “very committed to each other.”
Trump and Abe also highlighted the friendly nature of their meeting through their social media posts, and even posed for a selfie during a game of golf.
“Great fun and meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.