WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump offered his “heartfelt appreciation” to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Monday ahead of the emperor’s abdication and the beginning of the country’s new era.
“As the Heisei era draws to a close and a new generation prepares to ascend the throne, I want to recognize the tremendous importance that the United States attaches to its close relationship with Japan,” Trump said in a statement.
He noted that the outgoing emperor, to be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito on Wednesday, has welcomed five U.S. presidents to Japan, including Trump in November 2017, during his reign “from the end of the Cold War to the present day.”
“Our bilateral relationship was critical to navigating the global challenges of those times,” Trump said.
Trump and his wife, Melania, are set to become the first state guests after Crown Prince Naruhito’s enthronement and the start of the new Reiwa Era, when the couple visit Japan from May 25 to 28 to meet the new emperor.
“We look forward to continuing the tradition of partnership and cooperation with Japan, our great ally, in the new era,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty also released a commemorative video reflecting upon the ties between the two countries as he welcomed the beginning of the Reiwa Era.
“During the past three decades, our countries have worked together to build the closest, most important relationship shared by any two nations in the world. These decades have brought our security alliance significantly forward,” he said. “I’m certain our enduring partnership will continue in beautiful harmony for years to come.”
Trump said Friday that he had decided to visit Japan in May after being told by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the succession is “100 times bigger” to the people of Japan than the Super Bowl.
At the outset of a White House meeting with the prime minister, Trump said he had hesitated to accept an invitation to meet the new emperor, not sure if he could make the trip, so he asked Abe: “How big is that event compared to the Super Bowl for the Japanese?”
Abe responded, “It’s about 100 times bigger,” and Trump immediately decided to visit, according to the president. “I’ll be there. If that’s the case, I’ll be there,” Trump said.
During his trip, Trump is also expected to watch the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo and give a U.S.-made trophy to the winner of the championship.
“I’ve always found that (sumo) fascinating,” Trump said, adding he thinks an outing to the Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo arena will be “something I’ll enjoy very much.”