- Associated Press - Monday, May 27, 2019

TOKYO (AP) - First lady Melania Trump had a nature-oriented Japanese cultural experience Monday at Akasaka Palace, where she learned that bamboo trunks can create music and also serve as flower vases.

Mrs. Trump and Japanese first lady Akie Abe were entertained by tunes from a “shakuhachi” bamboo flute, played by flutist Yosuke Irie, with a set of bamboo trunks standing upright like a screen behind him.

The bamboo installation then turned into a set of vases as flower artist Kumiko Kato built a sculpture out of it, decorating the vases with curved oak branches, maple leaves, blue hydrangea flowers and other plants, while the flutist played background music that included “Amazing Grace.”

Mrs. Trump also learned how to summon carp at a pond in the garden: She clapped her hands, following the example of Mrs. Abe, and the fish raced to her.

Children performing Japanese dance put a smile on Mrs. Trump at the end of the highly stylized and educational program. A little boy in traditional Japanese hakama presented a bouquet to the first lady, but he had to be dragged out of the room as he apparently wanted to spend more time with the guests.

The first lady and President Donald Trump arrived in Japan on Saturday for a four-day state visit. Earlier Monday, Trump and his wife met with Emperor Naruhito and his Harvard-educated wife, Masako, becoming the first foreign dignitaries to become their guests of honor since the emperor ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.

Trump’s visit is seen as a highly ceremonial one as Abe steps up his courtship to stay on the good side of Trump amid tense trade talks.


Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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