Obama in Japan: Diplomacy, Sushi, Soccer With a Robot

Obama pledges to defend Japan in dispute over 'rock'

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 24, 2014 10:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama guaranteed that the US would protect Japan if its dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands comes to blows, a serious moment in a conspicuously fun Tokyo trip. Obama said the islands have historically been administered by Japan, and that a US treaty "covers all territories administered by Japan," the New York Times reports. But he made it abundantly clear that he didn't want the situation to escalate that far, at one point calling the islands a "rock" that shouldn't destroy relations.

China swiftly responded with a statement complaining that "the so-called security alliance" was a Cold War artifact that "should not be used to damage China's sovereignty," the South China Morning Post reports. Obama also downplayed snags in trade negotiations, the AP reports. But in addition to these serious moments, Obama's trip has also included...

  • Soccer with a robot: Obama visited the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, aka Mirikan, where he met Honda's ASIMO robot, the Washington Post reports. After introducing itself, ASIMO demonstrated its agility by running up to a soccer ball and kicking it at Obama, who trapped it with his foot. "I have to say that the robots were a little scary," Obama later told students. "They were too lifelike. They were amazing."
  • Sushi: Obama began his trip a Sukiyabashi Jiro, the three-Michelin-star restaurant made world famous by the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. "President Obama told me that, 'I was born in Hawaii and ate a lot of sushi, but this was the best sushi I've ever had in my life," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to CNN.
  • Horseback archery: Obama also took in a demonstration of yabusame, meaning horseback archery, at the Meiji Shrine, the AP reports. The custom sees archers in traditional dress shoot at targets while riding at a gallop in front of the audience.

President Barack Obama watches a Yabusame or horseback archery demonstration as he tours Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama watches a Yabusame or horseback archery demonstration as he tours Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, bow to each other during a youth science event at the Miraikan, in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, bow to each other during a youth science event at the Miraikan, in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama tours Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama tours Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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