Fist bumps' and high-fives as Abe, Trump tee off



Who cares about handshakes?

"Fist bumps" and high-fives were the order of the day as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting United States President Donald Trump played golf under the gentle autumn sun at a country club north of Tokyo.

At Kawagoe's Kasumigaseki Country Club, a venue for the 2020 Olympic Games, the duo teed off in a round of nine holes. They did so alongside World No. 4 golfer Hideki Matsuyama, whom Mr Trump said is "probably the greatest player in the history of Japan".

"A round of golf with a marvellous friend (President Donald J. Trump), full of spirited conversation," Mr Abe tweeted.

Mr Trump, in turn, said: "Playing golf with... two wonderful people!"

A senior White House official later told reporters that the trio "did not keep score but had a very good time out there".

Mr Abe, in turn, told reporters that the duo had a "wonderful time" - and the chance to casually broach difficult issues such as North Korea and trade ahead of formal talks today.

Mr Abe, who broke diplomatic protocol last year to woo Mr Trump before the latter's inauguration with a golden golf driver worth US$3,755 (S$5,100), gave the US leader more gifts yesterday.

He presented white caps emblazoned with the words - "Donald and Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater" - to his golf buddy.

Mr Abe has openly referred to Mr Trump by his first name, and the same senior White House official told reporters yesterday: "The closeness of the relationship is unprecedented. They talk more frequently, I think, than any Japanese and American leader have ever spoken in the history of bilateral ties."

There were good vibrations right from the start - Mr Trump stepped onto the tarmac of Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo yesterday to Uptown Funk, the 2014 hit by American crooner Bruno Mars with British DJ Mark Ronson. The US leader then swopped his suit for a bomber jacket to address US and Japanese servicemen.

Japan, ever the consummate host with its famed omotenashi brand of hospitality, laid out a hamburger lunch with a US beef patty and a high-end teppanyaki dinner to welcome Mr Trump, who was flown by helicopter to play golf in Kawagoe.

Over in Ginza, the luxury shopping district, Mr Trump's wife Melania went pearl shopping with Mr Abe's wife Akie at the Mikimoto Pearl flagship store.

On hand to introduce Japanese pearls were two "ama" divers, fully clad in white outfits with goggles on their heads and carrying the baskets they use to collect pearl oysters. Their tradition of free diving without using an oxygen tank has lasted since the 1600s.

Later, the leaders and their wives enjoyed teppanyaki at a highend restaurant in Tokyo. Over about 1½ hours, they partook in delicacies such as Japanese spiny lobster from Shizuoka and Tajima beef from Gunma.

Mr and Mrs Trump will have an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko today.